Sunday, August 23, 2009

WN: Havens 2004 Bourriquot

The Havens 2004 Bourriquot, a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot from the Carneros district in southern Napa, is a wine that I wanted to love, but had to settle with really liking. There's the Cab Franc factor, of course, but I also like that the producer is known for his nuanced somewhat Old World style and that the grapes are sourced from a cooler part of the Napa Valley moderated by the ocean's influence. The proprietary name Bourriquot, which roughly translates to a wild horse, adds another nice touch as it's a thinly veiled reference to Cheval Blanc, the famous wine of St. Emilion that consists of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with Cab Franc often being the more prominent of the two varietals in the blend.

This wine was really tight at first with bitter and disjointed flavors prevalent. After about an hour of decanting, it opened up with peppered meat, some horsey funk, an herbal quality, cedar and hints of sweeter caramel smells on the nose. The bouquet was complex, interesting and savory, and ultimately wove together into an integrated aroma that couldn't be separated into its constituent parts. With exposure to air the flavors rounded out into a nicely balanced yet earthy expression with a bit of butter on the mid-palate. Tannins were present but very tame, while the acidity was appropriately inconspicuous. Unfortunately, there was a burst of heat on the transition to the finish that never improved with time.

The finish is the real killer for me. I loved the medium-bodied style the winemaker was pursuing as well as the funky, seemingly profound aromas. This is a serious wine. But the finish is the most important aspect of a layered wine like this. It's like going out to a nice dinner with dishes prepared by a professional chef, then being served a McDonald's milk shake for desert. It lets down everything else.

This is the second Havens wine I've tried. Two things are clear: these are wines aiming for balance more than power and they need a good hour of air to show properly. It sounds like the 2004 vintage was a difficult one for winemakers pursuing age-worthy, nuanced wines as Havens' own notes state, "in a spectacular apex of the trend that began in 1999, our Napa Valley 2004 growing season showed us just how warm things can get when the Pacific sea breeze deserts us." I'm betting the troublesome finish is the byproduct of a tenuous balance between phenolic and sugar ripeness. Hot weather is good if you want a high alcohol monster, but not for wines like this. From a less problematic vintage, this blend could be spectacular.

And that's the rub. Despite the flawed finish, I found myself savoring the wine, basking in its bouquet and lovely balance. From a numerical standpoint, this is not a 90+ point wine. It's just not a great wine because of the finish. But there's just too much else going on to reduce a wine like this to a number. So no more points on the blog, only a few pros and cons, an evaluation of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), and my feelings on decanting at the end.

Pros: Complex Bouquet, Medium Body, Balanced, Good Structure, Old World/New World Hybrid
Cons: Hot Finish
Decant: Yes, give it an hour or more if possible
Price: $30 from K&L Wines
QPR: Fair (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good and Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

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