Thursday, July 15, 2010

WN: Havens 2006 Napa Valley Bourriquot & Charles Joguet 2005 Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de Pied

I was debating whether to post the Havens 2006 Napa Valley Bourriquot and the Charles Joguet 2005 Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de Pied as separate entries. But since I tasted them together and they represent such a tour de force of Cab Franc regional and varietal character, it's pretty clear they need to be posted together. Both are excellent wines with superb typicity, albeit rather different. Most interestingly, they cover the full Cab Franc tobacco spectrum.

The now defunct Havens winery has been a popular topic on my blog, and in fact I've tried two prior vintages of the Bourriquot, a blend of 2/3 Cab Franc and 1/3 Merlot. The 2005 was simply one of the best California wines I've tasted, though the 2004 wasn't too shabby, either. The 2006 Bourriquot, while not as complex and refined as the 2005, presented a very compelling profile in its own right. It was brimming with fresh tobacco aromas and flavors. Not exactly what most folks want in California wine, but I love it. One might be tempted to say this is Old World, but really it isn't. There's still a richness and forwardness to the fruit that's very Californian. While California often gets derided for its lack of terroir, this is one wine that has a certain sense of place and a stylistic sense of purpose. I also appreciated the sort of integrated, sneaky structure in this bottling. It doesn't hit you in the face with tannins, yet there's a definite backbone seamlessly built into the wine.

The Joguet offered an interesting contrast. While 2006 was a relatively cool year in California, the 2005 vintage in the Loire Valley was one of the warmest and ripest in its history. And yet the Chinon had much cooler edge to it. What really struck me was the juxtaposition of cigarettes and roses. Just a crazy pairing of aromas. A lot of the tasting notes in CellarTracker mention more fruit, which leads me to believe this bottle had shed a good bit of its primary fruit in the bouquet. And yet despite the green edge on the nose, this wine was far less earthy in flavor than the Bourriquot. This wine was entirely an exercise is concentrated sour fruits and stony minerality. Go figure! The finish was long and there's a ton of depth of flavor--I'll be checking in on my other bottle in a few years if not more to see how it develops.

One important side note concerns the cuvee and terroir of the Joguet. Franc de Pied means the vines are own-rooted, which is rarely the case because the vine louse Phylloxera simply destroys European rootstock. Usually the vines are grafted to Phylloxera resistant American rootstock. Unfortunately, the inevitable is occurring with Joguet's Franc de Pied vines: they are dying due to Phylloxera. As to the effect of the own-rooted vines, who's to say? I do have the regular bottling of this cuvee from 2005, so perhaps I'll have to compare the own-rooted to the grafted vine wine in a few years. On the Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de Pied, the Joguet website says:
This one-hectare plot of non-grafted vines was planted in 1982, in conjunction with INRA. Half of the plot was replanted in 1992 and 1995.
Produced from the same terroir as Les Varennes du Grand Clos, Les Varennes Franc de Pied is vinified separately in vintages that seem to best distinguish their typicity.
This experiment should produce all the typicity of "pre-grafted" Cabernet Franc, but there is a risk, however, of phylloxera resurfacing.
We limit the yield of this plot to 30 hl/ha (or 1,210 litres per acre).
For the regular Varennes du Grand Clos, they write:
At the foot of the gravelly terrace formed, in part, by the erosion of the limestone slope, this very particular silico-clay and silico-calcareous terroir lies on the left bank of the Vienne, in Sazilly.
These 4.5 ha (10.8 acres) of vines planted between 1962 and 1976 have an average yield of 40 hl/ha (or 1,620 litres per acre).
I guess I'll just have to try the wines side by side to see what difference the rootstock actually makes. One interesting point is that the own-rooted vines are young, relatively speaking. Conventional wisdom says old vines produce the most profound wines. But maybe the rootstock offsets the age difference in some manner. Ah, the questions that can never be fully answered.
  • 2006 Havens Wine Cellars Bourriquot - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tobacco (of the fresh cut variety), tar, violets, currant and cherry on the nose. Tart cherry followed by a tobacco heavy, earthy finish. Full bodied, definitely showing CA fruit. But ripeness is held in check so earth and acid are still there. Tannins are soft, integrated. There is a little heat there, though. Nice job of making a non-CA style with CA fruit. Oak is nicely integrated. Not quite as deep as the '05, though.
  • 2005 Charles Joguet Chinon Franc de Pied Les Varennes du Grand Clos - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    Tobacco--like smashed up cigarettes--and roses on the nose. At this stage this one is for hard core Cab Franc fans. Very little funk/Brett here if at all. Very fresh on the palate. Under-ripe plum and currants. High acid, concentrated, tannic. Mineral and crisp fruit laden finish that carries on for quite a while. More mineral than earthy in flavor. Hold for a at least 3-5 years to see where this is going.

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