Havens is famous for their Merlot, which was my introduction to their wine. When I came across their Syrah the other day, I decided to give it a try. This syrah, like the Merlot I first drank has a subdued and earthy complexity, which is due, I think, partially to the Carneros fruit that winemaker Michael Havens selects for his wines, but also I am beginning to suspect, to his vision for his wines. I look forward to trying the 2001 vintages of both his Merlot and this Syrah, as I suspect they will reflect the superiority of that harvest -- while competently made and pleasurable, this Syrah, like the 2000 Merlot are not quite as stellar as they could be. However, Havens' commitment to pricing their wines reasonably means that I can easily recommend their wines, including this one, as very good values for the money.
Blood red in the glass (lighter than many California Syrahs) the wine opens with aromas of black licorice, french roast coffee, prunes and a slight hint of chocolate. When the wine first enters the mouth it delivers a burst of spiciness and acitdity up front, causing a surprising tingling on the toungue. This is followed by subdued and dark flavors of plum and black cherry with big tannins in the first pour, mellowing over an hour that it was open. For some this wine will be a refreshing change from the California fruit-bombs that mark much of the Syrah production these days. The wine tastes more European in style, and will probably age well, as it has a lot of oak on it (frankly, more than I think it needs).
I like to drink Syrah with game of all sorts, from rabbit to venison. But really, who wouldn't want to drink this wine with a whole roasted leg of wild boar?
Overall score: 7.5/8
How much?: $18 retail.
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