When I started to take part in the Wine Blogging Wednesday as a blogger I always looked for a wine that fit the topic that was from my neck of the woods. I was trying to push Long Island through Wine Blogging Wednesday. When it went on hiatus, I was left with nothing to do for one Wednesday a month.
When it was announced that it would make its trimphumpant return, I re though my original plans for Wine Blogging Wednesday. With the revitalization, I decided to expand my palate and look to chalange myself and my readers with going global. Thinking off the Island and outside the box.
When “Rhones Not From The Rhône.” was announced I knew that this would be a challenge since I am not to familiar with Rhône wines — to find them elseware was even more of a challenge. Here was our assignment:
The theme for WBW 71 is, “Rhones Not From The Rhône.” Pick any wine made from a variety best known in The Rhône but not made in that famous French region. It doesn’t matter if the wine is white, pink or red; still, sparkling or fortified. Whatever you choose just needs to be made from primarily a Rhone grape and come from a region not in France. This opens up a lot of possibilities. Want to stay Old World? Check out Spain where Mourvèdre goes by the local name Monastrell. New World more your bag? Pick up a Roussanne, Marsanne or a blend from California or Australia. I even hear they are making some pretty decent Viognier in Virginia these days so finding a wine should be pretty easy wherever you call home.
The Rhône wine region consists of two major regions, Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. The northern sub-region is know for making wines the Syrah grape, sometimes blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Viognier grapes. The southern sub-region makes array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of several grapes such as the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape region, which is in Southern Rhône.
Sure, I could have done Syrah, what I like from the Rhône. Or I could have done Mourvèdre, but I had that for another Wine Blogging Wednesday. I could have gone with Viognier, and I could have had some from Long Island, but I have had Viognier before and I really wanted to keep off Long Island. Long Island and Viognier would have been a last resort.
While looking up Rhône varieties, one jumped out off the page. I had one in my cellar. Roussanne! I knew it was from outside the Rhône since it was part of our Cellar Club shipments from Sterling Vineyards in California (we joined their club when we were honeymoon in Napa & Sonoma in 2008). But what was this Roussanne? I knew I had never had one before.
Roussanne get’s its name from the russet or roux color of the grape skin. This and Viognier are the only two white grape varieties allowed in Rhône. It is a very difficult variety to grow; it is susceptible to downy mildew and irregular yields. It has been almost forgotten about. There are still a few that produce it, but it does usually get blended. It is rare to see it in a single varietal.
In the late 1990’s there was a huge increase of Roussanne plantings in Central California and according to my research, one of the Rhône Rangers, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards is partly the reason for its popularity in California. There was some controversy with the Roussanne that was planted, in the late 1990’s it was revealed that the Roussanne that Randall Grahm “acquired” from France, after DNA analysis was in fact Vioginer. Randall Grahm disputed that fact and law suits followed. You can read about the escapades in an article by Jancis Robinson and here from Tablas Creek Journal. That being said, from what I was able to find out, Sterling Vineyards no longer produces a Roussanne.
About the wine, after harvest, the wine was pressed and cold settled for two nights. Older French oak barrels were used for fermenting and aging. The wine was stirred on the lees regularly and keep until it was bottled.
On the nose I was picking up a floral note with hits of almond, peach , apricot and nectarine. Honeysuckle and jasmine tea aromas filled the glass as the wine came closer to room temperature. When I had the wine colder, notes of crushed stone and grapefruit citrus with subtle hints of ginger and green tea.
On the palate there was loads of tropical fruit with an oily viscus mouth feel. Secondary notes of apple, pear and spice led to a creamy lime like feeling. There was some heat with the wine. It is listed at 15.1% ABV, but the alcohol and the acidity was well integrated and despite the oak aging, it still showed ripe fruit flavors.
I liked this wine served chilled, despite the fact that it was recommended to serve a little colder than room temperature. I enjoyed the acidity, tropical fruit and spice notes of it. Picture Ripe pineapple drizzled with honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon with a some lime foam.
Closer to room temperature I found the 15.1% abv a little too much for my delicate palate.
This was my first Roussanne and it won’t be my last. I am glad I did not choose a Viognier from Long Island or a Monstrell from Spain.
A big thanks to Tim Elliot of Winecast for hosting and to Lenn Thompson from The New York Cork Report for starting Wine Blogging Wednesday many moons ago.