Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Roussanne in the Walla Walla Valley

It's getting hot in the Valley and already I am thinking about summer wines. Last year I got hooked on some of the fabulous dry roses' from the Walla Walla Valley and this year - - I decided that Roussanne will be my new summer white wine of choice.

What is Roussanne? It's a white grape whose name comes from its russet-colored skin. Some viticulturists will tell you that for all practical purposes, Roussanne should be extinct. It gives irregular yields and tends to have uneven and late ripening. Roussanne is prone to rot and powdery mildew and can be easily damaged by wind and drought. But with proper selection and propogating only the least problematic clones, this white Rhone grape has been preserved for two primary reasons: unique aroma and very forward acidity. In France's Rhone region it is often blended with Marsanne and a premium component of other Rhone white blends. California probably has around 200 acres of Roussane planted and it is considered a newcomer to the state of Washington.

The aroma of Roussanne is not as fruity as other white grapes, but usually very aromatic like wildflowers. A thin skin grape, it gives the impression of an oily quality in the mouthfeel. It seems to benefit from blending and a bit of oak, as well. It has been known to cellar for a decade.

Last week in the Walla Walla Valley Forgeron Cellars released their first-ever Roussanne. Extremely aromatic of orange blossoms and the taste is crisp with citrus and a spicy finish of cinnamon. It sparkles in the mouth and the light kiss of oak and 13% Orange Muscat grape softens the Roussanne's sharp acidity. In fact the Orange Muscat seems to enhance all of the good qualities of the Roussanne grape. A refreshing summer sipping wine and very limited in quanity.

The ever-popular "Snapdragon" blend from Isenhower Cellars is another fine example of the Roussanne grape. I am thinking that Isenhower may have been the first in the valley to introduce Roussanne (or at least the first time I tasted it in the Walla Walla Valley). Isenhower's 2006 vintage contains 75% Roussanne and 25% Viognier. A unique white with a nose of orange peels and mineral qualities. It is a fruit driven wine hinting of flavors of mango, pineapple and pears with a finish of orange spice tea.

Bergevin Lane Vineyards and Tertulia Cellars adds a bit of Roussanne to their 2006 Viogniers to add depth and complexity.

Roussanne pairs well with Caesar salad, roasted garlic chicken, Cajun-style seafood, and Asian inspired foods like the sweet and spicy flavors of Thai. Cheers to my new summer wine - Roussanne!


Anonymous said...

Nice bit of writing here! I'm a new fan thanks to your hosting of WBW#34 - The Corkdork

Brett Isenhower said...

Isenhower Cellars also produces a single vineyard Roussanne from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard that is now available from our tasting room and our web site.

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