Colombard—From Gascony to Napa


When Yannick Rousseau came to California to work as an assistant winemaker at Newton Vineyards in Napa, he did not intend to spend a lot of time here.   His roots go deep into Gascony, in southwest France.  He recalls having his first taste of wine at the age of five.  It was a homemade wine from Pepé, his grandfather.  This introduction to wine sparked a love affair with the grape that has never waned.

After earning his degree in enology in France, he was curious about California.  He worked as an assistant winemaker at Newton Vineyards in Napa, and spent six years as the winemaker at Chateau Potelle, also in Napa, and fell in love with high elevation mountain vineyards.  He also fell in love with Susan, a woman from Texas who shared Yannick’s passion for wine.

In 2008, they started their own winery, Y. Rousseau.  The winery is not a show place.  It is one of Napa’s urban wineries, located in an industrial work space in the city of Napa.  The winery is all about the wine, not the architecture. The husband and wife source top vineyards for their Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tannat.  And the wines are first rate, all in the four and five star range. But what I want to talk about today is the Rosé of Tannat and the Colombard.

First, the Colombard.  The wine is made from dry farmed old vines from the Russian River Valley. It was the first wine Yannick and Susan made when they founded their winery in 2008.

Yannick shows what can be done with Colombard when the vineyard is right and the winemaker pays attention.  The 2015 bottling opens with a rich aroma of peaches with a slice of pear.  There is a biting minerality balancing the fruit, which invites another glass.  The finish is long, with echoes of the opening fruit.  Priced at $20, it’s a real find.

I’ve been tasting (and drinking) a lot of rosé lately. More about that another time but (spoiler alert) it does involve a book to be published in 2017.  Yannick’s Tannat rosé is a winner.  It is made from Solano County grapes grown especially for rosé The color is a lovely pale salmon, The nose is all about strawberries and watermelon with a touch of lime zest.  On the palate, the opening aromas are picked up with an added herbal note and a more pronounced lime/citrus flavor and a pinch of white pepper.  The price is $24.

Y. Rousseau wines are in limited production so may be hard to find.  Check the winery website for availability.







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