Near the top of the Crushpad 30 White Wine Plan Companion is a simple question:
Style: Describe characters you would like to highlight or downplay in your wine.
Sounds like a simple request but one that I find difficult to put into words. Sure, I’ve had some Roussanne I really liked from both California and the RhÃƒÂ´ne but what were the specific elements that made these wines something special?
Before we get into this any further, let me back up and talk about the Roussanne grape as this might be new for some readers. Roussanne is native to the northern RhÃƒÂ´ne region of France where it is one of two white grapes, along with Marsanne, allowed in the appellations of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and St. Joseph. It’s also grown in the southern RhÃƒÂ´ne where it is often blended with Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Clairette Blanc.
An inconsistent producer, Roussanne is not grown in large quantities anywhere in the world and there are less than 250 acres planted in California today. The name Roussanne most likely comes from it’s russet-colored berries when ripe. Wine made exclusively from this grape is highly acidic, but high in aromatics, so other white grapes are often blended to balance the final wine.
The Westerly Vineyard was established in 1995 by entrepreneurs Neil and Francine Afromsky. These were the first wine grapes planted in the Happy Canyon area of Santa Barbara’s warmest wine region. They planted 85 acres of Bordeaux and RhÃƒÂ´ne varieties and developed a name for the vineyard with their Westerly Vineyards brand. Last year they sold the Westerly Vineyard to Chicago financier Jack McGinley, but retained the “Westerly Vineyards” brand and access to the grapes grown in this vineyard. Thus, the vineyard name change and it’s unclear if we can use Westerly on the label of our Roussanne this vintage.
Westerly Vineyards Roussanne is released as a blend simply called, “W Blanc” which is mostly Roussanne (75-80%) blended with Viognier. Both the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate have favorably reviewed Westerly Vineyards W Blanc which I will excerpt below:
The 2004 W Blanc Estate (75% and 25% respectively) exhibits a light gold color along with a gorgeous nose of honeyed flowers and tropical fruits, good underlying acidity, and bold, exuberant, intense flavors nicely buttressed by acidity and tannin. This serious, French-styled white is reminiscent of an exotic white Hermitage. Drink it over the next several years. 90 points
The 2003 W blanc (80% Roussanne and 20% Viognier) offers up a beautiful, crisp bouquet of rose petals, apricots, and exotic tropical fruits (passion and guava). An elegant, streamlined effort, it exhibits more minerality than most California dry whites, as well as a dry, well-delineated, ravishing style. Drink it over the next 1-2 years. 90 pts.
Although this sounds almost exactly like the style of Roussanne I prefer, it seems to lack the aromatic and flavor characteristics of mandarin orange that I find so fascinating with this varietal. Perhaps this aspect will be in our grapes or we might need to trade some juice with another Crushpad Marsanne group to introduce this complexity. I will buy some bottles of Westerly Vineyards W Blanc to taste for myself and will also bring them to group barrel tastings of our wine as a benchpark.
Whatever the final decision, what do you think we should aim for style-wise with this wine?