Napa's Nod to Gascony
Lots of California wineries look to an Old World antecedent. They’re inspired by Burgundy or interpreting Champagne or paying homage to Tuscany. But Y. Rousseau Wines is the only California winery I’ve encountered that cites its muse as Gascony, the region of southwest France less well known as a wine region than as the birthplace of d'Artagnan of “The Three Musketeers.”
Inhabiting a tiny warehouse in south Napa, the 2,000-case winery is part of an industrial park now called the Crusher Wine District. So, no vineyard views — but if you’re serious about tasting and learning, this is a great place to do it. Yannick Rousseau, the owner-winemaker, leads most of the tastings himself, and if he isn’t available, it’s his wife or their sole employee, Olga Mosina.
A native Gascon himself, Rousseau made wine for Newton Vineyards and Chateau Potelle before launching his winery in 2008. There are Cabernet and Merlot wines — and they’re good — but the highlights here are Rousseau’s takes on Tannat and Colombard, Gascony’s two signature grape varieties. –February 2017
- WINES TO TRY: The Pepe Merlot, from Moon Mountain’s Cavedale Vineyard, is dense with cinnamon and black fruit; it’s a nod to Rousseau’s grandfather, a butcher in Gascony, whose dark red meats would have paired perfectly with it. Do not miss the intensely grapefruity, super-expressive Old Vine Colombard, from Russian River Valley, or the enormously tarry, spicy Alder Springs Vineyard Tannat.
- INSIDE INFO: You’ll sit in the barrel chai, so bring a sweater. And Tannat, in general, is a tannic monster of a wine; be prepared to leave with red-wine teeth. If you’re bringing a bottle of it home, please, decant.