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Provencal Fish with Fennel and White Wine Recipe

08_GrenacheBlanc As the summer warms, we start to look for summer dishes that are lighter and quicker to prepare than many of the stews and roasts of winter.  Provencal cuisine is full of dishes like these, often combining the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea with local herbs and vegetables.  This Provencal fish with fennel and white wine recipe is the result of tinkering over last summer.  The recipe listed below is perhaps the simplest version, but it's easy to adjust the flavors by bringing in other aromatic vegetables or changing around the assortment of herbs.  In any of its forms, it's a great pairing with the rich, tangy and anise-laced flavors of Grenache Blanc, whether as a single varietal wine (like the 2008 Grenache Blanc, pictured right) or as a part of a white Rhone blend.

This recipe also can be found in our Spring 2010 Newsletter.

1 lb. meaty, flaky white fish fillets (like cod)
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 small plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large sprig parsley, chopped
fresh-ground black pepper


  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  • Add the fennel and shallots and saute for a few minutes until they start to soften.
  • Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add wine and turn heat up to medium-high. Boil for 3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and boil for 2 minutes.
  • Submerge fillets in bottom of saucepan; add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until fish flakes easily -- about 10 minutes.
  • Add lemon juice, and correct seasonings.
  • Ladle into bowls, top with parsley, and serve with crusty bread for dipping.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main dish.

Antoine's 1940 Wine List, 70 Years and 40,000% Inflation Later

Antoines By Robert Haas

While researching another subject on the web recently I came across this article by Jean-Luc Le Dû in the May 8th 2008 New York Times in which he writes about discovering Antoine’s (New Orleans) Restaurant’s remarkable hundredth anniversary 1940 wine list.  You can also access the list (in PDF format) directly.
I was in New Orleans at the beginning of the April.  I had the opportunity to host a delicious Tablas Creek wine dinner at Le Meritage in the Maison Dupuy Hotel and enjoyed two other excellent restaurant meals: lunch at Commander’s Palace and dinner at August.  The city has always had a fine reputation for good dining.  Since Katrina it has been rebuilding and rekindling that reputation.  Both the traditional Creole cuisine of Commander’s Palace and the contemporary French dishes at August – as well as the good, attentive service – testify to its successful comeback.   Good wine lists go with good food and it was no surprise that all three restaurants that I had the chance to visit had excellent ones.

But, of course, wine lists like this Antoine’s anniversary list are a treasure in any era.  In it can be found fanciful maps, a vintage chart and educational commentary on each wine region.  The list comprises 23 pages.  A list like this one is a great historical reference that documents the changes in wine popularity and tastes (and availability) in the United States since the Second World War, and above all, the prices.

Bordeaux vintages go back to an 1893 Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Burgundy to an 1884 Musigny.  The Rhônes include a 1929 Hermitage La Chapelle and a 1937 Château Fortia Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  The Loire and Alsace are nominally covered.  There are three pages of German wines going back to a 1920 Bernkasteler Doctor.  It appears that the war in Europe had not yet affected availability.  The list’s preponderance of estate-bottled offerings – rare in the day – is due largely to Frank Schoonmaker and his French and German brokers, Raymond Baudouin (France), Otto Dunweg (Mosel) and Hans-Joseph Becker (Rhine).   

In the first half of the twentieth century, wines from France and Germany dominated the fine wine market.  As evidence, the list has only token representation of wines from Spain (two Riojas), Italy (three Chiantis and one Barolo), and America (three red and four white listings, all supplied by Schoonmaker).  I was only thirteen at the time of this list, but as I was reading it last week and seeing its makeup it felt strangely connected and contemporary.  I knew most of the proprietors and dealt with many of them.  Baudouin, whom I met ten years later, was also buying for Lehmann when I arrived.  He died in 1953 and I became the French buyer.  I met both Dunweg and Becker in subsequent trips to Germany with Schoonmaker in 1955.

The most expensive wine on the list is the 1929 Domaine de la Romanée Conti at $20.00.  The 1929 Château Margaux, a first growth Bordeaux from a great vintage, was $4.75.  The top German wines were relatively expensive, comparable to the most expensive French wines.  And Rhône grands crûs like the 1937 Château Fortia  Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage la Chapelle were $3.25 and $3.00 respectively, much closer in price to their Bordeaux and Burgundy equivalents than today.  The California cabernet, Inglenook, sold for $1.50.

S. Morgan Friedman’s inflation calculator reports that there has been a fifteen fold general inflation increase in the United States since 1940.  Multiplying the listed prices by fifteen reveals by how much the increase in wine prices – at least for collectible wines – has outpaced inflation.  Fifteen times the $4.75 price of 1929 Château Margaux equals $71.25.  A current vintage of Margaux from a good year like 2000 on Restaurant Daniel’s New York wine list (PDF) is $2000, or 42,105% increase.  If you want a 1961, perhaps the equivalent quality vintage, it would be $4350, a 90,526% increase.  1929 Romanée Conti was $20.00.  Daniel has the 1999 vintage at $8000, an increase of only 40,000% – a bargain!

When I arrived at the scene at M. Lehmann, Inc. in New York in1950 prices were still very depressed.  A page from the Lehmann March sale in 1950 shows first growth Bordeaux available around $4.00 per bottle.  And the next two decades saw only moderate inflation at the upper end of the wine market.  But since the mid-1970’s, prices have risen dramatically.   Will collectible wine price increases moderate to be closer to inflation or will demand for fine wines continue to drive prices up?  Recent evidence of the relative quality of wine investments even in the recent period of recession suggests so.  Keep tuned.

21 Beaucastel and Tablas Creek wines from 1985-2007 at one amazing dinner

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a dinner in Los Angeles with a group of wine collectors who call themselves the "X-Pensive Winos".  They are a group of friends who met largely online and who share a love of wine and a love of challenging themselves and each other.  They organize their monthly events in turns, and each is on a theme.  Themes can be based on varietal, on style, on provenance, or around a winery or winemaker, and each member is expected to contribute wine out of their cellars as appropriate to the theme.  They invite winery principals to participate when the theme is appropriate.

I was the lucky recipient of an invitation from one of the group's members who happens also to be a Tablas Creek wine club member.  After a few months of back-and-forth on ideas, we settled on an exploration of Tablas Creek and Beaucastel, with side-by-site pairings when possible and appropriate.  The dinner was hosted at Bistro LQ, Chef Laurent Quenioux's outpost in an otherwise unremarkable area on Beverly Blvd. south of West Hollywood and east of Beverly Hills.  There were a ridiculous number of wines (21 in all) spanning two colors, two continents and more than two decades.  I found the experience fascinating, and thought it would be interesting to comment a little on the wines that we tasted and also share a few general thoughts on what the wines suggested about Tablas Creek as reflected through Beaucastel.

First, I should mention the food, which was extraordinarily inventive and also excellent.  I had two favorite dishes, from opposite ends of the culinary spectrum.  The first was a geoduck clam, thinly sliced, over sea urchin tapioca pudding with yuzu kosho.  The chewiness and relative simplicity of the geoduck contrasted in an amazing way with the creamy, unctuous, slightly sweet and complex urchin.  It's a dish I could never have even imagined, let alone made, but it played well with the complex flavors of the older Beaucastel whites.  My other favorite was a homemade papardelle with rabbit meatballs, salsify, olives and cipollini onions.  It was very traditional, absolutely classic, and not mucked about with.  As a pairing with the flight of older Beaucastel reds, it couldn't have been better.

Aperitifs (unusual Tablas Creek whites)
  • 2009 Vermentino: Just bottled about 6 weeks before, in its first public appearance.  Scheduled for the fall 2010 VINsider club shipment.  Citrus, spice and mineral, a little riper than the 2008 Vermentino, but not as big as 2007.  Less herby than many of our Vermentinos, more citrus.  Key lime?
  • 2008 Grenache Blanc: I think this is the best Grenache Blanc we've ever made.  Bright, rich and mineral all at once.  Preserved lemon, wet rocks, and broad texture.  Very long finish.
  • 2008 Antithesis Chardonnay: Rich but unoaked, apple and sweet spice, mid-weight, with minerality coming out on the finish.  Nice core of acidity cleans up what is a pretty robust white.  A very good vintage for Antithesis (as is typically the case with our cooler years).
First flight (Beaucastel and Tablas Creek whites)
  • 1987 Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes: A revelation for most of the table, who had never had a truly old Beaucastel white.  It was clean and vibrant, minerally, slightly nutty, saline, and lemony.  A very different texture from young Roussannes: much less of the oiliness that is characteristic of the varietal.
  • 1997 Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes: By contrast to the previous wine, which was looked in the glass like a young wine, this was almost orange, with a notable oxidation on the nose.  Still, it didn't taste dead to me, with flavors of creme caramel (burnt sugar), thick texture, and decent acidity.  I actually think this was too young, and will come back around.
  • 2003 Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes: Rich and tropical, with just the first hint of oxidation.  Very thick texture compared to the first two wines.  Lots of honey and spice, in need of big food.  Worked great with the urchin.
  • 2002 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: Fresher than the 2003 Vieilles Vignes which immediately preceded it, a little more acidity and a little less weight.  A little quiet on the nose, beautiful, rich and balanced on the palate with a lingering flavor of fresh honey.
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: Notably different that any of the other whites, much more floral with citrus blossom and honeysuckle.  Good intensity but almost delicate on the palate, flitting between white flowers, fresh honey and herbs.
Second flight (Older Beaucastel reds)
  • 1985 Beaucastel: This felt to me like it was right at the end of its drinking peak and just starting to dry out (particularly by comparison to the next wine).  It was still wonderful, with fully mature tannins, a nice combination of plums and leather and Provencal herbs.
  • 1989 Beaucastel: Much brighter fruit and more evident tannin than the 1985.  Has a wonderful vibrancy both to the fruit and the acidity.  Just a joy to drink (as it has been each time I've had it).  My favorite wine of the evening.
  • 1998 Beaucastel: Definitely young and still not really opened up.  A much darker, more monolithic nose of soy and mineral and creme de cassis.  Still quite tannic.  Going to be great but still a few years away, I thought.
  • 1995 Beaucastel "Hommage a Jacques Perrin": Quite youthful but not as polished, to my taste, as the three previous wines.  Noticeably tannic with flavors more of rosemary and underbrush than of fruit.  Didn't quite have the lushness behind this that the 1998 did; not sure if it's a stage (this wine is 70% Mourvedre, far more than any of the others) or if the structure will continue to dominate the fruit.
Third flight (middle-aged Beaucastel and Tablas Creek reds)
  • 2000 Beaucastel: Clean and pretty, almost delicate on the nose, with flavors of cherry skin and a herbs.  Not a blockbuster, but beautifully balanced and quite elegant.
  • 2000 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel: Deep, meaty and minty, with a nose of cassis and fig.  Still quite tannic and thick with youthful fruit.  Sort of like a more rustic version of the 1998 Beaucastel.  Several people at the table commented that if they'd had the two 2000's blind they would have guessed wrong which was Californian and which was the Chateauneuf.
  • 2001 Beaucastel: Not giving much up on the nose right now.  Some mint, some cherry skin, some mineral.  On the palate, hard as nails, though there is a very promising underlying warmth to the fruit that suggests good things to come.  Definitely wait.
  • 2002 Tablas Creek Panoplie: Delicious.  Classic Mourvedre flavors of plums, currants and milk chocolate (the wine is 80% Mourvedre).  Still quite young, but with nice chewy tannins.  Not a lot of meaty secondary flavors yet, but I suspect they're lurking there for the right time to come out.
Fourth flight (young Beaucastel and Tablas Creek reds)
  • 2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel: Rich and earthy, with mint, sweet spices, roasted meat and still quite a lot of tannin.  A little wild brambly character on the finish is a surprising and appealing diversion.
  • 2007 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel: Plays back and forth between brighter and deeper flavors, from sweet red fruit (raspberry?) to soy and even darker aromas.  Lots of sweet spices.  A blockbuster wine with a long, exciting life ahead of it.
  • 2007 Beaucastel: A treat for me.  The nose has a seriousness to it, soy and crushed rocks and dark berries.  The mouth is rich and dense with a current of mineral coolness running through it that I can still remember vividly, four days later.  Just gorgeous, and while it showed great, strikes me as totally uncompromising in its ageworthiness.
I didn't really take any notes on the two dessert wines (2006 Tablas Creek Vin de Paille "Quintessence" and 2006 Tablas Creek Vin de Paille "Sacrerouge") but then again I also didn't really eat much dessert.  I was still going back to the cheese course and revisiting the 2007 reds.

For me, the family resemblance between the Tablas Creek and Beaucastel wines was illustrated powerfully, and a lot more salient than the compare-contrast differences that I suspect some of the group was expecting.  I would have liked to try the 2005 Beaucastel alongside the 2005 Esprit, but it was a last-minute scratch from the lineup.  Still, 21 wines, none corked, only one oxidized (and that one might just be going through a stage).  And a really wonderful evening.  I am encouraged about the long-term ageability of the wines we're making, and -- as often happens to me around Beaucastel -- humbled by the quality and personality of the wines we're inevitably compared to.

The last (?) winter storm of 2009-2010

Take a look at this radar map, taken from the terrific site Weather Underground.  Clicking on the map will make it much better resolution:


Tablas Creek is situated just south of the Lake Nacimiento marker on the map, right underneath the area of bright red that signifies the most action.  And action there is.  We've gotten three-quarters of an inch of rain the last hour or so, and it looks like there's plenty more behind it.  Winds have consistently been in the upper 20mph range, with our top gust so far today topping out at 35mph.  We're looking for two inches of rain before it's over, which would push us over 38 inches for the year.  This is a classic winter storm, except that it's happening in the middle of April. 

And that's a good summary of what this winter has been like.  It's been frequently wet, starting early and ending late, typical of an el nino year.  After three years of drought, we're thrilled.  And it has certainly delayed the beginning of the growing season; according to the measurement of degree days kept by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (which begins each year on April 1st), only 2001 and 2006 have had fewer degree days in April than this year's 36.  The vineyard has responded to the cool weather and has delayed its sprouting, which is a very good thing.  Two weeks after our first budbreak -- which was itself two weeks later than normal -- fully half the vineyard is still dormant, which should provide some protection should we get a frost over the next week or two.

Of course, we'd much rather avoid the frosts, and we're putting most of our efforts in the vineyard into our frost protection.  Rows have been mowed to allow for easier drainage of cold air.  We have our fans working every chilly nights.  And the small portion (15 acres) that we can protect with overhead sprinklers are being protected.  So far, so good, and each day that we don't get frosted is one day closer to the mid-May date that typically marks the end of the danger period.  But we know full well that it only takes one cold night to compromise the whole vintage.

Last year's very low yields were due to the accumulated effects of three years of drought and to a damaging frost in late April.  The rain this winter should take care of the drought.  Now if only we can keep dodging frosts successfully for another month...

All Things Consumed: Taking A Closer Look at Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc

Each spring we release our flagship white wine, the Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, to the wholesale market.  In advance of its arrival, and in an effort to further celebrate its release, the wine is typically introduced to individual states via a presale, where it is offered to restaurants and retailers at a slightly discounted price in an effort to encourage them to bring the wines in at the beginning of their releases.  As we always do these presales at the same time each year, they are also a great opportunity to look back as we look forward.  And I think that Roussanne-based wines (such as our Esprit Blanc) are still sufficiently unknown quantities to most restaurateurs and retailers -- let alone consumers -- that we put a lot of effort into creating appealing events to educate and excite potential buyers. 

To that endeavor to come up with an additional measure that was both compelling and, well, fun, I thought it would be a good idea to stage a multi-vintage tasting of our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.  We have been making the Esprit Blanc since 2001 and, out in the market, I frequently note its subtle nuances, its depth and length, and its Dylan-like evolution and ageability.  However, it is rare that I have the opportunity to put our wine where my mouth is, so to speak.    

Thankfully, and as noted by Eric Asimov in his recent piece, there are brave, bright, and boundary-pushing retailers today who are also willing to champion some of the wine world's less mainstream offerings, such as our Esprit Blanc.  Shortly after conceiving the idea, I called Solano Cellars (a Berkeley outfit I consider to be representative of this growing retail vinguard) and pitched Jason there on the idea.  He promptly responded with a "Let's do it" and the date for the April 15th tasting was booked shortly thereafter.

With the date set, and the idea now an impending reality, I thought it would be a good idea for us here at the vineyard to go through and taste our library of Esprit Blancs for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it would enable me to select the vintages to highlight at the Solano Cellars tasting to illustrate the fascinating ageability of the Esprit Blanc.  Secondly, it would provide an ideal opportunity for our G.M., Jason Haas, to update our vintage chart, which he in fact did shortly after we completed the tasting.  Ultimately, our tasting here at the vineyard proved both enlightening and interesting.  What always strikes me whenever I taste through back vintages of this wine is how, after being open for ten minutes or so, each displays individual character and personality.  There are always common traits such as richness, viscosity, and minerality, but I love to taste each and be inspired by the differences and individuality.  And then I immediately think about what I would want to eat with each.    

Below, I have posted some of my notes from the tasting we had here at the vineyard and have also added some pairing suggestions.  For those of you with some of these bottles in your cellars, I hope the notes and suggestions help.  For those of you that happen to be near Berkeley on April 15th, please come by Solano Cellars to say hello and taste through many of these wines yourself.  (Information about the tasting can be found here, and to reserve seats, please call Solano Cellars at 1.800.WINE.411.) 

I hope to say hello to some of you next week and if anybody has any comments or questions, please let us know. 


2001 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Honeysuckle blossom, petrol, and anise on the nose with pronounced fennel flavors, clay, and a yeasty, dough-like component in the mouth.  As a pairing for this, I would probably have a dish that would let this wine enjoy its long-awaited spotlight on the table:  scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms (mild ones, however) and a sprinkling of some fresh herbs.  

2002 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Sea air, honey, and ginger on the nose with great brightness and roundness in the mouth, as well as pronounced length.  This wine is drinking beautifully right now.  For this wine I would likely try a fairly rich and savory halibut dish.  I think a fillet sauteed and finished with a beurre blanc would be a lovely way to go as would one poached in olive oil with lemon and herbs. 

2003 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Butterscotch, cooked honey, and generally sweeter on the nose with an herbaceous fennel (fennel frond?) character, not quite in sync with its soft palate and hop-like bitterness on the finish.  Best to leave this wine be for a year or so and check back in. 

2004 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Honey, dried flowers, and burnt sugar on the nose.  This wine is still very round, with great breadth, but it is showing a little hot and slightly tannic right now.  Best to leave this one be a for a little while as well.

2005 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Youthful and bright.  Honeysuckle, orange blossom, and rose petals on the nose.   In the mouth it has lovely minerality, great depth, and a sweet-to-salty transition on the finish that is just lovely.  I would keep it simple, yet decadent, with this wine and have boiled Maine lobster with miso butter.  

2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Honey, mint, thyme, and lemon peel on the nose.  The mouth is round and chalky, with lime, apple, pear and a lovely saline minerality.  I don't think one could go wrong with grilled or sauteed scallops that have been finished with citrus and fennel pollen.

2007 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Primal and rich.  The nose is tropical and resiny with mango, quince, wet herbs and dried flowers.  The mouth is round and bright, tangy and minerally, yet all the while elegant.  Two standout main dishes I have had with this wine have been a honey and clove encrusted ham and a Chinese 5-spice-rubbed pork loin.

2008 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  Electrically bright on the nose, with orange blossom, lemongrass, and honey.  The mouth has both tropical and tangerine notes, as well as spice, minerality and wonderful nerve.  I have yet to have this wine with a meal, but I am looking forward to pairing it with something this weekend.  I don't know exactly what yet, but I'm thinking something that incorporates shellfish, Asian spices, and the Ojai tangerines that we are still getting here in the central coast.  I will keep you posted.

Grapes of the Rhone Valley: Roussanne

Roussanne Roussanne, with its honeyed richness and excellent longevity, forms the backbone of our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. In addition, it has the balance and character to make a compelling single varietal wine, as in our varietal Roussanne that we've made each year since 2001. The varietal takes its name from “roux”, the French word for “russet” – an apt description of the grapes’ reddish gold skins at harvest.

Roussanne in France
Although no one is precisely sure where Roussanne originated, it seems likely the varietal is native to the Rhône Valley and to the Isere Valley in eastern France. The varietal has not ventured far from its origin; most of the world’s Roussanne is grown throughout the Rhône, where it is traditionally used as a blending grape. In the Southern Rhône, Roussanne is one of six white grape varietals permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and it is often blended with Grenache Blanc, whose richness and crisp acids highlight Roussanne’s pear and honey flavors. In the Northern Rhône, Roussanne is frequently blended with Marsanne in the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint Joseph to provide acidity, minerality and richness. As a single varietal wine, it reaches its pinnacle as the sole component of Château de Beaucastel’s Roussanne Vieilles Vignes.

Roussanne is also found in the Savoie region of France (where it is known as Bergeron), and in limited quantities in Australia and Italy. In the United States, Roussanne is most planted in the Central Coast, but can also be found in Sonoma, Napa and the Sierra Foothills regions of California, as well as in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.

Roussanne in California
After some early, largely unsuccessful experiments with Roussanne (the last of which were pulled out in the 1920s) early Rhone Rangers reintroduced Roussanne into the United States in the 1980s. Cuttings, taken from the Rhône Valley, were propagated and planted in vineyards around California, and many wines from those cuttings garnered critical acclaim. Years later, in 1998, DNA tests identified those vines as Viognier – a discovery which led to years of controversy. We ensured the authenticity of our clones by importing vine cuttings directly from Château de Beaucastel; the Roussanne available from the Tablas Creek Nursery is a certified clone, tested by the USDA. Around the same time we brought in the Beaucastel clones, John Alban imported Roussanne to plant in his Central Coast vineyards. Those clones were also true Roussanne, and virtually all of the 348 acres of Roussanne planted as of 2008 in California are descendants of the clones brought in by Alban and by Tablas Creek.

A few years back, we put together a page that identifies the principal attributes of both Roussanne and Viognier, with distinguishing characteristics highlighted, should you have some in the ground and want to research which you have.

Roussanne in the Vineyard
Roussanne has a well-deserved reputation as a difficult varietal to grow (our nursery partners at NovaVine call it "the princess") and as such is often passed over in favor of the more cooperative Marsanne. In its native France, plantings had declined to just 54 hectares in the late 1960s before rebounding thanks to superior clones developed towards the end of the twentieth century. Roussanne grapes are susceptible to powdery mildew and rot, and the vine is a shy and erratic producer even under ideal conditions.

Of the five white Rhône varietals that we grow at Tablas Creek, Roussanne is generally the latest-ripening. In addition, it is prone to shutting down toward the end of harvest, as well as to shatter and uneven yields. The vines are very responsive to sunlight, and grape bunches on the western side of the vine tend to ripen more quickly than bunches on the eastern side. To combat this tendency, we aggressively thin the leaves to expose more bunches to sunlight and harvest the grapes in multiple passes. Eighteen acres of our vineyard are devoted to Roussanne, representing about half of our white Châteauneuf-du-Pape varieties and over 5% of the Roussanne planted in California.

Tablas Creek hosted a summer 2008 producers-only symposium on Roussanne to discuss the viticultural, winemaking and marketing challenges it presents. Other producers, as well as trade and consumers, may be interested in the Roussanne Symposium recap notes (in PDF).

Roussanne in the Cellar
In contrast to the challenge it presents in the vineyard, Roussanne is flexible and forgiving in the cellar.  It can be successfully fermented in large or small oak, or in stainless steel.  It can be harvested at lower sugars but still have good body, or can be left to greater ripeness without losing all its acidity.  It has the body to take to new oak, or stainless steel can emphasize its minerality.  And unlike most white wines, Roussanne ages very well due to its unusual combination of richness, minerality and balancing acids; many Roussanne wines can be enjoyed up to 15 years or more after bottling.

At Tablas Creek, we ferment and age about one third of our Roussanne in one- to five-year-old small French oak barrels, one third in large 1200-gallon French oak foudres, and the remainder in stainless steel. The oak provides a structured richness and enhances the rich texture of the grape, while the stainless steel emphasizes the minerality of the wine and heightens the floral aromatics. 

Flavors and Aromas
Wines made from Roussanne are rich and complex, with distinct honey, floral and apricot flavors.  They have a characteristic oily texture and a full body that is more reminiscent of red wines than whites.  We make, in a normal year, at least four wines that contain Roussanne. Our varietal Roussanne showcases wine lots with particularly intense varietal character. A Bergeron bottling, from grapes harvested earlier, with brighter acidity, pays homage to the Roussannes of the Savoie. Finally, Roussanne forms the core of our signature Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc and adds structure and acids to our Viognier-based Cotes de Tablas Blanc. It also makes a delicious base to our Vin de Paille dessert wines.