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No one knows Tannat like Yannick Rosseau. He grew up surrounded by the vines in the grape’s — and his — French home in Gascony. He drank his first wine, brewed by his grandfather, at the age of 5, and immersed himself in wine education in every way possible thereafter. But it’s more than one’s heritage and even one’s knowledge that distinguishes a talented winemaker. Yannick’s artistic ability to tame the tannic beast that is Tannat with subtle elegance and poise not only uplifts the fruit’s palate profile, but elevates the complete drinking experience.
“I bring my French training and approach to winemaking and apply them to the extraordinary single-vineyard terroirs of Northern California…I like to think my wines are soulful and distinctive, and I hope you will agree with me once you’ve tasted them.” — Yannick Rousseau (owner & winemaker, Y.Rousseau wines)
I’m going to start this post with stating the fact that this Pinot Noir is amazing. Now, I’m going to spend the rest of the time telling you why. After tasting a wine, I research who made it and where it comes from to figure out why I experienced what I did during my tasting. In doing so, the family behind Foursight Wines taught me a new word: monopole.
Bill and Nancy Charles, along with their daughter Kristy Charles and son-in-law Joe Web craft only 100% estate wines from their very own Charles Vineyard in Anderson Valley — a vineyard the small crew mans themselves on a daily basis. With just about 15 acres planted to vines, the Charles’ are extremely focused. And while they do produce a single-bottle Semillon and grow a bit of Sauv Blanc for blending, it’s clear that the main focus is Pinot Noir.
There are over 200 vineyards located within the Santa Cruz Mountains — but you’d never know it. With the area’s rocky terrain, steep slopes, and endless forest landscape, sprawling fields are less common than in other major wine regions. But its these mountainous characteristics that give Santa Cruz grapes their signature concentration, the wines a certain rusticity. Here, Pinot Noir leaves behind the coastal climate stereotypes, amending itself to something that can be altogether brawny, tannic, and age-able.
In my small wine world, I certainly depend on the kindness of winemakers. I feel honored, privileged, yet altogether humbled by the opportunity to taste an expressive Pinot Noir sourced from the prestigious Platt Vineyard, produced by the renowned David Ramey.
David Ramey is a name known all around our Napa/Sonoma Wine Countries — and I’m sure everywhere else as well. After completing his Masters in enology from UC Davis, David started his young career by traveling abroad to France. He names his first job with Jean-Pierre Moueix in Pomerol and his time cellar-ratting in Burgundy as some of the major highlights and influences of his early winemaking life. Back in California, David moved on to work for such major players as Simi, Matanzas Creek, and Chalk Hill. But it was his decision to become the first winemaker for Dominus Estates (owned by Christian Moueix, of Pétrus) that made him realize all that he had learned and all that he was capable of. “I never dreamed of owning my own winery,” David says. Oh how dreams do change.
In 1996 he and his wife Carla founded Ramey Cellars, after Moueix agrees to let David “make a little Chardonnay on the side.” Sourcing from Hyde Vineyards, the couple celebrates their first harvest, custom crushing at Luna Vineyards, and producing their first 260 cases. Today Ramey Wine Cellars produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and even a bit of Syrah — producing, well, much more than 260 cases.
There’s something special about Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I can never put my finger on exactly what it is, though. The region spans from coastal-setting to mountain-scape, and you wouldn’t think it would be that different from our Northern Californian Wine Country. But perhaps it’s because most wineries are small, often family-run boutiques; maybe it’s because Oregon, on the whole, is quite a young wine-producing region, unblemished by age, wear, and tear; or it could be because the Willamette, like Burgundy is located at 45 degrees latitude and that’s just the Pinot Noir sweet spot.
Whatever it is, I find that some of the most refined (most Burgundian, if you will) American Pinot Noirs come from this little pocket of the New World.