Born and raised in the South West of France, it’s no wonder Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker of Y. Rousseau Wines, was bit by the winemaking bug as early as 5 years old. That’s when he and his grandfather, Pépé shared their first glass of homemade red wine together. According to Yannick, “Pépé hunted his own food, made his own wine, and was an artisan butcher.” With such a role model in his life, Yannick, too, has become a man who celebrates the bounty of the environment around him. The Y.Rousseau 2014 Pepé Merlot from Cavedale Vineyard is a nod to Yannick’s connection to his grandfather, his French country homeland, and his New World wine country.

About the Wine: The Y.Rousseau 2014 Pepé Merlot is made from 100% Merlot grapes harvested from the Cavedale Vineyard located on the western side of Mount Veeder (at about 2,000 feet elevation) in the Moon Mountain AVA of Sonoma County.

Fun AVA Facts: Moon Mountain is one of the most recent AVAs, having been established just a few years ago in 2013. Despite Cavedale Vineyard’s western location — which would assume a lot of sun exposure and, thus, heat — Moon Mountain is situated in a way that it’s caught between the crosswinds of the San Pablo Bay in the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west, making it one Sonoma’s cooler AVAs. The soil here is thin and volcanic in nature, forcing vines to cling to the mountain-scape and work hard to survive (aka “vigor”). Perfect for cultivating Merlot. (Read more about Merlot grapes.)

The Merlot grapes here 100% naturally fermented, using native yeasts. The wine then aged in French oak (50% new) for 18 monts.

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle comes a rich, dark scent of plum and fig compote cooking away in the freshest of oak barrels. The look of the Y.Rousseau 2014 Pepé Merlot is pure garnet as it flows from bottle to glass — as rich and voluptuous as vampiric blood. In the glass, the Merlot is even thicker — truly a pool of murderous mayhem. Though as it slides down the bowl, notice, this wine is not at all viscous.

Initial aromas are of those oak barrels, licorice, dark fruit compote, with a thin line of acid hinting at the potential for more. Swirl, and Yannick’s Merlot releases more acid, scents of anise, hints of cocoa and black cherry, and a delicate background aroma of pink roses.

On the palate, the Y.Rousseau 2014 Pepé Merlot is full, lush, with tannins that gently sneak their way forward just 1/4 into the tasting, coating the tongue lightly. The acid comes through about 1/2 way through the taste, crescendoing and then dissipating, leaving just the faintest tingle at the top center of the tongue. Dominant flavors are of unsweetened cacao, anise seed, cruciferous vegetables, dark cherry, and fresh cedar wood. This off-dry wine has a solid finish due to that gentle coat of tannins, bringing the palate back to zero without any noticeable lingering affects.

Food Pairing: The Y.Rousseau 2014 Pepé Merlot loves stinky cheese. Think roasted beetroot and radish, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and — for meat eaters — a leaner selection like veal or venison. Now gently sprinkle that with a light gorgonzola, sip, and savor.

More Info: I received the Y.Rousseau 2014 Pepé Merlot as a sample for review. (Cheers Yannick and Olga!) Retail: $50. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Y.Rousseau website.

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