“Tannat Russian River Valley is made to introduce people to the world of Tannat,” says Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker at Y.Rousseau Wines. Indeed, with grapes harvested from the temperate, friendly terroir of Sonoma’s valley floor and a little love from blending a bit of California-based varietals, there’s no better way to dip your toe into Tannat. But what the heck — let’s just dive right in…

“All for Wine,

WINE FOR ALL!” — Yannick Rousseau

About the Wine: The Y. Rousseau 2014 Russian River Valley Tannat is made from 97% Tannat grapes and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested from Saralee’s Vineyard in Sonoma. ” I always blend this wine with Cabernet, and in some vintages, also with Merlot,” says Yannick, explaining that blending small percentages of California’s more popular grapes with Tannat achieves a higher level of juiciness and fruitiness, making it more approachable for the average wine consumer.

The other thing that makes the Y. Rousseau Russian River Valley Tannat more “user friendly” and, in fact, vastly different from the Alder Springs Vineyard Tannat (“The Musketeer), is the vineyard itself. Sitting at a much lower elevation, along the valley floor of Sonoma, Saralee’s Vineyard receives a good combination of both warm and cool weather, creating an overall moderate growing climate. He notes that these conditions provide a slightly higher yield of the Tannat fruit with less concentration and density than those found in to cooler, mountainous region of Mendocino.

The last thing of interest to note is that the grapes found in Saralee’s Vineyard are planted to an American clone developed by UC Davis (as opposed to the French rootstock-based vineyard of Alder Springs.)

After harvest these grapes were cold soaked for 3 days, fermented at 78 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (40% new).

13.9% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle you can’t not smell purple, jammy fruits hanging from their brambly branches, plush with thick green leaves. As it pours, the Y. Rousseau 2014 Russian River Valley Tannat is thick like liquid magma; in the glass it’s a vampiric maroon, fading to a rusty rouge around the perimeter.

Initial aromas are of cherry-bourbon compote baked into a crusty pie shell. There’s a thin line of acidity that delicately penetrates the nostrils. Swirl, and the Tannat reveals hints of dark chocolate, licorice, a subtle sweetness like cherry cordial, and, at the top of the glass, an elegant rusticity of wild flowers sitting among a field of sun-dried grass.

On the palate the acid hits immediately, crescendoing about three-quarters of the way before finally melting into oblivion. The tannins come in about a quarter of the way adding dryness to the tongue, but in a most calming fashion. Flavors include cinnamon stick, licorice, plum (and plum skins), black pepper, and tree bark. The finish is a solid one, a dry one, with a tobacco-like aftertaste, but that melting acid-affect leaves a lingering love in the heart.

Food Pairing: I paired the Y. Rousseau 2014 Russian River Valley Tannat with a flame-grilled chicken breast, beetroot puree, and a salad comprised of fresh figs, caramelized onion, fennel, and goat’s cheese. The smokiness in the chicken brought out more oak in the wine, which worked to soften the tannins and the overall palate. Meanwhile, the beetroot perfectly highlighted the cherry and plum fruit notes.

Note: If making a salad to accompany your meal and this wine, do not use a strong or cruciferous green like arugula or spinach as that will parallel the tannins, strengthen them, and further dry out the palate.

More Info: I received the Y. Rousseau 2014 Russian River Valley Tannat as a sample for review. (Cheers Olga and Yannick!) Retail: $35. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Y. Rousseau website.

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