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)

About the Wine: Y. Rousseau 2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Tannat (“The Musketeer”) is made from 100% Tannat grapes harvested from the Alder Springs Vineyard in Mendocino County — a vineyard located at an elevation of 2,400 feet and just 10 miles from the coast. As such, the Tannat benefits from quite a cool climate, allowing them to ripen slowly and, according to Yannick, more evenly.

Yannick says he chose this vineyard because his goal “is to compete with the best Tannats in the world,” and believes that the denser, heartier grapes yielded from the Alder Springs Vineyard allows him to do just that. He adds, “When I heard about this vineyard and went to visit, I noted it’s high elevation, exposure, micro-climate, and high-density planting, all of which reminded me of the best Tannat blocks in the Madiran appellation in France.” (Learn a bit more about the origin of Tannat.)

The grapes were cold soaked for 3 days; the wine was aged for 2 years in French oak barrels (85% new). When asked about his choice to age the wine for so long with such a high percentage of new oak, Yannick says its a choice he made given the rusticity of the fruit the land provided him. “Its density and tannic structure mean that the Alder Springs Vineyard Tannat can take more oak,” he says, adding, “Tannat as a grape is very generous with fruit aromas, so the goal is to find a balance between fruit and oak aromas.”

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and there’s an immediate combined scent of cedar wood, lavender, and cherry. The Musketeer pours from bottle to glass like thick vampiric blood, settling into the bowl in a deep red-meets-brown-almost-black shade of mystery. Initial aromas are reminiscent of a cherry liquor, fresh cedar plank, and whiskey-soaked wood chips. Swirl to reveal some deep vegetative scents and a hint of umami, most reminiscent of smoked ham. Pull the nose slightly away from the glass and breathe in over-ripe fig and caramelized onions.

On the palate this Tannat is thick, voluptuous, with the tannins hitting almost immediately — about a quarter of the way through. Acid follows shortly, about halfway through, and the finish is a solid spice-filled kick. The flavors are all about that fresh cut wood, but there are subtle hints of black cherry, that over-ripe fig, and a constant background of smoke. This is absolutely a textural wine: the tannins coat the tongue in an authoritative way — but kindly, like a good teacher leading you by the hand, teaching you a lesson in wine. That acid, once it takes affect, is a solid sturdy line through to completion, keeping the wine alive and vibrant, making that lesson fun.

Swallow, keep the lips tight, exhale through the nose. Aftertastes are of cherry cola and an appetizing umaminess of smoked meats.

Food Pairing: I paired the Y. Rousseau 2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Tannat with a seafood paella. (Note: this was the first time I tried this recipe, so the execution of the dish was not exactly perfect.) What I loved was the smokiness in the wine paired perfectly with the smokiness in the sausage and saltiness of the prosciutto. Meanwhile, the bit of heat on the finish brought out that latent fire in both the paprika and the peppers. Conversely, the strong use of oak in the wine did well to calm down the overall spice experience on the tongue, for a completely well-balanced meal.

More Info: I would say, in my humble opinion, that this is a wine filled with potential. You could wait and see how “The Musketeer” evolves, but know you’ll miss out on the interesting flavors and textures of its youth. It’s your choice. If enjoying now, I recommend decanting for at least 90 minutes. (Yannick suggests a few hours.)

I received the Y. Rousseau 2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Tannat as a sample for review. (Cheers Olga and Yannick!) Retail: $65. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Y. Rousseau website.

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