Roussanne 2013….The Bonsai Roussanne!

Watching the Roussanne move across the sorting table, one get’s a sense of why this variety is as earthy, rich, and stone fruity in aroma and flavor as it is. Clusters display both green and reddish berries in varying degrees, as evidenced in this photo by Marissa Winchester. Stephan comments that popularly, Roussanne derives from roux, meaning “russet”, or “reddish” in French. Rich, honeyed, pear and stone fruit with an almost spicy finish are detected when tasting the fresh fruit.

A variety prone to highly irregular yields, this year’s Roussanne crop was particularly small. So are clusters, which are also very tight, berries being smaller than normal. The resulting wine will be very rich, with greater intensity and specificity than in many years. 0.8 ton per acre yields this year were due to the warm weather we experienced in part, but also to a man made “trap”, if you will, that caught us up in the end! Let me explain.

At plantation in 2000, Stephan opted to encircle the root systems of the new Roussanne plantings with a wire cage, designed specifically to foil the gophers in the vineyard from devouring the tender young vines. Gophers are among the most notorious of pests in the vineyards, and this seemed a sound way to combat them….no poison, no drownings, clean and humane. The cages did their jobs as concerns keeping out the gophers, but created an unforseen complication. It turns out that the root system of the vines began to grow into a tight circle inside the cage, instead of growing right through the openings in the mesh. The result was a Roussanne block that has always produced very low yields, and vines that are displaying signs of stunted growth at 13 years. Following this harvest, the plan is to replant the block, sans cages! Join me in saying “Au Revoir, Bonsai Roussanne!”



Early Start to 2013 Harvest at L’Aventure as Grenache Blanc comes in!

This morning at 7:30 AM the crew brought in the 2013 Grenache Blanc- all 2 tons of it! Stephan, Dave, and Guillaume, with the help of the sure handed Michael Dutchsorted through the clusters on the first of our two sorting tables, assuring that only those of uniform maturity made it into the destemmer. From there, stagiaires Victor and Aurelien, here from France to help out with harvest,  managed the second table, vigilant that the individual berries passing along it were all of a dimension indicative of fully mature, sound fruit. This selection process is a continuation of that practiced in the vineyard, where cluster dropping and shoot thinning result in net yields of scarcely a bottle to two  per vine, depending on the vintage and variety. This Grenache Blanc will constitute 50% of the blend for Stephan’s 2013 Estate Cuvee Blanc, a ton each of Viognier and Roussanne to round it out. That’s a whopping 240 cases all in!

Stephan describes this as “a small crop, maybe a bonsai crop” adding a snicker, in that many of the individual clusters were manicured around the verasion period. Clipping the shoulders and tips of this large clustered, somewhat gangly variety  has resulted in the fruit being more uniformly developed. This year’s earlier harvest has resulted in great, firm clusters of excellent acidity, characterized by a racy minerality, floral perfume, and flavors of lychee  nut and stone fruit.

Dave DeBusk, our Vineyard Manager, adds that “the fruit was absolutely disease free, and remarkably even, from top of the hill to bottom”. He attributes some of the exemplar quality of the block to the double guyot trellising configuration as well.

Roussane is just coming in. Let’s go have a look at it.