Saturday, August 09, 2008

Another Look At Two Washington Roussannes

This posting takes a second look at two Washington State wines made from the roussanne grape, a variety associated with the Rhone region of France.  The offerings in question are a:

Doyenne 2006 Roussanne ($32) and a

McCrea 2006 Roussanne ($22).

For those who haven't tried one, the roussanne grape makes a very interesting and highly versatile white wine. These wines are not oaky and buttery (like many chardonnay), overtly flowery (like many viognier) or decidedly citric (like many sauvignon blanc). They tend to have nice bouquets, offer a range of soft, rather seductive flavors on the palate, and display a clean, crisp finish.

The biggest problem with roussanne is that not much of it is made so you might have to search to find one.

The first of these two offerings is made by DeLille Cellars, of Woodinville, Washington, a winemaking mecca just outside of Seattle.  The winery markets Bordeaux-style wines under the DeLille label and uses the Doyenne label for its Rhone-style offerings. DeLille wines are much in demand and tend to be priced accordingly.

McCrea Cellars, which specializes in Rhone-style wines, is south of Seattle, closer to the state capitol of Olympia.

In both cases, however, the grapes are gown in the highly regarded "Ciel du Cheval" vineyard, which is located in the Red Mountains section of the Columbia Valley, east of the Cascade Mountains -- a hot, dry region where irrigation is the norm.

We first sampled the Doyenne 2006 Roussanne last October and found it assertive and just a bit spritzy. After another half-year in the bottle, the wine was considerably improved. It had settled down, opened up in terms of the range of detectable flavors and boasted a long, satisfying finish. The impression was that of white peaches and honey blossom balanced by a bit of lemon.

The 2007 version of this wine is currently being released and according to the winery, it is more concentrated than the 2006. I rate the 2006 as Worth Considering and I suspect the same will be true of the 2007, in both cases with the caveat that  equally interesting roussannes are available from other producers for a lot less money. With DeLille wines, consumers tend to pay a premium for the label.

If you do decide to purchase a Doyenne roussanne, I would recommend cellaring it for several months before consumption.

We last sampled a McCrae roussanne in December of 2006 and it was the 2004 vintage. The 2004 was noteworthy in part for a bit of viscosity that helped give the wine a mouth-filling quality. The same is true with respect to the 2006 where the viscosity also seemed to contribute to a very long finish.

In terms of flavor, this wine tasted as though there was a bit of apricot mixed in with a basic white peach flavor.

Just how this wine is made is a bit of a mystery: the McCrea web site first lists its composition as "100% roussanne" but then says the following: "After a gentle, whole cluster press, the juice was fermented in stainless tank. A portion of Viognier was added to lift and brighten the blend."  Hmm. That doesn't sound like 100% roussanne.

In any event, this is a very nice wine and, on the basis of the all-important "which one do you reach for?" test, the considerably less expensive McCrae was the the winner. Our three panelists finished that bottle first. 

For the record, these wines are both listed as being 14.1% alcohol.

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