Roussanne is a white wine grape that’s probably been around for centuries, and yet, until recently, has remained in relative obscurity in Washington state.
It’s most likely that the grape originated in the Rhone Valley of France, and although it’s primarily used for blending purposes, I’m starting to see it offered by more and more Northwest winemakers as a stand-alone varietal.
The wine’s characteristics are complex and varied, but more often than not you’re likely to find it with herbal and floral aromatics, a flavor profile of pear and dried stone fruits, and good acidity and minerality. Roussanne also has a nice viscous quality, which gives it more of a rich, full-bodied feel.
It can be fermented in oak or stainless still and, while other white wines should be consumed fairly young, offers wine enthusiasts the luxury of cellaring it for as long as 10 to 15 years.
The more I try this wine, the more I enjoy it. You’ll have to do a little searching sometimes to find it, but the payoff is a marvelously unique white wine that you can easily consume now, or tuck away for future enjoyment.
Here are some recommended Roussannes currently available from Washington wineries:
Mount Baker Vineyards 2010 Proprietor’s Limited Release Roussanne (about $13) – This delicious wine is fun and flavorful and offers plenty of bang for the buck. Peachy, grassy aromas and lengthy dried apricot flavors melt into a slightly edgy finish with a bit of bright acidity.
Silver Bell Winery 2011 Marsala Vineyard Roussanne (about $13) – Skagit County’s newest boutique winery in Burlington offers this just-released Roussanne that’s produced in an Old World style. Pear and apple spice cake on the nose with a nice mineral/slate quality make this an excellent choice to serve with cod, snapper or halibut.
Cairdeas Winery 2011 Roussanne (about $22) – West Seattle winemaker Charlie Lybecker has really impressed me with his wines, and has done another first-class job with this Columbia Valley Roussanne. I found it to be a bit on the tropical side, with juicy pineapple flavors, beautiful mineral notes and just the right balance of acidity. Excellent!
A few more options that I’ve yet to try that might be worth considering include Woodinville’s Novelty Hill Winery 2009 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Roussanne (about $22) and Syncline Wine Cellars 2010 McKinley Springs Vineyard Roussanne (also about $22).
DAN RADIL is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.