Roussanne is closely associated with the Rhone region of France, where it is grown in such well-known appellations as Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage in the North, and further South in the Châteauneuf du Pape and Côtes du Rhône appellations. Many Châteauneuf du Pape white table wines use a large percentage of Roussanne. The varietal is also successfully grown throughout California, in parts of Washington State, Australia, and Italy. Descriptors such as floral, pear, herbal, spicy, viscous, nutty, and rich are fairly common of varietal Roussanne wines, appearing in varying proportions depending on the where the fruit is grown. We have found the wines produced from this varietal in Lake County tend to include all the classic descriptors, as well as a few particular to the individual vineyard itself. As this is the second vintage of Roussanne we have produced at Steele, the ageability of these wines will take some years to critique.
The actual winemaking work done to these grapes was fairly minimal. As with most white wines of the winery, the quality of the varietals and vineyards speak for themselves through traditional barrel fermentations and extended lees-contact aging. After being crushed and pressed to tank, the Roussanne was fermented in stainless steel to 10 brix then racked to French and Hungarian barrels, approximately 15% new (the remaining 85% being between 2-3 years old), where primary fermentation took place below 60 F. The primary fermentation was followed by complete malolactic fermentation, during which time the barrels were occasionally stirred; both to protect the young wine from premature oxidation, and to enrich the wine.
The Roussanne was aged in the barrels in which it was fermented for approximately 9 months. The aging period was carried out sur-lees with occasional stirring. A fairly low level of SO2 was maintained throughout this period to aid in the development of secondary and tertiary aromatic and flavor components. The Roussanne includes small percentages (approximately 7% total) of Viognier.
A medium to full bodied white wine, with a characteristically rich, slightly oily texture, bright acidity and very good integration of acid, slightly spicy finish after a complex and interesting aromatic profile. Special balance for a young wine, mid-palate shows a lean acid structure before inherent richness of the varietal shows itself through a significant and pleasurably dry finish.