I knew I would dive into Roussanne when I saw that the #Winophiles were focusing on French varieties outside of France this month. I’ve been looking for just about any excuse to pop open one of these bottles that I have been holding from Tablas Creek Vineyard. Now was my chance.
I have a nice little vertical of Roussannes that I lovingly gaze at regularly, wishing them to age and peak so that I can relive a wonderful experience discovering aged Roussanne at Tablas Creek. So thanks #Winophiles!
French Grapes outside of France with the Winophiles
The French #Winophiles will be, as I said, writing about French Grapes outside of France this month. That’s a beautifully wide-open field. I mean when we discuss International Grape Varieties, most of them have French origins, right? So this should be a diverse discussion! You can read Cam’s Preview post here.
Feel free to join us for the discussion on Saturday, March 20th at 8 am PDT on Twitter. Just follow and use the hashtag #Winophiles to tell us about your favorite French grape outside of France!
Back to my Roussanne obsession
Okay, back to my Roussanne obsession. You see, back in 2013, Michael and I were at Tablas Creek for a Harvest Walk. It was almost 100 degrees, but a large group of wine lovers had all donned hats and grabbed water bottles and we were about to embark on a walk of the vineyard with pit stops in shady areas for wine and small bites. We took off on our walk, which was wonderful, but what I really want to tell you about is the Roussanne.
It was our 2nd to the last stop on our walk. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky and I remember the golden glow in the air, a color that matched the rich golden color of the 2009 Roussanne they had poured for us. But why don’t I let me tell you in my words from then…
“We headed back down the hill to the head-pruned Roussanne block. We believe these are the only head-pruned Roussanne vines in the state. The 2009 Roussane is a gorgeous golden color. Rousanne is often very difficult to grow (NovaVine calls it “the princess”).
This is the backbone to the Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc their flagship white wine adding richness, weight, and honey with a nice salinity on the backend. Château du Beaucastel makes their Roussanne Vielles Vignes which is considered one of the greatest white wines in France.
“Roux” is the French word for “russet” which describes the color of the grapes when ripe and gives us the base for the name “Roussanne”. This is the latest ripening of the white Rhone varieties that are grown at Tablas Creek. The vines respond highly to sunlight and bunches that get sun on the western side will ripen faster than those on the eastern side. This is also a wine that will age well, case in point we were drinking a 2009 and it was rich and stunning.
After Levi (the viticulturist at the time) gave us the rundown on the grape, Chef Jeff pulled out the pairing. This was a crostini with fresh ricotta and thyme roasted golden beets topped with a piece of candied bacon. Beets and bacon pair well and both were gorgeous with the wine.”
Me, on Crushed Grape Chronicles September 10th, 2013
You can read the whole post here.
I was enchanted by this wine that tasted so different from the younger Roussannes I had tasted. So, as my club shipments rolled in year after year, I tucked the Roussanne away and did furtive scans of the Tablas Creek Vintage charts, waiting for the right moment to open one and taste that magical elixir that spoke to me of sunset in a vineyard.
A little history on Roussanne
As I mention above, Château de Beaucastel is known for their Roussanne Vielles Vignes, which will last for generations. My title mentioned this grape being 9009 kilometers from home, and this is the truth. The cuttings for the Tablas Creek Roussanne came from Château de Beaucastel, which is 9009 miles from Tablas Creek in Paso Robles.
The Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Roussanne Vielles Vignes is considered one of the greatest white wines in France. They produce only 6000 bottles each year. These are old vines from a 3-hectare parcel that was planted in 1901 and the grapes are slightly overripe when picked. They say to drink it within 3 years or after 15!
These bottles are rare creatures that you will not find for under $100 and can run much higher depending on the age. I’ll daydream about finding and tasting one of those, but in the meantime, back to my Roussanne!
Choosing a vintage to open!
We had 5 vintages: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2011. Yes…I wanted to open that 2011, I mean it’s 10 years old! That sounded perfect. So I consulted the Vintage Chart and with disappointment realized that the 2011 was in a closed phase. ☹ In fact I found a post from earlier this year on the library wines of the 2011 vintage which spoke of this Roussanne. Calling the current showing “weird” and describing it currently as “more interesting than pleasurable”. I’ll hold on to this one.
So I looked at the 2014 & 2015 and settled on the 2014. I figured that the beautiful Roussanne I had in 2013, was only 4 years old, so hopefully, this will have aged to the right point.
The 2014 Tablas Creek Roussanne
885 cases made – 13% abv – SRP $35 (at the time of purchase)
This was the 14th bottling of this variety and it is sold out. I don’t say this to make you sad, I say this to remind you to get a bottle that is available and lay it down! You can pick up a bottle of the 2018 that is currently available and then sit on it for a while.
2014 was a tough year for their Roussanne. In my quote above I mention that Roussanne is often called “The Princess”. In their 2014 Harvest Report, they mention that “This always-challenging grape is being difficult even by its standards this year.” They had vines shut down early, due to stress, so the clusters were ripening very slowly, causing them to make multiple passes to bring in all the fruit. This was from their Harvest Recap in 2014.
“…we made a first pass through the Roussanne block … on September 4th. We made our next passes on September 18th and October 2nd. Still, nearly half the fruit remained. We went through again on October 7th, and a final pick — our last pick of the harvest — on October 16th.”
The notes from the winery mention honey, honeysuckle, and pear, as well as peach syrup, jasmine, lanolin, lemon thyme, and citrus leaf. They note on the palate that there are flavors of “Salted caramel, nutmeg, marzipan, and orange zest”. They also note that this will continue to develop over the next decade.
This wine was a medium shade of gold with aromas of honeysuckle, pear, peach, and cider apples. There was butterscotch, caramel, dried apricot, and honey with a little roasted cashew. I was not disappointed. While this wine would develop further (in case you are lucky enough to have a bottle in your possession), it was beautiful and took me back to the golden glow of that evening at Tablas Creek standing next to that head-pruned Roussanne.
Pairing my Roussanne
I wanted to focus on the wine, so my menu was simple. I chose to mix up two of the pairing suggestions from Tablas Creek with their recipe for Carrot, Leek and Potato Soup, zhuzhed up a bit with crab meat. It’s been cold here in Vegas, as I write this, there is snow on the mountains and parts of the Valley have seen dustings of snow. This feels warm and cozy to me, as I tilt my head toward any ray of sunshine and dream of spring.
We also decided to do a cheesy thing or two. As I read back through the post from our initial vineyard walk, I mention that Chef Jeff Scott had paired this wine with a crostini of fresh ricotta and thyme roasted golden beets with candied bacon. Well, if that’s not inspiration to recreate a pairing, I don’t know what is!
In addition, I had found a recipe on Fiona Beckett’s Matching Food and Wine page for a puff pastry baked camembert with quince and roasted garlic. She had found this in “The Orchard Cook” by Stuart Ovenden.
I set out to recreate this, but of course, ran into some sourcing issues. My Murray’s Cheese Monger sadly told me she was out of camembert, I went with brie. Then Quince? Yeah, not to be found, so I went with apple.
So, soup, salad, melted cheese, roasted beets, and candied bacon. Well, that sounds pretty heavenly to me.
How did the Roussanne pair?
The soup was silky and beautiful and the sweetness of the crab on top lifted the sweet notes in the wine. Michael also picked up lobster cakes which were really good with this! The wine enhanced the herbs in the lobster cakes and made the flavors really expand on your palate.
While my crostini, did not quite live up to the beautiful dish that Chef Scott made, all the individual elements were there. The ricotta worked well with the sweetness of the wine and the wine still had great acid to cut through the fat in the cheese. The earthy sweetness of the roasted beets and then of course the candied bacon picked up on those sweet notes and the thyme popped!
The pastry wrapped brie had apple slices poached in tea, wine, and honey with vanilla. This was spread between the two halves of brie, then the whole thing was wrapped in pastry and baked. I reduced the poaching liquid and used it to drizzle on top. This was really delicious with the wine. We had the other dishes for lunch and curled up with the rest of this bottle and the brie as dinner with a bit of a cheese plate. It was heavenly.
I added this recipe at the bottom!
The French #Winophiles
I cannot wait to read all the pieces by my Colleagues at the French #Winophiles. I expect there will be a wide array of varieties from a wide array of places! This should be fun!
Remember you can join us Saturday, March 20th at 8 am PDT or 11 am EDT on Twitter, just follow the hashtag #Winophiles to join the conversation.
- Allison & Chris at AdVINEtures share French Grapes Around the World: Chardonnay in BC’s Okanagan Valley .
- Andrea of The Quirky Cork declares Ooo la la! French Grapes in Turkey!
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator pours West Coast “Bordeaux” Blends with Beef Bourguignon.
- Jeff of FoodWineClick! takes A Reluctant Look at French Grapes Outside of France .
- Jill of L’Occasion features Rhône Grapes in Paso Robles .
- Lauren of The Swirling Dervish goes Beyond Champagne: Pinot Meunier Shines in a Varietal Wine from Two Shepherds .
- Melanie of Wining with Mel offers French Grapes Around the World: Spotlight on Niagara Gamay .
- Nicole of Somm’s Table is Celebrating Women’s History Month with Gamble Family Vineyard’s Mary Ann .
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings examines Elevating French grapes outside France at Texas’s William and Chris Vineyards .
- Susannah of Avvinare posts Petit Manseng Flourishes In Virginia .
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is Exploring Malbec Outside of France Paired with Pineapple Teriyaki Salmon .
- And host Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla surveys Gamay Around the Globe: From Burgundy to the Willamette Valley + Mussels, Pici, and A Bottle from New Zealand .
Warm pastry filled with gooey melted brie that contains wine poached apple slices, I mean, what's not to like! This recipe is sure to be a crowd-pleaser and if you use frozen pastry dough, it really is pretty quick to put together! We paired this with an aged Roussanne, but it would be great with so many wines. I think with a semi-sweet white wine from the Bordeaux it would be beautiful!
- 1/2 apple peeled, cored and sliced
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1/2 cup brewed tea
- 1 tbs honey
- 1/4 cup white wine (we used the Roussanne)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 frozen puff pastry sheet
- 8 oz wheel of brie cheese
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 400° F
- Toss the sliced apples in the lemon juice and set them aside
- Place the tea, wine, honey & vanilla in a pot. Heat on medium until the honey dissolves.
- Carefully add the apples, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook 15 minutes, turning the apples once mid-way.
- Remove the apples from the liquid and let them cool. Leave the rest of the liquid in the pot and continue cooking it until it has reduced by half and is syrupy.
- Roll out the pastry dough on a floured surface to about 11 x 11 inches
- Carefully slice the wheel of brie in half like a hamburger bun so you will have a top and a bottom.
- Place the bottom half in the center of the pastry square
- Lay the apples out on top and close with the 2nd half of the brie
- Wrap the pastry around the brie
- Mix the egg with a fork and brush over the pastry on the top.
- Bake for 35 minutes
- Drizzle with the reduced sauce when serving
You can use camembert for this also, and substitute pear or quince for the filling.
Amount Per Serving Calories 146Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 52mgSodium 197mgCarbohydrates 6gFiber 0gSugar 4gProtein 7g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
More on the Wines of Tablas Creek by Crushed Grape Chronicles
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.