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by Fred McMillin
Roussanne is the best white wine you've never heard of. (paraphrase from Bonadies' Sip By Sip)
The Rest of the Story
My panel just gave a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to a virtual unknown, a California ROUSSANNE. Let's see how it came to be.
One Last Look
Robert Balzer tells how in the early 1970s, Louis Ream, retiring oil executive, was looking for vineyard land but could find none at a sensible price. About to abandon the idea, he took one last look at an undeveloped, abandoned cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County. It was on a 1,500' plateau, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He and wife Connie decided to go for it. A decade later their Zaca Mesa Winery was selling 80,000 cases a year.
As production was exploding, the wine team noticed that their location seemed ideal for Rhone varieties. So, they planted the most prestigious and in 1983 produced it...Santa Barbara County's first Syrah.
That grape, along with other Rhone favorites, soon established Zaca Mesa as a leading Rhone Ranger. Bouyed by such success, they added the more exotic Roussanne to their arsenal, and fired the first shot in 1993, exactly 10 years after the crush of that first Syrah. The initial commercial release was the 1995 vintage.
The Nature of Roussanne
Master of Wine Jancis Robinson describes Roussanne as "elegant and perky...with a haunting aroma. Responds to oak well...good acid content allows it to age gracefully." So, if you are interested in learning about the glorious variations in fermented grape juice, you must try...
1997 Roussanne, Zaca Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
As for that name, "mesa" is Spanish for "table" or a flat-topped hill. "Zaca" come from a Chumash Indian word meaning 'peace' or 'quiet place,' according to Isabel Field. Who was Ms. Field? Would you believe? She was the stepdaughter of the Napa wine admirer, Robert Louis Stevenson.
This page created January 2000