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Roussanne, when you least expect it...

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AaronSC

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Hi all,
Looking for some advice here, since I'm in relatively uncharted waters.

The story: As I've posted elsewhere, I'm newly out in the Amador County foothills and finally get to make wine for the first time since moving to California 10 years ago. I networked with several local vineyards and got them to agree to around 3,600 lbs of different varieties. The whites were Viognier, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (quite a mouthful) and Grenache Blanc. The Viognier was easy -I drove up and 400 lbs of perfect fruit were sitting there in a macro bin.

The Muscat was a bit more of an experience. The vineyard was one I never heard of and contacted from a link on-line since he claimed to have Grenache Blanc available. Like a lot of these guys he was surprised that I emailed him (even though he had something on the net saying he had grapes) but agreed that I could get 400lbs of Grenache Blanc grapes if I picked them myself. I looked at the map of his winery and saw he also had Muscat, which I also love. A few weeks later I emailed him about that and he said I could probably get 300-400 lbs of it too.

Last weekend I got an email saying the grapes were ready and where to go, arrive at noon. Getting to his place was wacky, since he is an old guy that doesn't like the internet in an area with very little cell service. It took a lot of weird backroads and guesses but we finally got to the vineyard and saw the 20 acres or so of grapes he had. This is in the Fair Play appellation in El Dorado county, just over the border from Amador and about 8.5 miles from my house as the crow flies (it was an hour driving, so the crows really got a better deal on this one). There were many acres of Zinfandel and Primitivo that were not harvested. Very sad, I would have bought some of those, but by mid October probably not in great shape other than a port.

Here finally showed up and showed us where to pick, starting with Muscat. Most of the Muscat grapes had already been picked but we found a few vines that hadn't;t been touched by out was super slow going. After 4.5 hours we got around 400lbs. This guy was impatient so halfway through he said he was going to leave and to pay him for what we had and keep picking if we wanted to. No GB that day he said, it's getting too late, we can come back next weekend and it will be fine. We ended up getting around 400lbs of nice Muscat, 26º Brix, TA .54, pH 3.54. I adjusted to .70 TA.

Any case, I get a (nervous) call from him on this Friday after seeing my emails about the GB and when I should show up. It turns out that they had picked all the GB the Sunday before so we would just be able to get whatever the pickers missed. That didn't sound very promising so I asked about the very large plot of Roussanne and whether that was an option. he acted like I was crazy for wanting it because no one wants Roussanne (why did he plant so much of it then?) but he said feel free to supplement with that and whatever Viognier was left over. I'm glad I asked. Roussanne should be ripe now, but Viognier is probably pretty over rip at this point. he said he wouldn't be coming out but we could just drive over, pick what we wanted and send him a check.

OK, when we get there and check out the GB it is essentially gone. If we spend all day we would probably get 100lbs, if we really didn't care what we picked. I was very sad. On a lark I drove over to the Roussanne and was shocked to see a dozen rows of unpicked, beautiful fruit -probably a ton of easy picking. My jeep can only hold 1/4 ton, so that would limit us. I chose a cluster and shot the Brix and it was great -23º! It only took us about two hours to get 500lbs of great fruit. Back at the ranch I crushed and tested the aggregate stats -22.5º Brix, 3.51 pH, .68 TA -really good for a light Roussanne! From what I've read Roussanne needs to be picked before it gets to 24º Brix or it will lose a lot of its flavors.

Questions I have for anyone who's worked with this supposedly undesirable grape: 1) what are some good yeasts for this one? I was thinking of fermenting half with D47 and the other half with QA23, but I have some GRE, D254 and D21 available too. 2) I have about 30 gallons of juice, the press juice is very dark, since Roussanne is prone to oxidation. any ideas on how I should treat this and if there's a good yeast or other approach for oxidized must?

Thanks!

-Aaron
 

NorCal

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I’ve used GRE, 4600 and recently Avante TR313. All performed well. I think this white blend will be quite interesting, some complementary flavors. I’ve had juice that was ups brown that turned into a beautiful delicate wine. It will all fall out.
 

AaronSC

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Thanks, I have 6 carboys of juice (around 32 gallons) of Roussane (with probably 5% Grenache Blanc in there, if that). I'm going to go with GRE, D47 and QA23.
 

Booty Juice

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Hey Aaron,

Welcome to the El Dorado county grape harvest lol! I have a ranch in Somerset where we have made wine for the last 10 years and between there and Fairplay there are many vineyards that cater to the home wine maker just drive around and ask - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Good luck with your wines!
 

AaronSC

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Hey Aaron,

Welcome to the El Dorado county grape harvest lol! I have a ranch in Somerset where we have made wine for the last 10 years and between there and Fairplay there are many vineyards that cater to the home wine maker just drive around and ask - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Good luck with your wines!
That's great to hear -if you have any ideas you'd be open to sharing on sources for next year or want to go in on a larger amount of grapes just let me know. I'm very interested in some of the less common varietals, but this year I started late and got what I could (it was easier this year due to the pandemic and all). I made Mourvedre, zinfandel, Tempranillo, Barbera, Cabernet Franc and Malbec this year for reds and Viognier, Muscat Blanc and Roussanne for whites. Next year I like to get some Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Malvasia Bianca or Fiano for whites, and Syrah, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Carignane or Graciano for reds, but I'm wide open!

-Aaron
 

CDrew

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That's great to hear -if you have any ideas you'd be open to sharing on sources for next year or want to go in on a larger amount of grapes just let me know. I'm very interested in some of the less common varietals, but this year I started late and got what I could (it was easier this year due to the pandemic and all). I made Mourvedre, zinfandel, Tempranillo, Barbera, Cabernet Franc and Malbec this year for reds and Viognier, Muscat Blanc and Roussanne for whites. Next year I like to get some Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Malvasia Bianca or Fiano for whites, and Syrah, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Carignane or Graciano for reds, but I'm wide open!

-Aaron
You have to be opportunistic. There are lots and lots of grapes around Northern California, but making all the timing work is hard. But here in mid-October, there are beautiful grapes here to pick. WIth the COVID, many are going to waste this year. It's a shame actually, because these are great, carefully grown grapes, just not harvested. Amador has been strong this year. No fires, great conditions, fantastic grapes. My guess is that 2020 will go down as one of the really good years.
 

AaronSC

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Hi CDrew,
That's really sad, but not unexpected. Even the very well-known vineyards like Shake Ridge are having trouble selling their grapes, so it's not surprising smaller places are struggling. I'm definitely very happy with the grapes I got this year, but I'm at max capacity for now. Next year I'll have more contacts, I'm hoping.

-Aaron
 

AaronSC

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Strange thing I wanted to ask about. I tested TA and pH right after crush, drawing juice from all four fermenters. It was 3.5 pH and .68% TA. I pressed and settled and racked the clear juice. pH went to 3.7 and TA to .57%. What happened here? Is this typical? I used Lalvin EX on the must after crush, could this have caused a rise in pH like this?

Also, here some Roussanne grape porn I forgot to post.IMG_0015.jpg
 

knockabout

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I did a roussanne and a Marsanne last year - can’t remember which but one was high in malic - did a mlf on it - used both to blend - blown away!!!!! Ours is a really nice wine!!
 

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