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Elin’s Wine Pick: Old Vines Colombard Is Double Gold

Elin McCoy's Wine Pick: 2011 Y Rousseau Old Vines Colombard

Elin McCoy's Wine Pick: 2011 Y Rousseau Old Vines Colombard

Summer is almost officially upon us, and that means stocking up on plenty of easy-to-serve, yet interesting-to-drink white wines. This bright, fresh, bold-flavored 2011 Y Rousseau Old Vines Colombard comes with a screw cap; notes of tangy lemongrass, spicy peach and citrus; and a fascinating succulence that makes you crave another sip.

Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week

2011 Y Rousseau Old Vines Colombard

Price: $16 to $18

Region: Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California

Grapes: 100% Colombard

Alcohol: 12.8%

Serve: As an aperitif, with oysters, crab salad, scallops with lemon, spicy grilled shrimp

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The real surprise for me was how good a California wine made from Colombard grapes could be. One of the most planted white varietals in the state, it has long been the backbone of cheap white plonk blends. It’s also a mainstay grape in Cognac, where it makes high acid wines that are quickly distilled into brandy. This wine made me seriously rethink the grape’s New World potential.

Winemaker Yannick Rousseau made his first Colombard in his native region of Gascony, the “Three Musketeers” territory in southwest France. Since 1999, he’s been in California, and worked at wineries such as Napa Valley‘s Chateau Potelle on Mount Veeder. He struck out on his own in 2007, when he found a four-acre plot of 36-year-old dry farmed Colombard vines in cool-climate Russian River Valley, and last month, he opened his own very small winery and tasting room south of the town of Napa.

The elaborate plume logo on the Y Rousseau label celebrates the so-called fourth musketeer, Comte d’Artagnan, known as a dedicated bon vivant. (Their just-released red wine from Tannat grapes is named The Musketeer.)

This Colombard is an award winner

There’s no official definition of “old vines.” But as vines age, they produce less fruit so the grapes concentrate flavors, and the wine expresses more depth and complexity. This 2011 Old Vine Colombard, aged in stainless tanks and old barrels, is  also blissfully free from the heavy hand of oak. No wonder it won a double gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition last year. Its crisp stony minerality, refreshing citrus notes, jazzy acidity and satisfying texture make it a perfect summer sipper — but one with a very distinct personality.

Top photo composite:

Y Rousseau label, next to a harvester at the Russian River Valley winery’s vineyard. Credit: Courtesy of Y Rousseau