Beyond the Usual Suspects

Exploring Napa Valley’s lesser-known producers


Jeff Keene loves to make Cabernet Franc, and it shows in this charming, balanced wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, dusty earth, drying leaves, mocha and foresty spice. The palate is lightly creamy with moderate, powdery tannins and mid-palate richness enhanced by St. Helena AVA Merlot (8%). Drink through 2016. 500 cases; Release date TBD. 92 points
Y Rousseau

Yannick Rousseau was born in Gascony, in southwestern France. (His hometown is not far from the birthplace of the real-life d’Artagnan of The Three Musketeers fame.) Rousseau worked in Côtes de Gascogne and Madiran, and earned a Masters in Enology and Viticulture in Toulouse, before moving to Napa Valley some 15 years ago. There he was assistant winemaker at Newton Vineyards (St. Helena) under winemaker Luc Morlet and consultant Michel Rolland. Later he spent six years at the celebrated Chateau Potelle in Mount Veeder.
He established his own label, Y Rousseau, in 2008 to make distinctive North Coast wines that recall those of his native Gascony. To that end, he produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and French Columbard. He has just bottled his first single-vineyard Tannat and has Tannat from a second vineyard in barrel.

The best French Colombard I’ve ever had, it smells of citrus and white flowers on a Spring day. The palate is extremely well-balanced: slightly round on the attack with satisfying body but persistent acidity and a dusting of talc. (Despite its being a white grape, tannins are a hallmark of French Colombard.) Tangy flavors of grapefruit and tangelo predominate.
 90 points

80% Stainless and 20% neutral barrel fermentation with native yeasts leave this wine without oak flavors, but with complexity and a gently creamy texture not found in un-oaked Chardonnay. The nose of yellow apples, apple blossoms and muted baking spice is subtle and pretty. It feels full-bodied in the mouth but fresh, because Rousseau didn’t allow any malolactic fermentation. The flavors are yellow apple, Meyer lemon and mineral. 91 points

This wine was barrel-fermented (25 percent new) with native yeast and then aged sur lie for 11 months. Malolactic fermentation was inhibited. The vineyard is at 1800 feet with a northeast facing, above the fog line, but cool. Spiced golden apples with white flowers and veiled lychee aromas are echoed by the palate. This wine is about finesse: full-body with silky minerality, restrained but friendly, balanced. 92 points

The AVA designation is misleading here since the Cavedale Vineyard sits at 2000 feet just over the ridge of Mount Veeder. The wine’s aromas and flavors resemble the vineyard—dusty and gravelly with scattered sage—but there are also dark plum, black cherry and some Christmas spice. Its medium-plus body with light-grained medium-plus tannins will please Cabernet fans. 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 18 months in French oak, 50 percent new. Best from 2014. 90 points

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  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 152

    reading this article referencing Tallulah reminded me of a couple of boxes of Syrah I had hidden away. I have a Tallulah Les Trois Voix 2007 in it, in my memory this was a very interesting Syrah, not realizing when I last opened one that it was a GSM in roughly equal proportions. I really wish wineries were forced to reveal the grapes in their wines, and better yet the actual proportions.

    Mar 29, 2013 at 4:43 PM

  • Snooth User: Kathleen Pileggi
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    702685 160

    Thanks for the review here on 5 less known wineries or "not usual" wineries. I love hearing about them and their what makes them special.

    Mar 29, 2013 at 5:11 PM

  • Good aticle. I want to try this Talluha. We are fans of Tres Sabores- Porque No!

    Mar 29, 2013 at 5:16 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,482

    Looking forward to my first bottle of a Tres Sabores wine which I picked up a few weeks ago at a local store.

    Mar 29, 2013 at 5:21 PM

  • Starting my journey with Napa Valley wines in '59, these prices are getting back on the retail level to somewhat of a more saner reality, though still exorbitant. Boswell's prices have always been ridiculous and the above is no exception, though I expect there will be some sucker who will bite. The fact is folks, that we are asked to pay for the ridiculous prices, that these newbies have paid for their properties and vineyards, for their wines that while good or even excellent, are still a debatable pleasure in a glutted market. Many of these oh so wonderful gems, when they sit on the shelf, end up having their labels stripped off, relabeled and sold off to restaurant groups as specials under 2nd labels, so their owners can stay afloat another season, to meet their mortgage payments. You pay $10.00 or $12.00 for the Restaurants 'Special', that they bought for $36 to $48 a case. This translates to $3 to $4 a btl. so they can make at least a 100% mark up, if it's more upscale it will be more. This is the same wine you are paying $96.+ on up for a case. Right now the reason these wineries are pricing the wines the way they are, is to stay alive due to the competition from the imports which are excellent. Why do you think Mondavi made the investment in South American wineries ? You can have the greatest reputation in the world and win all sorts of awards, but if the wine doesn't move off the retail shelves, you're screwed.

    Mar 30, 2013 at 4:03 AM

  • Snooth User: mark holys
    1176343 36

    To Mr. Nanakulikane....

    With all due respect sir....

    I have been in food and wine all my life, working in the very finest restaurants from San Francisco to Monterey....

    Certifeid Food and Wine Professional CWP;

    Windows on the World WTC, Kevin Zraly MS...

    and Advanced Sommelier;

    PCI endorsed Davd Glancy MS, CWE,CSS, FWS....

    What is being produced in CA. and in fact world-wide is so far superior to the madian available in '58 that it insults comparison.

    I suggest that you research your perspective before you post....
    thus avoiding the enormous brown spot visible upon your lips.;......

    Mar 31, 2013 at 9:17 PM

  • A once far older and wiser man than myself once said " opinions are like rectums, everyone's got one " and you sir are certainly entitled to yours. In conversations I have had in the past with my friends Andre Tchelistcheff, Mike Grigich, Joe Heitz, Martini and Robert M., all of us, though we don't have the lofty degrees and appellations that you have sir, nor the ego that goes with it, are agreed that the pricing due to fatuous, grandiose, self serving praying mantises in our beloved business, is our biggest problem next to disease in the vineyards. In fact one might say, this is disease, just in another area. What you forget is that we as producers, and hopefully critics or any one else in this wonderful business, remember that without the consumer, all of us are out of a job. So pricing these wines in the stratosphere does no one any good except some severely deprived egos.Saying that the wines made now are hands over fist better than say the '65 Pinot from B.V. that is still raved about, makes a lie to what you say. Are you telling us that a '45 Margaux is crap ? Neither of these wines cost anywhere close to what they sell for today, so we'll excuse you to the little boys room to wipe your lips. We commend your scholarly efforts and recommend a year at a winery picking grapes, washing barrels / tanks, working the tasting room at the height of the tourist crush, doing the p&l in a bad year, to round out your education.

    Apr 01, 2013 at 6:08 PM

  • Snooth User: mark holys
    1176343 36

    If you knew Andre...then you also knew his brother...Victor. I am very sorry that your pathetc commentary hascompelledyou to introduce others to validate yourself....I guess I am guilty first....evne so .....out of respect for Jim Barrett and Mike G.,.....I'll refrain rom name dropping.

    "You're right{".......thats what you want to hear....but i suspect rarely do the way you express yourself....


    what a pompous....."dear sir" ...... ass you are

    Apr 01, 2013 at 7:05 PM

  • Snooth User: mark holys
    1176343 36

    BTW - you seem apporpriately familiar and indoctrinated to your vocation.....keep up the good work son...

    Apr 01, 2013 at 7:07 PM

  • Thank you for the nice little cameos on the lesser known producers I really enjoyed reading them. I live in Liverpool in the UK so can only get whatever is imported by the big supermarket chains and although they all have good selections of Californian wines these have to compete with French, Italian, Australian, New Zealand and South African wines. The south African and Australian wines are particularly competitively priced and are of comparable quality to the Californian so people in the UK tend to drink more of these. I personally prefer the Californian wines on offer and find them more pleasing to my palate. My wife and me are visiting California in September to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and hope to taste some of these little gems. One further point to the two comedians who take up most of the space in the comments section - Fellas, why don't you just meet up and knock seven bells out of each other instead of trading insults, you may find you feel better afterwards, I used to when I was at school!!!

    Apr 04, 2013 at 10:37 AM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,482

    Peter, as a Californian, I am pleased to hear that you enjoy the wines of this state. We also welcome your visit in September. If your itinerary is not yet set in stone, and you are still looking for ideas on where or what to visit, especially wine-oriented destinations, I suggest that you go over to the Snooth Forum page. You can use the "Search" facility to find previous conversations where individuals have sought California travel advice, or you can start a new conversation and ask any specific questions that you might have.

    Apr 04, 2013 at 2:34 PM

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