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Southwest France Reborn in Napa Valley

What do the Three Musketeers, an obscure white wine and one particular impassioned Frenchman have in common? In this case, they all originated in Southwest France and now have a home, of sorts, in Napa Valley. On the first Sunday in May, as grapevines up and down the Valley were just beginning to bloom, winemaker Yannick Rousseau celebrated the opening of his very own ‘petite’ winery and tasting room just south of the town of Napa.

Rousseau welcomed guests with glasses of his Colombard, a traditional white wine from his home region of Gascony, while Pierre played Calliope music from an orgue de barbari, a 19th Century French instrument. Widely planted in the ‘70s in California and, thanks to its generous yields and ability to retain acidity in hot weather, Colombard was blended with other varieties for generic bulk, slightly sweet wine for years. But in Gascony there is a long tradition of making a delightfully refreshing and aromatically complex single-varietal wine — a tradition Rousseau carries on in his New World home with fruit from four acres of dry-farmed 40-year-old vines in the Russian River Valley.

On the grill out back, freshly slaughtered rabbit from a nearby farm and duck sausage honored the tradition of Gascony’s rich cuisine to pair with the other regional variety — Tannat. For his Musketeer wine (an homage to D'Artagnan, the real-life guard of Louix XIV and the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel), Rousseau uses Tannat — a highly tannic, high acid red grape — as 85 percent of the base and blends it with more familiar Bordeaux varieties to make a well-structured but fruit-forward wine capable of pairing with anything from roasted meats to grilled fish.

Rousseau is, bravely, also making  a single-varietal wine with Tannat  from the renowned Alder Springs vineyard in Mendocino. His first barrel is aging nobly in the new winery.

To taste all of Rousseau’s wines — which include beautiful expressions of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Mt. Veeder (where he made seven vintages of Chateau Potelle before starting his own label) make an appointment by calling 707-332-4524. Y. Rousseau, 902 Enterprise Way, Suite O, Napa.