A few years ago, I became a member of the Wine Century Club, which requires that one taste wines made from 100 different grape varieties. I was new to wine and became fanatical about buying and tasting atypical varietal wines. One variety that did not make my first 100 list was trousseau gris, a relatively unknown grape variety that thrives in cool climates. A mutation of trousseau noir, trousseau gris is believed to have originated in the Alsace-Lorraine area of eastern France. Today, along with trousseau noir, it is one of a few varieties produced in the Jura wine region of France located between Burgundy and Switzerland, along with chardonnay, pinot noir, poulsard, and savagnin. In the past, trousseau gris, known as grey riesling, was more widely found in California until it waned in popularity. Today in California, it is only available from a 40-year-old, 10-acre vineyard block, the organically-farmed Fanucchi Wood Road Vineyard in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County.
A few producers in California, such as Jolie-Laide, Two Shepherds, Wind Gap, and Zeitgeist, have rediscovered this rare grape and sourced it from Fanucchi. My friend, winemaker and owner Cynthia (Cindy) Cosco of Passaggio Wines, whose wines I have reviewed previously, told me that trousseau gris had been on her radar for a while, but she was unable to acquire any of the fruit. Finally in 2015, she had the opportunity to purchase a ton of this trousseau gris and she seized it. For those who are not familiar with Cindy’s wines, she is primarily known for her whites and rosés produced in stainless steel, along with a few reds produced in neutral oak, so trousseau gris was an ideal addition to her portfolio.
I had the opportunity to taste the 2015 Passaggio Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley ($31, Stelvin closure), Sunday, February 28, before its release next month. I tasted it along with Cindy’s upcoming and current releases to assist her in ordering the wines by aroma and flavor for the new tasting menu. The spring lineup of wines is fantastic, but I was particularly intrigued by the trousseau gris, as this would a new grape for me. It would be my first taste. The grapes were harvested August 24, 2015 at 24.5 brix, another early harvest in Sonoma County due to a warm, dry growing season. As soon as the grapes arrived at the winery, they were gently pressed, with no prolonged skin contact. The juice settled overnight and later was racked off gross lees. The juice was cold fermented and the wine aged in stainless steel for approximately five months, with bottling taking place February 20, 2016. Only 48 cases were produced.
The 2015 vintage in Sonoma County produced less fruit, but offered tiny, concentrated berries, which makes this trousseau gris pop with perfumed aromatics and intense flavors. Pale yellow in the glass, this wine is fragrant, textured, and spicy, reminiscent of gewürztraminer. Complex fruit flavors run the gamut from citrus to stone to tropical fruits, including a mélange of apricot, grapefruit, melon, white peach, and tangerine. This wine also showcases the minerality of Fanucchi’s unique terroir and exhibits cool-climate acidity. I immediately imagined this pairing well with spicy Asian cuisine.
I tasted many wines that day, including the new rosés, merlot and tempranillo, as well as Passaggio’s first chenin blanc and familiar favorites, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. The trousseau gris found its place near the end of the new tasting menu of spring wines due to its sheer power on nose and palate and its uncommon and noteworthy expression. Sunday, February 28, 2016 will remain in my memory as the day I finally tasted trousseau gris, a new grape for me and maybe for many of you, too. I am excited for the official release on Saturday, April 2, 2016.
*This post is my entry for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #23, #MWWC23, as described by wine writer Jeff Kralik of The Drunken Cyclist at this link. Voting begins Tuesday, March 8 and ends Monday, March 14. You may vote at this link. Thank you for reading and for your support of wine writers.*