' Lillian Winery - Roussanne


Lillian Roussanne

In the summer of 2011, Pete Stolpman called and offered us one-acre of roussanne from their vineyard in the newly formed Ballard Canyon AVA. I had worked with fruit from this block in the 90s and I leapt at the chance to work with it again. There is not a tremendous amount of roussanne grown in this country because it is somewhat annoying in its habits. The growers struggle with it because it ripens incredibly late and the winemakers struggle because it ripens incredibly unevenly. Oftentimes, as I approach our roussanne block as we draw closer to harvest, the rest of the vineyard has long ago been picked clean (of syrah, grenache, mourvedre…) but the roussanne will have, on a single vine, one cluster that is green, one yellow, one gold, one amber, one russet and one gnarled with botrytis. It’s hard to know what to do. Were the block bigger, I would pick in passes; going out every six to ten days to gather only the golden clusters. But with only an acre and a half with which to work, if I went out every week to gather the gold, I would come back with enough to ferment in my boot. Instead we let the fruit hang until about 85% of the fruit is perfectly ripe; amber skinned, seeds deeply brown, and harvest the entire block. At this point we see a range of maturity from pale and flush with acid to leather-skinned and touched with botrytis. To work with the variation with the greatest level of precision, we slow down the sorting table tenfold and collate the fruit by color; first cluster by cluster and then berry by berry. The lighter, higher acid fruit goes directly to the press for ten to eighteen hours. The challenge is to figure out a way to make a complete and totally gentle extraction of the aromas in the thick-skinned berries and often-present (and welcome) botrytis. To this end, we macerate and ferment this fruit on the skins for three to five days, gently washing the skins with the juice twice a day, just until the fermentation progresses far enough that the aromatics crack open and rise from the fruit. This allows us access to aromas that would never occur were we to go directly to the press and allows us to extract them in a very gentle way. Each of these fractions is barrel fermented and goes through full malo in barrel. The wines remain in barrel, sur lie, for a year before we pull a sample from each the barrels and blend to find a cuvée that comes together with the greatest complexity and beauty.

The label is a representation of the detail on a butterfly’s wing. We take the image of a butterfly for this wine to reflect the transformation of fruit that was once deeply russet and touched with botrytis to a wine that is lifted, shimmering and fine.