Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 1, 2020

2018 Cruse Wine Company, Tannat, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Mostly known for his divine Ultramarine Methode Champenoise sparkling wine and his fun lineup of pétillant naturel, Michael Cruse also makes some really good still wines some of which come from unique places and crafted from lesser known varietals, like his Valdiguie, also known as Napa Gamay, because it was long thought to be Gamay and this Tannat. This firmly tannic black grape is originally from France’s Basque region and found in wines from Irouléguy in the Pyrénées, as well as famously also in the Madiran AOC in France’s southwest, plus Tannat has proven to be quite delicious in the new world with serious versions coming from Uruguay and the grape is seeing some success in California, where it was only a minor player, though it has been here for nearly a century, and a blending grape until more recently. Cruse gets his from one of the best vineyards in Northern California, Alder Springs, in Mendocino County, mostly known for Rhone varietals, especially Syrah. Located just 12 miles east of the beautiful Mendocino Coast, and 3 miles west of the legendary Redwood Highway 101, the site is remote and challenging, but makes for fabulous wines, this region is bordered by a dramatic coastline, the Eel River and is also home to enormous Redwood trees. The Alder Springs Vineyard, In the far northern Mendocino County, past Anderson Valley, is farmed by Stuart Bewley, who has been growing some of California’s most sought after wine grapes since 1993. Cruse is making lots of fun stuff, like this Tannat, with his pop top Sparkling Valdiguie pétillant naturel being one of my personal favorites, as well as his Sparkling St. Laurent Blanc de Noirs pétillant naturel, made from a rare Austrian red grape grown in Carneros.

Michael Cruse, like most from this new group of California’s talented winemakers and micro wineries is not interested in making blockbuster and oak driven wines of the prior generation, but instead he is looking for purity and youthful drinking pleasure in his still wines, like this one, using natural methods and indigenous yeast fermentations and without the use of new barrels. Tannat can be very rustic, fiery and dusty dry, it is naturally high in raw tannins, polyphenols and pigment, making for chewy wines that tend to need some robust cuisine to tame the gripping force on the palate, though Cruse has managed to present the grape in a more generous and stylish form with a lacy freshness, ripe black fruit flavors and vivid details. Interestingly, Bewley has an array of three different Tannat clones including 794, 474 and 717 at Alder Springs, which would seemingly add to the complexity in this wine. Alder Springs is not a monolithic site with many micro climates, a mix of plots and many soils from which to chose like marine sediments, gravels, clay, broken stones and basalt to name a few, along with various hills and slopes. The dark purple and electric garnet hued 2018 Cruse Tannat starts with a hint of sweet florals, black fruit, wild herbs and mineral tones before filling out on the ripe and impeccably smooth, especially for Tannat, palate with layers of blackberry, blueberry, plum and black cherry fruits, minty licorice, a touch of deep blood orange, a hint of iron and delicate spices. This wine is very textural in mouth feel and it is wonderfully fresh, with satiny tannins, refined natural alcohol at 13%, good acidity and will be exceptionally fan with simple and rustic country style cuisine, it’s a delicious and easy to drink wine to drink over the next few years. Cruse has tamed the beast!
($39 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive