2018 Cruse Wine Co., Tannat, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
While Michael Cruse is most known for his fabulous sparkling wines, including his cult Ultramarine methode Champenoise and his seriously delicious and quaffable Pet-Nats, but his still wines are well worth exploring, especially his Alder Springs Tannat, which is a unique rarity that shows a deep violet/purple color and a cast of fruits, spice and a dense textural mouth feel. Tannat, a grape that has been gaining traction in California in recent years, comes from mainly the French Pyrenees Mountains and the Basque region of Irouliguy as well as the notable South-West French Madiran region, where it is mainstay red grape, known for its fiery tannins and rustic/earthy character. The Cruse Tannat shows a brilliant brightness of fruit along with ripe and round structural tannins, it gains a sweetness of flavors, but also has a contrasting savory elements that come through on the medium full palate. The wine, as Cruse notes, has not been filtered or fined and has no additions or any manipulations in the cellar with the exception of a small dose of sulfur that is stabilizing force to allow aging and longterm enjoyment. Cruse additionally says of his naturally made Tannat, that this wine displays an unconventional mixture of cedar and tobacco with violets and cherries on the nose, which I certainly found true and intriguing. The Cruse 2018 Alder Springs Tannat is superb now, but should cellar well too and is best enjoyed with hearty foods, it is an excellent example of the grape. Cruse’s red wines are nice values and deserve wider attention with this one leading the way, but I will also suggest trying his Valdiguie, Syrah and the Monkey Jacket, North Coast red blend that is about 51% Valdiguié, with the remainder being Carignan, Syrah and maybe a touch of other black grapes, depending on the year’s bounty.

The Cruse Wine Co. is a small winery in Petaluma, in Sonoma County, with a mission to create a collection of uniquely Californian wines, and yes, some that contain bubbles, and after many years of following Michael Cruse’s efforts, I am even more impressed with his latest set of wines, in particular I love his Sparkling Valdiguie Pet-Nat, his awesome Tradition Brut and this tasty Tannat. California first saw Tannat come to this shores in the late 1800s, but it was most often used in field blends and wasn’t made into solo varietal wines until the last 10 to 15 years and the grape has had a few champions, most famously by Joseph Swan, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon and Tablas Creek, who brought over some of the best cuttings, with new plantings mainly being in Paso Robles, though it can be found in South Monterey County and in Mendocino County, where Cruse, as noted, gets his grapes. Tannat, it should be mentioned, is also grown in South America, with Uruguay being the most successful region and a place where it really thrives, though it can also be found in the Applegate region of Oregon, Argentina, Australia and even in the Italian region of Apulia! Cruse’s 2018 vintage, a long cool year for the grapes, perfectly captures the best qualities in Tannat with his version displaying exceptional aromatics, crisp details and good low natural alcohol, at 13%, making for a wine that performs with a purity of form and is great with robust cuisine, especially dishes like a rack lamb, short ribs and woodsy wild mushrooms. Cruse did 16 barrels of Tannat in this vintage, less than 500 cases, so while most of Michael’s wines sell out quickly, this Tannat is more readily available, so you have time to grab a few bottles, which I recommend you do.
($39 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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