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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for January 5, 2000


Whatta White!


Roussanne is the best white wine you've never heard of. (paraphrase from Bonadies' Sip By Sip)

The Rest of the Story

My panel just gave a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to a virtual unknown, a California ROUSSANNE. Let's see how it came to be.

One Last Look

Robert Balzer tells how in the early 1970s, Louis Ream, retiring oil executive, was looking for vineyard land but could find none at a sensible price. About to abandon the idea, he took one last look at an undeveloped, abandoned cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County. It was on a 1,500' plateau, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He and wife Connie decided to go for it. A decade later their Zaca Mesa Winery was selling 80,000 cases a year.

Rhone West

As production was exploding, the wine team noticed that their location seemed ideal for Rhone varieties. So, they planted the most prestigious and in 1983 produced it...Santa Barbara County's first Syrah.

The Mesa

The Mesa.

That grape, along with other Rhone favorites, soon established Zaca Mesa as a leading Rhone Ranger. Bouyed by such success, they added the more exotic Roussanne to their arsenal, and fired the first shot in 1993, exactly 10 years after the crush of that first Syrah. The initial commercial release was the 1995 vintage.

The Nature of Roussanne

Master of Wine Jancis Robinson describes Roussanne as "elegant and perky...with a haunting aroma. Responds to oak well...good acid content allows it to age gracefully." So, if you are interested in learning about the glorious variations in fermented grape juice, you must try...

1997 Roussanne, Zaca Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
Zaca Mesa Winery, Los Olivos, CA
Tasting Notes—POW!
My Panel—If you are receptive to flavors other than nicely-oaked Chardonnay (Zaca Mesa makes an outstanding Chardonnay), then this Roussanne is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If you pretty much wish to stay with Chardonnay, then we give this only a RECOMMENDED...that is, you'll like it but it won't blow your sox off.
Contact—(805) 688-9339, FAX (805) 688-8796
Price—$16 range


As for that name, "mesa" is Spanish for "table" or a flat-topped hill. "Zaca" come from a Chumash Indian word meaning 'peace' or 'quiet place,' according to Isabel Field. Who was Ms. Field? Would you believe? She was the stepdaughter of the Napa wine admirer, Robert Louis Stevenson.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created January 2000