Troon Vineyard continues to up the ante in the realm of natural winegrowing and winemaking. The winery, located in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon, is committed to environmentally sustainable viticultural practices, minimally intrusive winemaking techniques, and the selection of grape varieties that flourish in, and genuinely convey, the region’s distinctive terroir.
To the extent possible in commercial winemaking, Troon allows nature to take its course. Troon gently crushes harvested fruit by foot; allows fermentation to begin and progress naturally with indigenous yeasts; and lets secondary, malolactic fermentation occur naturally, as well. Likewise, no enzymes, acids, or sugars are used in the production of Troon wines, and no sulfur is added prior to fermentation (minimal amounts are added during aging and bottling). Troon also co-ferments different grape varieties for their blends — a practice, also known as “field blending,” that is far too rare in modern winemaking — and uses no new oak in aging their wines.
Troon allows the soil, vines, and fruit to express themselves in harmony and with authenticity, and it is telling in their wines. The winery’s newly-released Estate Tannat and M*T (Malbec-Tannat) blend from the 2014 vintage, featured here, have emerged as flagships of Troon’s natural winemaking philosophy. These are wines of appreciable depth, character, and (perhaps most importantly) honesty. We share our tasting notes, below.
Estate Tannat | Applegate Valley | Oregon | 2014
Tannat is a red grape variety indigenous to the Basque region of southwestern France, and is historically grown in the Madiran appellation that lies in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. It is a variety of deep color, assertive acidity, and brawny tannins (hence the name “Tannat”), and wines produced from the variety can be edgy and astringent if not carefully crafted.
In fact, the modern winemaking technique known as “microoxygenation” — which is the controlled introduction of oxygen into a wine to soften tannins — was developed by Madiran winemaker Patrick Ducournau in his work to tame Tannat’s naturally rigid tannins during the winemaking process. For wine drinkers in the United States, Tannat is most closely associated with South America — Uruguay, in particular. Basque settlers brought the variety into Uruguay in the 19th century, and thanks in part to modern winemaking sensibilities and techniques that have made it more approachable, Tannat is now the most widely cultivated red grape variety in the country and celebrated as the nation’s “signature” red varietal wine.
In the United States, by contrast, Tannat has only a small presence — in terms of vine cultivation and winemaking — and little recognition. Just several hundred acres of Tannat plantings are scattered across the west coast (mostly California) and a few other regions, and it is rarely bottled as a single varietal wine (mostly used in blends).
Troon Vineyard stands among a valiant few U.S. wineries taking on the challenges of Tannat, and the results showcase the best of what the variety has to offer.
Troon’s 2014 “Blue Label” Estate Tannat is 100% of the variety and a vivid expression of it. The wine’s aromas suggest macerated blackberry, thyme, and forest floor; and its flavors convey notions of pomegranate, rhubarb, and fresh-cut herbs — all layered with undertones of dried cranberry and paprika over an energetic finish. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and zesty on the palate, with chewy (but tamed) tannins and tart acidity. Oak does not factor much into the wine’s aroma/flavor profile, as it aged for 18 months in mature (used/neutral) French oak Burgundy barrels (no new oak); but some aging in neutral oak does help soften the wine’s texture. While Tannat has a reputation for being a somewhat rustic wine, Troon’s rendition is not so; we found it to be fresh, sophisticated, and a telling example of how enjoyable Tannat can be.
Enjoyable now, with an hour’s decant; and will present well over the next three years.
14.4% ABV | 169 Cases Produced | $35
Food Pairing: Troon’s 2014 Estate Tannat will pair well with hearty foods such as robust cheeses, Prime Rib, wood-grilled meats, Cassoulet, and seared duck breast.
M*T Reserve | Applegate Valley | Oregon | 2014
A compelling exercise in co-fermentation, Troon’s “Black Label” M*T Reserve is a blend of Malbec (40%) and Tannat (60%), two traditional French vinifera varieties that are today more popularly associated with Argentina (Malbec) and, as mentioned above, Uruguay (Tannat).
Stylistically, Troon’s M*T blend is more evocative of the wines of southwestern France than anything from South America. It is a powerhouse, yet elegant, red that is piercingly intense on both the nose and the palate. It offers aromas of dark fruit preserve, Earl Grey tea, and wood smoke that transition to flavors of blackberry liqueur, cocoa, and mulling spices — all infused with impressions of roasted meat, mint, and mineral over a mouth-warming finish. Here, too, Oak does not factor much into the wine’s aroma/flavor profile, as it aged for 18 months in mature (used/neutral) French oak Burgundy barrels (no new oak). The wine is dry, full-bodied, and savory, with moderate acidity and chewy tannins (thanks to the Tannat) that resolve into a luscious mouthfeel (thanks to the Malbec). A deeply layered, complex, and complete red wine.
Enjoyable now, with an hour’s decant; and should present well over the next five or more years. It will be interesting to see how this wine evolves over time, so we designate it a:
NWR “Cellar Selection”
Food Pairing: Troon’s 2014 M*T will pair well with cured meats, funky cheeses, wood-grilled meats, beef brisket, game dishes, and other hearty fare.
14.4% ABV | 240 Cases Produced | $50
Availability: For more information on the availability of Troon Vineyard’s 2013 Estate Tannat or to purchase, visit Troon Vineyard virtually at www.troonvineyard.com; at the winery, located at 1475 Kubli Road, Grants Pass, Oregon; or at their Carlton, Oregon, tasting room at 250 N. Kutch St.