California: Monterey County: San Antonio Valley
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Mission Codename: The Wine Rustler
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Ride the range to discover the wines Big Daddy Ballentine
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Line Shack
Wine Subject: 2006 Line Shack Roussanne
Winemaker: Bob Ballentine
Harkening from the Rhone region of France, the Roussanne grape is a rare varietal that is often called the more mellow younger sister of Marssanne – which it is usually blended with. In America, Roussanne wines are typically 100% Roussanne.
Somewhat unusual for a white wine, Roussanne can age for 5 to 10 years. This is a wine that can be enjoyed right after release, however.
Monterey County, 1400 Hours (zulu): It is 106 Degrees and wine Spies Central Command weather tracking reports that temperatures will not drop for several more hours. Usually, Agent Red is dispatched to this region. Today is different; I have been sent to track down and retrieve the Roussanne wine of cowboy winemaker Bob “Big Daddy” Ballentine.
1420 Hours: I am lost and my Wine Spies GPS is malfunctioning. Maybe it’s the heat. I must find the San Antonio Valley.
1445 Hours: A call to Central Command sets me in the right direction. San Antonio Valley is due north. Big Daddy Ballentine grows the grapes found in all of his wines around the Monterey County. His Roussanne grapes grow in the newly designated appellation (officially recognized wine growing region) of the San Antonio Valley, near the town of Lockwood, California.
1515 Hours: The temperature has now passed 108 degrees. By my reckoning, I am close to my destination. I pull my spy car over and park beneath the shade of an old tree. While I am groggy from the heat, a trained spy is always keenly aware of their surroundings – and I am attuned to the fact that a large vehicle on the road behind me is kicking up a rooster tail of road dust as it speeds toward me.
1517 Hours: The giant vehicle lurches to a sharp halt behind me and the letters GMC now occupy my rearview mirror. I hear a door slam and a large figure looms in my side view mirror. One of my hands grips the steering wheel, the other reaches instinctively for my corkscrew. Then, blackness…
I am dimly aware that I must have passed out and I take a moment to assess my condition. No pain, all parts accounted for. Relieved, I drift off again.
A faint smell of tropical fruit tugs at me invitingly. Aromas of pineapple and peach ease me back to reality. My eyes flicker open. There before me, smiling warmly, is a jolly looking fellow with a look of bemused concern on his face. I look around the small rustic room we are in, searching for exits. Spotting just one along one of the bare walls, I realize that I am in a shack… with an air conditioner humming happily in one of the two windows.
“Here, have some water, Agent White,” Said the man. “You must not be used to our heat.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
“Welcome to my Line Shack,” The man said. “I’m Bob.”
1630 Hours: Bob Ballentine gave cold water and a hearty ‘cowboy sandwitch’ that his wife had made and, when I was feeling much better, offered up some of his superb Roussanne. Considering my condition, I took just a few small sips. At least at first.
I drank as I listed to Bob describe the roots of the Line Shack name: “In the days of early California, Line Shacks were created to provide shelter, food and rest while working away from the home ranch. My family has owned its own Line Shack for generations and I have many fond memories of times spent there. It was those memories that prompted us to name the winery after our Line Shack.”
1700 Hours: Once the valley started to cool – as it does each evening as the heat of the valley sucks in the cool air from the top of the valley – we exited the shack and took a tour of the vineyard. Bob shared some of his growing and winemaking secrets with me. I cannot, of course, disclose these here. To unlock the secrets for yourself, you’ll have to try his wine.
1800: Bob’s family arrives at the vineyard with camping gear and a cooler filled with their excellent Roussanne wine. They pitch camp near their Line Shack, light a fire and invite me to stay a spell. Bob pulls out his guitar and begins to sing,
“There’s nuthin’ more lonesome, nor ragged, nor cramped
than a back-country line shack on a long winter camp,
but that was the choice made by old Miller Tige
who worked as a rider for the 2-Lazy-Y.
Each season that followed the final fall drive
we’d pack up our gear ’fore the first snow arrived,
and head for a warm place as winter set in
’cept for the cowboy who stayed now and then.
He’d have to make do in a small wooden shack
and see to the cattle ’til the spring brought us back.
most of the boys tried to put off that day
’cept for old Miller who liked it that way.”
(from a poem by Rod Nichols)
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Straw yellow, light golden
Smell – Tropical fruits, with pineapple, papaya, banana, star fruit and white peach
Feel – Wet, velvety and springy on the tongue. No fizz or zing like many unusual white varietals
Taste – Light, delicious and crisp, with flavors of apricot and frozen star fruit.
Finish – Long-lasting, all over mouth with flavors that linger and drop off slowly
Conclusion – This is a fresh tasting wine with unique aromas and flavors that won’t disappoint you. This wine has enough acid to stand up to even the most hardcore pairings, but its equally at home as a stand-alone wine or served with traditional white-pairings like seafood.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the new San Antonio appellation can be seen in this satellite photo
Wine Spies Technical Wine Analysis
Appellation: San Antonio AVA, Monterey County
Winemaker: Bob Ballentine
Grapes: 100% Roussanne
What the Winery Says
2006 Line Shack Roussanne
A ripe and racy summertime wine with lots of tropical aromas and notes including bananas, honey, floral and white peaches all wrapped around a refreshing and crisp acidity. Serve chilled. Great with spicy Asian/Thai seafood based dishes. Made with fruit from the new San Antonio Valley AVA in Southern Monterey County.