Son of a Butcher Hits the Sweet Spot
It takes courage and daring to launch a wine brand in the midst of a pandemic… even to your own club. While there is no question that stay-at-homers enjoyed their wine more than ever during the shelter-in- place order, would they find a spot in their cellars for an unproven label? According to Susan and Yannick Rousseau of the newly released-to-public Son of a Butcher red blend, the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ Founders of Napa Valley’s Y. Rousseau Wines, Susan and Yannick have developed a devoted following for their artisan, primarily southwestern France, YRW label varietals. A healthy membership and email list, word of mouth endorsements, and distribution in a few hand-picked states ensure continued popularity of their Tannat, Colombard, and Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. It remained to be seen if this cult-like adoration might transfer to Yannick’s newest, more playful label, Son of a Butcher (or SOB for short), an exceedingly affordable and effortlessly approachable blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, named in honor of both his father and grandfather, both of whom were butchers.
“Yannick’s winemaking fans always look forward to each new project,” said the Texas- born Susan. “Son of a Butcher is a more immediate wine, a wine for now,” which fits the all-American palate and pocketbook, as illustrated by its immediate popularity. The public might love big reds, but they are not really for everyday drinking. Son of a Butcher is more approachable; it’s the type of wine enjoyed daily in France; the kind of wine on which Yannick grew up.”
“This wine teaches us to never judge a book by its cover,” said Master Somm Ian Cauble, who describes the 2017 SOB as ‘supple and plush,’ as well as ‘rich and youthful and effortless.’ The owner of Somm Select and star of the movie Somm claims he and his fellow tasters did a double-take when tasting SOB. “Cellar master Yannick Rousseau coaxed extreme generosity out of his California-grown Tannat, then layered in a supporting cast of Cabernets and Merlot to create one of the most unique and delicious red wine values of the year, a $25 ‘daily drinker’ that outperforms many triple-digit blends from Napa and Sonoma. Tannat might be the world’s most criminally underrated red grape, but Rousseau was put on earth to change that.”
The Gascon-born Yannick attended winemaking school in Toulouse, and upon graduation, was offered the assistant winemaker position for the Bordeaux program at Napa’s Newton Vineyards. A mutual friend provided the introduction to Sue Hua Newton, who recognized in Yannick a passion and desire to learn. For two years, he worked side by side with the famed Luc Morlet at Newton before moving to Chateau Potelle, where he served as winemaker for six years. During that time, he met Susan, a local Pilates and yoga instructor who was seeking a roommate to share her Yountville home. Yannick answered her ad in the Yountville Sun, and what was initially strictly a roommate situation blossomed into romance. “He was the politest roommate I ever had,” said Susan, “and very tolerant of my wild- thing, five-year-old son!” The two married in 2010 in France, having established Y. Rousseau wines in 2008 with their recognizable plume logo, a tribute to the also Gascon-born D’Artagnan whose life was fictionalized within Dumas’ book, The Three Musketeers. These larger-than- life figures adorn Y. Rousseau’s reserve wines.
Yannick’s wine- making philosophy and style are old- school. His wines are made with conviction, passion, consistency, and meticulous care. This is true of both his high-end Y. Rousseau label wines and of Son of a Butcher, and the reason that SOB so readily found its niche. “I provide as much attention to detail to SOB as I do to my high-end Cabernet,” said Yannick. SOB’s deep black cherry color reveals the softer side of Tannat, Yannick’s favorite red grape. The wine is subtle yet full-bodied, offering sweet spices, dark ripe berries, and well-man- aged tannins. It is unmistakably Californian yet does not forget its French heritage.
The SOB origin story began in France when a five-year-old Yannick enjoyed his first glass of diluted wine made by his grandpa Pépé. SOB is Yannick’s salute to his French heritage and an homage to the Southwest of France’s joie de vivre. Pictured on the label is Yannick’s dad in front of Pépé’s butcher shop. The blend, meant to be enjoyed with an everyday meal amongst the warmth of family and friends, does not take itself too seriously, as illustrated by the ‘SOB’ imprint on each cork and the roguish notes on the wraparound label: ‘This wine is a blend of 90% elbow grease, 10% je ne sais quoi and 100% made by a French SOB!’
“SOB’s backdrop is a bit whimsical, but Yannick is the real deal,” said Susan. “He is not an ex-pat. We fell in love, and that kept him in California, but he longs to be in his beloved Gers region of France. He is a craftsman and an educator, and he is very loyal, not only to his people but to his wines. He makes them with conviction and love. We came to realize during these recent times how much people love his wines. He gives people what he knows they want.”
Article By: Fran Miller // Photos Courtesy of Y. Rousseau Wines