Monday, July 03, 2006

Hooray for Viognier

Hooray for Viognier!

(JUNE 19, 2006) TWAIN HARTE  For summer there is nothing more refreshing for the thirst and the brain than sipping on a clean, crisp and cool white wine on your deck or patio in the shade. Hooray for Viognier! For an inspirational, cool and revitalizing glass of wine reach out for something different from one of the most appealing white varieties. Breaking free from the domination of Chardonnay isn’t always easy but over the last ten years Viognier has made enormous progress finding consumers and wine growers sympathetic to its cause.

In the 1991 Grape Acreage Report for California there were a total of 79 acres planted to this varietal. As of 2005, there are 2,217 acres of Viognier planted in California. Due to efforts by Rhone variety enthusiasts in California such as Josh Jensen of Calera Vineyards and John Alban of Alban vineyards, as well as interest from growing consumer enthusiasm for wine in general, varieties such as Viognier are developing a loyal following. On both coasts interest in this wine is growing by leaps and bounds.

This non-pretentious and versatile white variety makes wines that are equally comfortable for the summer quaffing crowd as well as a companion for dinner with the most discerning of food aficionados. Upon examination, I found under $15 Viognier in a simple, light, fruity style exemplified by a fermented in all stainless steel tanks. In the over $15 dollar range I found wines with more depth, complexity and structure often with the addition of barrel aging. I tried a few in each category, so, find out for yourself, and test out a bottle of Viognier today.

Jewel Collection 2004 California Viognier $7.99 to $9.99
An easy to drink white with wonderful aromatics for a wine priced under $10. The hints of stone fruit and floral notes are accurate. Across the palate a crisp citrus flavor is refreshing and complimentary to a variety of foods. Not a cloying, sticky sweet style yet finishes with just enough sweetness to keep most of us drinking to the last drop. Drink this with some sharp white cheddar, crisp green apples and a sourdough baguette.

Peirano Estate 2005 Viognier $11.99 to $14.99
Out of Lodi a star is shining in this delicious Viognier. Aromas of peaches, apricot and plucot leads into a nice rich mouth feel showing flavors of tropical fruits and vanilla.
Peirano did well with this dry, yet fruity and crisp summer white. Paired well with a white pizza of Broccoli rape, smoked mozzarella and Italian sausage.

Pepperwood Grove 2005 Viognier $7.99 to $9.99
Begins with the floral sweetness in the nose one would expect, hints of tropical fruits and spice. The flavors echo the aromas but less pronounced. This wine is simple yet refreshing, presenting an attractive look at Viognier for under $10. Try this with some Thai green curried chicken and Jasmine rice

Dover Canyon 2004 Paso Robles Viognier $21.99
A rich creamy wine with complex aromas of honeysuckle, tropical fruits and spice. It is a nicely textured white smooth, round and generous with bright peach, nectarine, citrus and spice flavors that are well-focused, long and complex, medium to full body, and a dry finish.
Try with Smoked Spanish paprika rubbed pork chops done on the grill.

Gregory Graham 2003 Napa Valley Viognier $24.99
This wine is far from light but still retains the balance to allow easy drinking. Augmented floral aromas complimented with pear and cream are deeply embedded into the flavor profile. The rich honey and spice flavors come in the finish along with polished viscosity that slides away like a juicy piece of fruit. Drink with an eggplant tapenade topped wheat cracker and proscuitto.

Preston Vineyards 2004 Dry Creek Valley Viognier $23.99
The early years Preston Viognier was a light bodied example of this varietal. Now that the vines have some maturity the Viognier they produce is one of my favorites from this area. This attractive, plump wine emanates heady aromas of peaches and clover honey. A zippy acidity surrounds the exotic flavor combination of fruits, flowers and spices. The medium bodied mouth feel is concluded with a completely dry finish.
Drink with Kung Pao Chicken


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