1. This was a case of Viogniers that was sent to me for us
to try by Boyce Brannock (BEB),
shilling a bit for the hometown industry. A very generous
gesture methinks. Thanks, Boyce.
2. I have, of course, followed VA Viogniers from the very
start, when Dennis Horton showed
his first Viognier at Hospices du Rhone some yrs ago. I was
quite impressed w/ some of those
first ones, some less so. But, at their best, Dennis' Viogniers
were as good as could be found
anywhere. But since Horton has not been at the last few HdRs,
I've not had an opportunity
to try them. I was aware, vaguely, that there were a bunch
of other Viognier producers in
VA, but, of course, not had any opportunity to try any of
them; they don't get out of VA to
any of my usual haunts.
So I was most eager to try this assemblage of Viogniers, not
really knowing what to expect.
My expectations were rather low, I must admit. I was expecting
some funky white wines; maybe some w/ true Viognier character, some a bit over-oaked, some
that showed strange VA terroir in them, perhaps. When I tasted wines from new regions in
the past, I've often struggled to place them in their context.
So....I must admit I was pleasantly surprised, as was most
of the people in my group, with
the quality of these Viogniers. Not hardly any outliers at
all. They all spoke very distinctly of Viognier; they all had remarkable varietal character. They
were, in fact, seriously good Viogniers by any standard. Certainly not Condrieu, but most
were as good as any you find from California on the average. At their best, they were really
To generalize a bit more. Nearly all the noses shouted of
that pear/peach Viognier varietal character. But I found some to not deliver on the
palate what their noses promised. Some seemed to be rather on the soft side, a bit underacid.
The texture seemed a bit out of wack; like the wines were too high in pH. Or they tasted
like grapes that were harvested in late Aug/early Sept when the sugars were correct, but they'd
not had enough hang time to
develop physiological maturity. They reminded me some of many
Calif Grenache Blancs or
Lodi Viognier on the palate.
But, all in all, that was a relatively minor flaw and, at
their best, they had the acidity and balance to be very good drinking. Perhaps
VA should be hanging their white hat on Viognier rather than Chard I would guess (not
that I have any experience with VA Chards yet). I'll be in Richmond in early Dec for a NorthAmericaCup
and am hoping to broaden my exposure to VA whilst I'm there.
3. Horton: This sparkling wine was the first I ever done see'd
from Viognier. Pleasantly
surprised at how good it was. Reminded me more of a Viognier
perfumed Prosecco than anything.
3. AsianPear wine: I served this as a mystery wine because
I often get pear-like aromas out of Viognier. Most of my tasters guessed it to be Viognier from
the nose, but they realized
something was seriously out of whack on the palate.
4. Valhalla: This wine id touted on their WebSite as resembling
French Condrieu. Well...yes and no. It totally lacks any of the minerality that makes Condrieu
so special. It smell & tasted
of Viognier that had been left on the vine very long and may
have had some mold infection.
It did remind me some of the Texier Condrieu Vernon 2002 which
was a very bizarre rendition
of Condrieu that I've ever had. That wine had a fraction left
on the vines after heavy rains
that had a bit of a rot problem. The Valhalla was not an unpleasant
wine, just not very typical
of Viognier and certainly not Condrieu.
5. Keswick: Since this wine was known to have residual sugar,
I served it last. I was expecting it to be soft/flabby and rather sweet (at 2.25% RS). It was
not and carried the RS very well I thought. It had great intensity and plenty of ripe, but
not overripe or late harvest
character. Seriously good Viognier by any standards.
6. RappahannockCellars: I was particularly interested in trying
these two Viogniers. Owner/
winemaker is John Delmare, who hails from the SantaCruzMtns
in Calif. He ran a property near
and dear to my heart, the old Congress Springs property formerly
run by Dan Gehrs. Now known as Savannah-Channel. Not sure why anyone would leave the beautiful
SantaCruzMtns, but those things often defy rationale.
Well.....both of these Viogniers were as good as any Viognier
I've had from Calif or
WashState. They were easily my two favorites of the night,
closely followed by the Keswick.
They even showed a bit of Condrieu minerality I thought. They
reminded me a lot of the
Harlequin Viognier, my gold-standard for USofA Viognier. They
are, particularly the Reserve,
as good as Viognier gets here and worth tracking down.