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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some Virginia Viognier - November 8, 2006

We tasted last week (11/08/06) Some Virginia Viognier:
Compliments of Boyce Brannock (BEB)

  1. HortonVnyds Sparkling Viognier VA Methode Champenoise (12.5%; 20% Chard; Cllrd: 1998,
    Degorged: 2001) NV
    : Pale yellow color w/ small/tiny bubbles; fragrant light peach/V slight smokey/ toasty/yeasty/chocolate mousse very attractive/interesting nose; off-dry light peach/V light smokey/yeasty flavor; med.long off-dry toasty/pungent light peach/V finish; has low-key but very attractive V character w/ interesting toasty component; very nice-drinking sparkler.

  2. WindfallWnry AP Asian Pear Wine WashState (11%) 2005: Very pale yellow color; attractive ripe/ pear fragrant bit toasty nose, very soft/flabby off-dry light fragrant/pear textured flavor; short very ripe pear/lush bit watery soft/underacid finish; very pleasant nose but whacko on the palate from lack of acidity; pleasant pear wine and not overly sweet.

  3. Horton OrangeCnty VA Viognier (13.5%; www.HVWine.com) Dennis&Sharon Horton; Gordonsville, VA 2005: Light yellow color; some dusty/earthy slight smokey/reduced/pungent bit metallic/SO2 nose that clears to fragrant/pear/V slight minerally nose; tart lush/rich ripe pear/V
    slight minerally/earthy attractive V flavor; med.short lush slight minerally attractive pear/V finish; very attractive nose but seems a bit dilute on the palate.

  4. Horton OrangeCnty VA Viognier (13.5%) Dennis&Sharon Horton; Gordonsville, VA 2001: Med.gold color; some aged/V/smokey pleasant/low-key/pear/V slight pungent/toasty bit complex nose; soft light/low-key pear/V/canned pear syrup bit underacit/dilute flavor; soft light pear/V slight smokey/ pungent finish; pleasant enough nose and still clinging to life, but probably has seen its best yrs already.

  5. ChesterGapCllrs VA Viognier Reserve (14.5%; www.ChesterGapCellars.com) FortRoyal VA 2005: Light yellow color; very attractive/floral strong spicy/peachy/V very fragrant/perfumed nose; rather soft/fat/lush light pear/V/peachy slight minerally flavor; med.short light pear/peach/V slight earthy/minerally finish; very attractive perfumed nose but doesn't quite deliver on the palate; pleasant/attractive V.

  6. MichaelShaps Monticello Viognier KingFamilyVnyd (13%; www.MichaelShapsWines.com) KingFamilyVnyds, Crozet VA 2005: Light gold color; lovely pear/peach/V somewhat earthy/ minerally/WashStateViognier-like nose; tart bit lean/dilute pleasant pear/peach/V slight minerally flavor; med.short tart light minerally/earthy light peach/pear/V bit watery finish; another very pleasant V nose but doesn't deliver the intensity on the palate.

  7. BarboursvilleVnyds VA Viognier Reserve (13%; www.BarboursvilleWine.com) Barboursville VA 2005: Med.gold color; lovely fragrant/perfumed spicy/V/peach/pear/floral slight minerally lovely nose; soft very spicy/floral/V/peach/pear slight minerally/pungent flavor; long soft very spicy light minerally strong peach/pear/V/floral finish; very lovely aromatic nose and the first to deliver on the palate; would like a bit more acidity.

  8. Valhalla Viognier NorthFork of Roanoke VA (13.7%; www.ValhallaWines.com) Roanoke VA 2005: Med.dark gold color; slightly reduced/pungent very ripe/overripe/peachy/pear/V bit rotted
    pear slight toasty/oak nose; soft/fat/underacid rather pungent/toasty/oak low-key floral/
    overripe peach/V flavor; med.long overripe/peach/V slight smokey/pungent/toasty/oak finish;
    smells & tastes of overripe/late harvest Viognier; interesting rendition of Viognier.

  9. Th.Jefferson Viognier VA (13.5%; www.JeffersonVineyards.com) Charlottesville VA 2005: Med. yellow color; very attractive/fragrant floral/V/peachy/spicy slight mineral nose; soft/fat
    light floral/pear/peach/V very pleasant low-key flavor; med.short attractive/light floral/peach/ V finish; lovely aromatic nose but needs a bit more acidity.

  10. KeswickVnyds Monticello Viognier (13.5%; www.KeswickVineyards.com; RS: 2.25%) Al&Cindy Schronberg, Keswick VA 2005: Med.light yellow color; beautiful/intense floral/aromatic/
    perfumed ripe pear/peach/classic V nose; off-dry very ripe lush/floral intense ripe peach/pear/
    V slight minerally flavor; very long soft ripe pear/peach/V off-dry finish; great intensity of classic V character.

  11. WhiteHallVnyds Monticello Viognier (13%; www.WhiteHallVineyards.com) WhiteHall VA 2005: Light gold color; some fragrant/floral bit earthy pear/peach/V somewhat simple nose; soft/fat light floral/pear/peach/V bit dilute/low-key flavor; med.short soft/fat/lush light pear/peach/floral
    finish; attractive nose but doesn't deliver the promises on the palate.

  12. RappahannockCllrs VA Viognier (13.9%; www.RappahannockCellars.com) Huntly VA 2005: Med. light gold color; clean/pure/classic very intense ripe/peacr/peach/V slight volatile/ripe/
    aromatic/perfumed very floral nose; soft/lush ripe/pear/peach/V some spicy/minerally loads of V fruit flavor; very long ripe/pear/peach/floral intense/ripe soft/lush slight mineral finish; best VA V yet of the tasting; amazingly good and not just for VA Viognier.

  13. RappahannockCllrs VA Reserve Viognier (13.9%) Huntly VA 2005: Med.gold color; beautiful/
    intense/floral/perfumed/fragrant classic pear/peach/V slight Condrieu/minerally some complex
    nose; rich/lush/balanced intense ripe pear/peach/classic V loads of pure V fruit mouthfilling
    flavor w/ good acidity; very long/lingering intense/lush ripe pear/peach/V slight Condrieu/
    minerally slight pungent/oak finish; as good as V gets in the USofA I think.

  14. Garretson CentralCoast Viognier The Chumbra (15.2%) 2003: Med.dark gold color; very old/waxy/nutty orange peel/honeyed/mead-like overripe caramel/apple nose; very soft/fat some alcoholic overripe/rotted pear/peach syrup/mead-like flavor; med.long very overripe/rotted pear bit
    caramel/mead-like bit alcoholic finish; not unpleasant but a bit too overripe and has not stood the test of (a short) time well. This was much/much better on its release. Sonny's mystery wine.

And the ol' BloodyPulpit:

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 world-class Viogniers.

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.


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