By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
We remain intellectually stimulated by the diverse selection of wines assembled in our 2012 tastings. Just when we are sure that blending is the way to go, we find a classy single-varietal wine that stands out from the crowd. The consensus among tasters is that 100% Viognier is most often too fruity and floral to be served as a dry table wine with food. 100% Grenache Blanc seems to be too plain and often phenolic. Roussanne stands up on its own as does Marsanne, but both benefit with the addition of some bright and fruity Viognier. So pull some corks and enjoy the recommendations of these three columns with your summer fun and fare. On to Pinot Noir and Copper River salmon!
Charles Smith continues to set the pace with Washington State Viognier crafted as a food wine. Sure, there are plenty of juicy honey and peach bombs out there, but show me the mineral! K Vintners Viognier is tight and restrained with complex aromas of spicy pear, field flowers and earthy mineral. The palate shows all of the above with gripping acidity and nuances of sur lie character. We need more of these "knife-and-fork" Viognier.
Burnt Bridge Cellars
David Smith and Mark Mahan opened Burnt Bridge Cellars in 2010 with this first release of Viognier. As a home winemaking duo they won many awards and expanded their production to (small) commercial volume in their hometown (and mine) of Vancouver, Washington. Look for aromas and flavors of ripe stone fruits and tropical citrus with hints of mineral and lime zest.
George and Linda Kirkish are approaching the tenth anniversary of their Palouse Winery on Vashon Island's north end. Their 2011 Viognier scored high marks with our tasting panel, offering floral and citrus aromas leading to a palate of tangy citrus, pear, vanilla bean and mineral. You can download a recipe for Seafood Etouffe to pair with the wine from their website www.palousewinery.com.
Thurston Wolfe Winery was recently chosen as 2012 Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine. Celebrating this honor as well as their 25th anniversary, I also laud Wade Wolfe and Becky Yeaman for their achievements. The perennially successful PGV is a blend of 73% Pinot Gris and 27% Viognier - a combination that pairs well with all manner of lighter foods. Look for aromas and flavors of mellow citrus, honeysuckle, apple and Asian pear with light notes of vanilla.
The McKinley Springs Vineyard has been producing superb wine grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA for over 30 years. The small, family-owned winery was founded in 2002 and Doug Rowell crafts the wines today. This seductive Viognier offers aromas of melon, honeysuckle and tropical citrus leading to a palate featuring ripe flavors of stone fruits and mineral with hints of caramel.
Milbrandt's Clifton Vineyards are near the banks of the Columbia River in the heart of the Sentinel Gap - an opening where the Missoula floods broke through the Saddle Mountains. Winemaker Gordy Hill crafted this Viognier exclusively in stainless steel yielding honey, apricot and floral aromas with flavors of stone fruits and tropical fruits - the rich flavors pair well with spicy cuisine and Northwest seafood.
Insightful owner/winemaker Sara Gagnon states the case for her Viognier blend with accuracy and style: "These two varietals have been forever vying for top spot. Viognier loves to pour on the fruit, but isn't interested in structure, while Roussanne can sometimes be a bit like my engineer friends - so focused on load support, they forget to stop and smell the honeysuckle." Indeed, look for aromas and flavors of pear, citrus zest, vanilla and tropical fruit...and honeysuckle.
Mike and Barb Grace both have careers outside of wine, and they hope to one day transition to career winery owners. Currently they craft both white and red wines from their home-based operation north of Seattle. The 2010 Viognier offers aromas and flavors of stone fruits, tropical citrus and floral perfume. Hints of pear and spice on the palate blend well with ample acidity for pairing with food.
Wines from other areas:
Once again confirming our suspicions that blends are the best way to go, this affordable offering from Clayhouse Estate combines Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Blanc to tingle the palates of tasters and place high in the scoring. Aromas and flavors of spicy apple and peach mingle with earthy notes and hints of citrus and lime zest.
Alex and Monica Villicana opened their Westside Paso Robles tasting room in 2002 giving a home and an outlet to their Villicana Winery bottlings. Their estate vineyard was planted in the same locale in 1996 with the first estate fruit harvested in 1999. Their celebration wine - La Fete - is a blend of 52% Grenache Blanc and 48% Viognier. Look for bright aromas and flavors of pear, citrus, melon and zesty mineral.
This wine is a blend of four Rhone white varietals: Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. It offers complexity and character and shows best when served with food. The particular blend emphasizes mineral and herbs in both aroma and palate with notes of citrus and stone fruits.
This wine is assembled from roughly equal portions of Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and Albarino. It is named for the eclectic promenade in Barcelona. Aromas of fragrant plum, candied pear and citrus are unusual and unexpected in their exotic nature. The palate is juicy with ripe flavors of stone fruits and plum and suggest serving this wine as a post-prandial accompaniment to fine cheeses.
© 2012 Chuck Hill
© 2012 Chuck Hill