By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
Winemaker Melanie Krause of Cinder Wines is unraveling the making (and enjoyment) of Viognier, at least in her corner of the Northwest, the Snake River Valley of Idaho. She cut her winemaking teeth in Washington working for Chateau Ste. Michelle at their Canoe Ridge Estate winery in the Horse Heaven Hills. It wasn’t long before she returned to her native Idaho where she consults for other vineyards and grooms her Viognier in two styles, picking early for the dry style and later for the more unctuous, tropical off-dry style. The Viognier vines respond grandly to her care, making superb wines in each vintage.
The Dry Viognier from Melanie Krause maintains the Viognier identity with aromatic notes of orchard blossom and bubblegum spice with a base of citrus and peach. On the palate it is clean and refreshing with mineral and stone fruit flavors mingling with the citrus. “The Dry Viognier is a great match for rich and creamy food and most things from the sea.”
The tropical aroma of pineapple and melon invites the taster to sniff again revealing an impression of floral vanilla. Flavors of ripe pear and juicy pineapple highlight the rich palate with pleasing acidity on the finish, balancing the 1% residual sugar. Melanie likes serving this wine as an aperitif or with meat and fish preparations that have fruit components in the recipe.
Silvan Ridge Winery is one of Oregon’s oldest vintners, having been established in 1979. The family-owned winery is located just 15 miles southwest of Eugene, Oregon in the southern Willamette Valley. Winemaker Juan Pablo Valot crafted this Viognier using stainless steel fermentation and leaving just a hint of residual sugar. Look for aromas and flavors of citrus and melon with notes of white flowers and spice.
Grapes for this wine were grown at Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards at the winery location just southwest of Sutherlin, Oregon near the Umpqua River. The winery amphitheatre overlooks the vineyard and winery and offers a venue for summer concerts and other events. The 2013 Viognier was aged in French oak and carries a kiss of oak to complement rich tropical fruit aromas and flavors and notes of spice and vanilla.
The winemakers at K Vintners barrel fermented the 2013 Viognier coming from a near perfect growing season. The fruit came exclusively from the Art den Hoed Vineyard in the lower central Yakima Valley where the 1,300-foot elevation of the site allowed the grapes to ripen at an even pace. Aromas and flavors of pear and honeydew melon dance behind a rich curtain of lemon curd and spicy mineral – great with Asian cuisine or other light fare.
William Church Winery
Rod and Leslie Balsley founded William Church Winery in 2005 and have steadily grown the venture since in the Woodinville warehouse district near Seattle. Winemaker Marcus Rafanelli has enjoyed a great following for his Viognier and continues to expand the winery’s red wine offerings as well. Look for ripe peach and citrus aromas and a fresh palate of stone fruit flavors finishing with a pleasant note of acidity.
RoxyAnn Winery is located at the foot of Roxy Ann Peak, named for pioneer woman Roxy Ann Bowen in the 1850s. The winery property is part of Hillcrest Orchard, directed by members of the Parson family since 1908. Jack Day, grandson of Hillcrest founder Reginald Parsons, oversaw the planting of wine grapes on the southwest slopes of Roxy Ann Peak in 1997. This barrel-fermented Viognier offers rich aromas and flavors of stone fruits and pear mingling with notes of earthy mineral, vanilla and orange blossom.
As the Harbinger Winery approaches its 10th anniversary in 2015, owner/winemaker Sara Gagnon enjoys crafting unique wines and sharing them with visitors at the winery and tasting room west of Port Angeles. Her 2011 Viognier is blended with 24% Roussanne that adds body and texture. Aromas and flavors of rich tropical fruit mingle with citrus and spice.
It is a testament to Earl and Hilda Jones’ site selection that their estate Fault Line Vineyard can produce Viognier fruit at full ripeness and still exhibit the finer aspects of the varietal in aroma and flavor. Stainless steel fermentation and aging allow the wine to show bright tropical fruit, apricot, citrus zest and mineral – a tasty aperitif or a cooling companion to spicy Asian cuisine.
Herb Quady continues to be a leading player in Southern Oregon in the making of Rhone-style wines, both white and red. This Viognier is made exclusively from the awkwardly steep “Ox-Block” at Quady’s “Mae’s Vineyard.” In 2011, the wine seemed to benefit from the addition of about 10% Viognier from the famed Steelhead Run Vineyard - thus the combined name Steel Ox. Look for aromas and flavors of orchard blossom, ripe peach and spicy Asian pear.
Brad Riordan has crafted another tempting Viognier from David Jones’ Dwelley Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. This just-released wine offers aromas and flavors of spicy pear and apple with bright acidity and a balancing touch of sweetness on the finish.
From other areas:
Tablas Creek Vineyards
Perrin family of Chateau-neuf-du-Pape in France, and the Haas family,
founders of Vineyard Brands in the U.S., developed Tablas Creek
Vineyards and winery in the area west of Paso Robles in the 1990s. The
operation specializes in Rhone varietals and blends of the same. The
2012 Viognier offers aromas of baked bread and herbs with a background
of honeysuckle and stone fruits. The palate shows citrus and spice and
complements Asian cuisine at the table.