Sunday, November 13, 2011

Virginia Varietal Spotlight: Take II


Viognier is Virginia. This is the official white varietal of the Commonwealth, and many wineries are doing incredible things with it. Like Norton, there is some adjustment time for this wine. It tends to have more bite to it than chardonnay or pinot gris. But now the word has gotten out. The popularity of Viognier has grown expontentially with the number of new wineries in the state over the past ten years. Horton even makes a special Viognier just for Total Wine (on Horton's Tower label). Recently, one of the blogmasters had dinner with a new vineyard owner from California, visiting Virginia for a business trip. We tasked him to order the wine for the table, and he picked a Viognier. This is a quirky, moody wine, and is perfect for the unpredictable growing atmosphere that is Virginia.

Viognier can be a difficult grape to grow because it is prone to mildew. It has low and unpredictable yields. Other states have attempted to create a perfect Viognier, including California. Results have been average to poor. About 15 years ago, Horton discovered that the varietal grows "like a weed" in Virginia. Some Commonweath wineries shun it - in fact, a few grimace at the very mention of Viognier (must be that "weed" designation). Others like Horton have embraced it.

Not all Viogniers are created equally. The unpredictable nature of this grape results in uneven wines. Keswick Vineyards had an Award-winner a few years ago - the smoothest Viognier we've ever had (with effervescent bubbles to boot). But their later versions were in the middle of the Mediocre-to-Excellent scale (still not bad but no match for that Award winner).

Since so many wineries in the state now offer a Viognier (even Fox Meadow, which several years ago swore they wouldn't make one), we'll just list a few of our favorites. What are yours?

Blenheim Vineyards
Chester Gap Cellars
Notavva Vineyards
Pollak Vineyards
Sunset Hills Vineyards
Veritas Vineyard

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