Viognier Blind Tasting II: Honey Moon Strikes Again!

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Hello Friends,

This past Sunday, we held another blind tasting at Corcoran Vineyards in Loudoun County. If you recall, the last time we tasted some tasty Cabernet Franc wines, a popular varietal here in Virginia. This time, we pitted several Virginia Viognier wines against Viognier wines from other wine producing regions, including the exquisite and exotic grape variety’s homeland in the Northern Rhone, Condrieu.

Bottles dressed in the best brown bags money could buy!

Many Viognier enthusiasts believe the famous appellation of Condrieu (which includes Chateau Grillet), where Viognier is the only grape grown, to be one of the few, if not only, place in the world to capture the true essence of Viognier. Enter Dennis Horton, of Horton Vineyards, who popularized Viognier in Virginia with his outstanding 1994 vintage, which was considered the best Viognier example nationally. This wine put a spotlight on Virginia, and many local wineries followed suite and began planting and bottling Viognier shortly after. Today, Viognier varietal wines can be found in a number of Virginia tasting rooms, and many in the industry, as well as local consumers believe this to be the grape variety that could one day put Virginia on the global wine map.

Tasters Evaluating the Wines

Back to the tasting; evaluating these wines was a great cast of palates, ranging from a local sommelier, to Virginia winemakers, winery owners, wine shop owners, and wine enthusiasts like myself. One common bond amongst this tasting group was that they all have an appreciation and enthusiasm for Virginia wine, and are well seasoned in tasting Virginia Viognier. Enough of my rambling – check out the rankings (and some of the notes) and enjoy the pictures below. (Scores based on UC Davis 20 point scoring system)

Honey Moon Strikes Again!

1. 2007 Honey Moon Viognier (California) Price: $5.99 Score 16.75
Lighting strikes twice with Honey Moon. The 2005 won my last blind tasting of Viognier wines. This is a basic, entry level Viognier that is pretty consistent from vintage to vintage. This wine has something the European and Virginian styles did not. While many of the Viognier wines we tasted offered citrus and stone fruit character, the California example teetered on citrus/stone fruit with tropical notes and honeysuckle undertones. It was also a lush and rich example and had a smidgen of sweetness. Great bang for the buck, for sure. Everyone enjoyed this wine and it can only be found at your local Trader Joe’s.

2. 2007 Seven Hills Viognier (Washington St.) Price: $19.99 Score 15.25
This was an elegant example of Viognier, which walked the tightrope on many levels, never falling off or slipping in. It was a wine of delicacy and poise, yet rich, with good fruit character, moderate acidity, complexity, seamless oak integration, and a nice long lingering finish. Great QPR for a refined example of Viognier. This wine can be found at Unwined in Alexandria – check with Vanessa, who recommended this tasty wine.

3) 2007 Horton Vineyards Viognier (Virginia) Price: $16.99 Score 14.25
This wine is sleek, racy, clean, and dominated by a stone fruit nose and flavor profile. Easy drinking in style, and an excellent quaffer, this wine dances on the palate and everyone thought that it was ripe for spring time sipping.

Lori Swirls, Rick Sniffs, Gary Sips…

4) 2007 Veritas Vineyards Viognier (Virginia) Price: $20.00 Score13.75
Nice and delicious example – very clean, with a fresh fruit character, good balance and mouth feel.

5) 2008 Barrel Oak Reserve Viognier (Virginia) Price: $23.00 Score 13.50
This wine is done in a traditional European style with a medium floral and toasty nose, good fruit flavors and classic varietal character, framed in toasty oak and spice nuances. Barrel Oak delivers a nice Rhone style Viognier here, check out their website for release dates.

6) 2007 Sunset Hills Vineyards (Virginia) Price: $26.00 Score 13.00
This is a refined example with a floral and perfumed nose heighten by soft vanilla and toasty oak notes and a nice lingering finish.

7) 2006 Vidal Fleury Blanc (Cotes du Rhone) Price: $12.99 Score 12.75
A few tasters found this Southern Rhone example to be out of varietal character, but it came across as an interesting and complex wine that had a lot of other desirable things going to give it a satisfactory score.

8) 2007 Corcoran Vineyards (Virginia) Price: $24.00 Score 12.50
This wine had a lot going – easy drinking in style, distinct varietal character, good flavor and aroma profile, moderate acidity, fresh fruit, very clean, but was tagged by a few tasters as being hot. Unfortunately, this wine is about sold out so you may have trouble confirming that for yourself.

9) 2004 Condrieu Yves Gangloff (Condrieu) Price: $75.99 Score 11.75
Although many tasters found this wine to be complex and rather interesting, it was also tagged by a few as being hot, and by a few as being sweet (barrel sweetness disguised as residual). This is a heady wine, not for the soft at heart, which had a good floral and toasty character about it. This is no fruit forward easy drinker. Many Virginia Viognier wine lovers are not used to the famed white wines of Condrieu, which may come off as more masculine and opulent than accustomed to. Not a bad wine, but the price for most could not be justified.

10) 2006 Cooper Vineyards Viognier (Virginia) Price: $25.00 Score 11.50
Everyone though this was a great picnic or deck wine with good up front fruit – loads of it. This wine was tagged as having all the fun up front and lacking in the middle and finish.

11) 2007 Domaine de Coussergues (Languedoc) Price: $9.99 Score 11.50
Tagged as a simple quaffing wine with soft flavors and good acidity with a medium tropical / stone fruit nose.

12) 2008 Tarara Winery Viognier (Virginia) Price: $30.00 Score 10.5
I believe the Tarara wine would have and should have shown much better, but this was a barrel sample and was visually marred by cloudiness; the visuals transferred to the taste for some, but several agreed that it displayed nice fruit and toasty flavors with hints of graham cracker crust and coking spice. When finished, filtered and bottled, this will be a wine to seek out. But, do not expect a fruit forward easy drinking wine, this is made in more of the classic Condrieu style.

13) 2008 Las Perdices (Argentina) Price: $11.99 Score 10.00
Deck wine at best. This wine was tagged with having a soft nose and higher than average acidity; strange for an overall low acidity grape.

14) 2007 Yalumba Viognier (Australia) Price: $9.99 Score 6.00
This wine came in last place in my last blind tasting of Viognier wines also. It comes across as having too much winemaker manipulation to fix inconsistencies or flaws in a troubled wine. It does not taste like a Viognier, or a wine you would want to drink for that matter (just our 2 cents)

By the way, friends…see the last Viognier tasting results here:

Stay tuned friends …more to come!

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