Tasting Note: Two viogniers from the North

If you’ve had wines made from the viognier grape, there is a very good chance that they came from warm, if not hot climates, and exploded with aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, over a rich, luscious mouthfeel. Acidity, crispness, freshness? Not so much.

Yet there is another way to make viognier. A more northerly way, like the direction pointed to by Peay Vineyards, one of my favorite vineyards, who make a tiny bit of it in their cool Sonoma Coast vineyards. Syrah is picked as late as the last week of October, at the Peay vineyards, and without the high sugar and high alcohol that you normally see in California syrah.

What would be the perfect place to test the possibilities of cool-climate viognier? Canada, I would say.

Case in point, (more…)

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Tasting Note: 1998 Conundrum, Caymus Vineyards

If you do things well enough, you can make pretty much anything work in winemaking. Even combinations and approaches that simply shouldn’t make sense.

Want proof? Try some Conundrum, the impossibly complicated blend created by Caymus winemaker John Bolta. It’s made from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, viognier and muscat from Napa Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #46: The Whiter Side of Rhône

White wines are certainly the neglected side of the Rhône vineyards. The reputation of the whites is greatly overshadowed by that of reds like Cornas, Côte-Rôtie or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

It might just be a question of math, mind you: according to official statistics, red wine represents 86% of total Rhône wine production. White is only 5%, a little more than half the production of rosé (9%). In Australia, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, all together, represent less than 2% of the total area planted in white varietals, according to government statistics (see page 17 of the publication). Same thing in California, where the 15,757 tons of viognier crushed in 2007 are the only noticeable white Rhône blip among the 1.37 million tons of white grapes produced in 2007 (see page 6 of the California Department of Agriculture grape crush report). I’m beginning to agree with James, who started a discussion on the Open Wine Consortium about the most underrated white varietals, and put roussanne as his choice of underdog.

Mind you, the varietals can be challenging. When overripe, they quickly get heavy, overly sweet and overloaded with tropical fruit. I know, some people might call that luscious and rich, but I find it all gets a little cloying. Which is why I appreciate the balance found in, say, (more…)

A vineyard in winter

I’ve been exchanging e-mails with Tom Lubbe at Matassa, this fall, and it has only reminded me of how much work there is to do in a vineyard after harvest is done, and after the wines have been laid to rest in the barrels, to mature over winter through secondary fermentation and all.

In late October, it is time to spray the vineyards with preparation 500, the most important biodynamic treatment, seen as essential in (more…)