GUSTO Tastings does a great job of hosting multiple wine events every month, each one with a slightly different purpose. Each first Wednesday of the month, the members of the meetup get together for “Texas versus the world” event where the group gets to taste and compare wines made in Texas with similar wines made in the other countries and regions – this was the exact event we attended, and it was dedicated to Viognier (the November event will be all about Tempranillo or Sangiovese, which should be very interesting, as I think both of those grapes produce very good results in Texas – oh well, I will have to live vicariously through that one…). GUSTO Tastings also runs blind tasting events once a month, which are some of the most exhilarating experiences for wine aficionados. Anyway, if you live in a close proximity to Austin (or few other cities in Texas), you should definitely check GUSTO Testings out and use the opportunity to learn about the wines.
Let me tell you now about the event. First of all, we had the best table in the town. We were lucky enough to meet and share the table with Flat Creek Estate winemaker Tim Drake, a witty and charismatic guy and his lovely wife Spring. In addition to all the fun conversations at the table, it was even more fun listening to Tim delivering his thoughts in bright and engaging fashion, with the ability to use very convincing expressions to emphasize his point (I will have to refrain from repeating his vivid answer and explanation for the question about Reserve wines).
This particular event was all about Viognier, once nearly extinct Rhone white grape varietal. A few month ago there was a Wine Blogging Wednesday dedicated to Viognier, so for more details about the grape, including the link to the short video teaching you how to say that “Viognier” word correctly, here is the link to my blog post.
During the course of the evening, we tasted through 17 different Viognier wines – 8 from around the world, and 9 from Texas. All the wines where split into the flights of four, and the last flight had 5 wines in it.
The first four wines represented the old world – my notes are below:
- 2009 Cacciagrande Viognier, Maremma, Toscana – very unusual, I had no idea Viognier is used in Tuscany. The wine had a beautiful nose of classic Riesling, sweet with a hint of petrol – but palate didn’t support that nose at all. Acidic, briny, not pleasant. Drinkability: 6-
- 2011 Domaine des Cantarelles Viognier, Vin de Pays du Gard – Typical nose – perfume, full body expectation -but the body is too watery, almost Pinot Grigio style… Acidic aftertaste. Drinkability: 6
- 2009 Vidal-Fleury Cote du Rhone – Strange nose, a bit vegetative, and then very oily (I never had a wine before with such a mouthfeel; scotch – yes, but wine? Never), some muted fruit – not good. Drinkability: 5
- 2009 E. Guigal Condrieu – this wine was redeeming the first flight – beautiful concentrated nose, with touch of sugar candy. Nice and delicate on the palate, but not enough power. Drinkability: 7
Flight number 2 consisted of the New World wines:
- 2010 Cono Sur Viognier, Colchagua Valley, Chile – Beautiful nose, touch perfumy, perfectly round palate, good acidity, some green apples. Drinkability: 7+ (best so far)
- 2010 La Capra Viognier, Western Cape, South Africa – somewhat green on the nose, with some matchstick. Let me stop here for a second, and I have a question for you, my readers. Have you ever experienced anything like that? Is that a showing of the extra sulfates used during the production? Anyway, let’s continue – there was also some minerality on the nose (or at least Tim suggested that it was) Pleasant on the palate, more of a Sauvignon Blanc qualities – lime, touch of grapefruit. As I was all puzzled by the nose, I’m not even sure how I want to rate this wine.
- 2010 Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley, Australia. If the previous wine had one matchstick on the nose, this one had a whole box. While that smell was going away little by little, the initial encounter with that wine almost game me a headache. Strange nose at first (heavy matchstick? Sulfites?). The wine opened up eventually on the palate into the medium to full bodied wine, retaining some sharpness. Considering that smell (which rendered the wine literally undrinkable to me) I can’t rate it. I can only hope that it was a particular faulty bottle…
- 2010 Miner Viognier Oakville ’Simpson Vineyard’, Napa. Perfect nose – great bright fruit, nice perfume. Best nose so far. Palate doesn’t live up – kind of flat and unimpressive. Judging nose by itself this wine should get Drinakability of 8, but as a whole, I can only give it a 6.
The next flight included a vertical of 4 wines from Flat Creek Estate Winery. As all of those wines were made out of grapes which didn’t grow in Texas (but the wine, of course, was made in Texas), they don’t carry Texas designation on the label. I have to admit that somehow I missed to take a picture of this flight, so just to give you an idea, I had to borrow the picture from the Flat Creek Estate’s web site.
- 2008 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Nose was practically non-existent (I couldn’t pickup any aroma), sweet on the palate. It is drinkable, but not great. Drinkability: 7
- 2009 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Nice nose, more of a typical viognier. Palate is touch out of balance (a bit sharp), but very drinkable. Drinkability: 7
- 2010 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Beautiful bright nose, touch of the pear preserve, fresh brewed tea on the nose. Needs a bit more acid on the palate. Drinkability: 7-
- 2011 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Perfect nose. Bright, clean, nice white fruit. Outstanding, perfect acidity, ripe fruit, perfect balance. Lodi fruit. To this point, this was my favorite! Drinkability: 8.
As we went to the all-Texas flight, Tim gave a great explanation to the room about different types of yeast and their ability to bring different qualities to the wine (more glycerin versus more esters etc.). And this is all in the hands of the winemaker. Yep, winemaking is Art…
And now, to the all Texas flight (look at my notes – they all show a progression of tasting as the wines were opening in the glass):
- 2011 Lone Oak Winery Viognier, Texas. Smell is similar to detergent. Not balanced. Not good. then it opened up on the nose, but with a note of brine. Pretty balanced now. Drinkability: 7+
- 2010 Brennan Vineyards Viognier, Texas. Some sweetness on the nose. Same sweetness on the palate – but not balanced. Needs more acidity. Leaves burning feeling. Improved after a breathing time!!! Much better! Drinkability: 7
- 2011 Becker Vineyards, Viognier, Texas. Nice nose, some gooseberry, little complexity. Finish is short. Drinkable, but not exciting. Drinkability: 6+
- 2010 McPherson Cellars Viognier, Texas. Interesting complexity on the nose. Sweet with some green notes. Beautiful palate, good round wine. Drinkability: 7+
And now (drum roll, please) let me present to you my best of tasting wine:
2012 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier, Texas. Barrel sample. Beautiful nose, light fruit, white fruit. 100% Texas fruit (brownfield). Very nice, good overall, some zest – really pleasant! Drinkability: 8+
The fact that grapes were picked 6 weeks ago, and that Tim had blended wine in the morning of the day of the tasting, is just makes it an incredible experience all together.
There you have it, folks – Texas makes great wines, so if you can get them – you should! And if your travel will take you down to Texas – make sure the wineries are part of your trip. You can tell them I sent you. Cheers!
To finish off the wine reviews quiz series, today we are following the steps of the previous two wine quizzes (#29 and #30), only now going to the next level: you will need to match 5 reviews and 5 wines. Actually, that “finishing off” will separate into two separate quizzes – one for white wines and one for reds.
Here are your grape choices:
B. Chenin Blanc
C. Sauvignon Blanc
Here are the reviews. Just to make it a bit easier, note that all the reviews are for single-grape wines.
1. “Gently kissed with toast, giving the core of white peach, lemon and chamomile a broader frame of lightly toasted brioche and paraffin. A suave echo of flint chimes through the finish in this lovely rendering of the toasty style.”
2. “An enticing, lemony white that is both aromatic and rich on the palate. Apple and mineral notes combine with the lemon flavors that glide to a lingering finish”
3. “This has weight and depth but remains stylish, with ginger and glazed pear notes in reserve while persimmon, green almond and piecrust notes lead the way. Lovely cut on the finish keeps the ginger edge echoing. Should develop nicely in the cellar”
4. “Extremely rich and generous, with ripe, opulent peach, nectarine, apricot and tangerine flavors that are woven together on a full, lush body with smoke, spice, cedar and mineral details and a juicy acidity.”
5. “Intensely minerally and smoky, with a blanket of acidity behind the apple, sea salt and anise flavors. The long finish is bracing and powerful.”
Please provide the answers in the form of A1, B2 etc. Bonus question – provide country of origin for each grape/review combination. Double bonus – in addition to country, provide more precise appellation, like Finger Lakes, Oregon, etc (doesn’t have be exact, but it should be more narrow that the whole country).
Have fun, good luck and have a great weekend! Cheers!
Viognier. A white grape, with more than 2000 years of history, and nearly extinct by 1965 with only 8 acres of plantings left in Northern Rhone – for the full history of the grape you can refer to this article in Wikipedia.
By the way, can you pronounce that “Viognier”? I’m not trying to insult the intelligence of my readers, but this french word is anything but easy. If you need a little help, here is a very short video for you:
If you wonder why are we all of a sudden talking specifically about Viognier (after all, there are other 9,999 grapes supposedly growing in the world), the reason is simple. Yesterday was Wine Blogging Wednesday event number 78, hosted by Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like blog, and the event was dedicated to Viognier, which sprung back to life and now successfully grows pretty much all over the world.
Viognier is no stranger on this blog. Two years ago, I was able to taste Virginia Viognier at Chrysalis Vineyards – it was very good. Then I had probably my best Viognier experience ever at the Lavinia wine store in Geneva – there I tried 2009 Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu, a classic Viognier from Norther Rhone (it was outstanding with Drinkability rating of 9).
For this WBW78 tasting I had a few prerequisites. For one, I would love to taste Virginia Viognier – but it is not available in Stamford, CT. For the second one, I knew that I don’t want to taste California Viognier. Why? First, about two month ago, I had bad experience at a number of wineries in Temecula Valley in California. Second, there some some advantages in writing this blog post somewhat late – you can refer to the work of others. Please read the description of Rosenblum 2008 Kathy’s Cuvee in the blog post by the fellow blogger Gwendolyn Alley, especially the last part: “…finishes tart and savory yet cloying”. No further comments.
I definitely wanted to have classic Condrieu Viognier – but that is typically not a cheap option. Thanks to the advice of Zak from Cost Less Wines, I ended up with two bottles of Viognier – one from France, and another one from Australia.
My Viognier #1 was 2011 Les Vines de Vienne Viognier ($19.99, 13% ABV). Interestingly enough, this wine was made in the region surrounding the town of Vienne in Northern Rhone region of France – one of the legends has it that this town (Vienne) gave the name to the grape itself (Viognier). Another interesting fact is that Les Vines de Vienne wines are product of obsession of the three wine makers – read more about it here.
I didn’t plan any dinner or an event around this Viognier tasting, so I decided to pair it with a few random things I could grab from the fridge. But before we will talk about pairing, let’s talk about the wine itself. Here are the tasting notes “in progress”. Nice golden color, beautiful nose of green apple and orange zest. There is clean residual sweetness on the nose. One the palate – touch of sweetness, lemon tartness, golden delicious apple, perfect acidity. As wine opens up, sweetness disappears and acidity kicks in. Perfectly refreshing and balanced, very clean. Drinkability: 8+. Taking into account the results of tasting on the second day, I want to note that it is important not to over-chill this wine. Taken directly from the fridge on the second day, the wine had slightly unpleasant sharpness, a bite, which disappeared as soon as the wine warmed up a bit.
As I said, the food pairings were rather a game than anything thought through and planned. I tried this wine with slow roasted Jalapeno ( our local Fairway had selection of large size Jalapenos, which were a killer after being slow roasted on a grill) – the wine was not enough to remove the heat of Jalapeno (fire hose was more appropriate for that). Wine worked very well with French goat cheese called Crottin de Champcol. It perfectly complemented grilled yellow squash and worked nicely with grilled asparagus.
Viognier #2 was 2011 Yalumba Viognier South Australia ($11.99, 13.5% ABV). A touch darker in color than the #1, less bright. Nose of pear, herbs, white peaches and mango, more exuberant than the wine #1, but not to the point of being overwhelming. On the palate, there was more fruit than in the wine #1, but it was predominantly white grapefruit. While the wine was showing round enough, there was not enough acidity. Drinkability: 7.
None of the previous food pairings worked well. With Jalapeno, the wine was showing very acidic. It was too fruity against goat cheese, and didn’t do anything to asparagus, and grilled squash was the only okay pairing for this wine. Still, I think this is quite reasonable wine for the money.
This concludes my report about Viognier experience. I would highly recommend the Les Vins de Vienne Viognier – the wine is definitely worth seeking, especially considering that anything comparable and coming directly from Condrieu will cost you three times more.
So, how about you? Did you have Viognier yesterday? I hope you did, and if you did not… what are you waiting for? You should be on the way to the store now. Cheers!