Browsing the archives for the Viognier tag

Varietal Voyage No.20 – 2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner

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Varietal Voyage

Our second syrah is an Australian shiraz.  Yes, syrah and shiraz are the the same grape.  Even though there are many theories, nobody really knows where the name shiraz (rhymes with pizazz) came from.  So, in the Aussie spirit (and for the sake of simplicity) we’ll stick with shiraz for this post!  When in Rome…

d’Arenberg has made wine in Australia for almost one hundred years.  The winery was founded by Joseph Osborn in 1912, but the d’Arenberg name didn’t come about until Francis d’Arenberg Osborn created his own label in 1959 to honor his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.  Now, in the fourth generation of family ownership, they are guided by Francis’ son, Chester d’Arenberg Osborn as chief winemaker and viticulturist.

The 2007 Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier ($20) comes from d’Arenberg’s Osborn Estate in the heart of South Australia’s McLaren Vale.  Brought to Australia in the 1830′s it has become the most popular grape down under.  McLaren Vale has a warm, Mediterranean climate, perfect conditions for heat-loving shiraz.  The soils in this area are a mixed bag of terra rosa, chalk, with sandy or clay loam depending where you are in the valley. Viognier, a white grape that also thrives in this climate, is a variety that has made its way from the Rhône valley and is growing in popularity around the world.  Viognier, with its peachy tropical fruit aromas,  is often added to the wine to boost the aromatics of the shiraz/syrah.

In the glass this young shiraz has a lovely ruby color with intense aromas of stone fruits, blackberries and black cherries.  After a short time, tobacco and cedary cigar box aromas unveiled themselves.  Spicy, dark cherry flavors and subtle amounts of blueberries and plums are balanced with mouthwatering acidity.  This medium-bodied shiraz has a soft, tannic edge that finishes off quickly and cleanly so it won’t overpower your palate.  We paired this with a hearty pizza and the Italian spices really helped accentuate the soft tannins in the wine.  I can see this going really well with a grilled burger or steak.

2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner ($20)

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Varietal Voyage No.12 – 2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier

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Varietal Voyage

Alas, we’ve come to the final white wine on our varietal voyage.  The third viognier on the list comes from Yalumba in South Australia’s Eden Valley. Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery. Founded in 1849, Samuel Smith started with just 30 acres of land near Angaston. He named this small parcel “Yalumba” – the aboriginal word for “all the land around.”  One hundred thirty one years later Yalumba planted 3 acres of viognier in the Barossa Valley, the first commercial plantings of this variety in Australia.  Curiously, the Eden Valley region, shown on the label, is an eastern extension of the Barossa Valley. They now have access to over 70 acres of viognier from a range of regions, giving the winemakers the ability to select the best qualities of each area. The Eden Valley viognier is just one of the 5 viognier based wines that Yalumba produces.  The others are the Y Series, Virgilius (Yalumba’s outstanding benchmark viognier), and 2 sweet dessert-style viogner’s.

For this particular wine, our opinions were split.  Sue was not all that impressed with the selection, on the other hand, I found it to be quite enjoyable. It’s moments like these that illustrate how subjective the wine tasting process can be. Each person’s palate is differnet and the way we perceive aromas and flavors varies tremendously.  What is important is it to try new wines and to form your own opinions.  This is the only way to find out what you really like.  As long as you get to try new things and enjoy the experience, that is all that really matters.

With that said, this is my review.  As mentioned earlier, I found this wine to be quite good.  Emanating from its golden yellow color is a bouquet full of rich peach and apricot mixed with peppery spices.  Flavors range from succulent peach and melon at the start to luscious apricot and citrus laced with spice throughout the long finish.  In addition, there are complex, creamy notes of honey and toasted biscuits (from 10 months resting on lees) that tie it all together.

2008 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier ($19)

Well that’s it for our twelve white wines.  Now we go over to the dark side to experience twelve red wines from around world.  Next up Cabernet Sauvignon!

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Varietal Voyage No.11 – 2008 Domaine de Gournier Viognier

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Varietal Voyage

The next wine on the list is from France’s southern Rhône valley.  Domaine de Gournier is a very small winery located near Cévennes, between Avignon to the east and Nîmes to the west. Gournier’s Viognier is classified as a vin de pays, or country wine. According to France’s classification of wines, this one is somewhere in the middle in terms of quality.  For this leg of our journey this wine is a little unusual, because it is not 100% Viognier.  It is a blend of primarily Viognier with a little Sauvginon Blanc and Chardonnay added to round things out.

Maurice Barnouin and his family started Domaine de Gournier as a nursery, growing and cloning vine stock for other vineyards. Several years ago they decided to start making their own unique style of wines.  Gournier now produces several wines including: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre, as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. The 200 hectare estate (about 500 acres) is situated on a plateau of limestone rich soil with little vegetation to prevent the warm Mediterranean sun from ripening the fruit to its fullest.

The 2008 Viognier is a good example of a simple country wine. If you are expecting a big, fruit-forward expression of the Rhône valley, think again. This is a very simple, everyday wine that doesn’t overpower your palette or your pocket book.  It has pleasing, but delicate floral and peach aromas that work together with light, herbaceous apricot flavors.  The addition of Sauvignon Blanc brings a pleasing balance of mineral flavors and fresh acidity that seems to dance around on your tongue. Serve this one slightly chilled for a great summer refreshment.

2008 Domaine de Gournier Viognier ($11)

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Varietal Voyage No.10 – 2008 Rosenblum Cellars "Kathy's Cuvée"

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Varietal Voyage

Up to this point we have tasted wines made from several different grapes including: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. The fourth and final white varietal on this voyage brings us to Viognier!

This strange sounding varietal, pronounced Vee-yoh-N’YAY, is a finicky grape that is difficult to grow. Most prevalent in France’s Rhone Valley, it has been grown with much success in many places around the world. The United states is one of these places but it has only been grown here for the past twenty years.

This week’s Viognier is from Rosenblum Cellars. In 1978, Kent Rosenblum, his wife Kathy, and several friends founded Rosenblum Cellars. Using grapes sourced from several now famous vineyards, they quickly became known for top quality Zinfandels. Over the years Rosenblum has grown in size and popularity, producing numerous award winning wines. All of Kent’s successes have earned him title: “King of Zin.” Grape Radio interviewed the King of Zin recently, Click here to listen.

“Kathy’s Cuvée,” named after Kent’s wife, is one in a series of wines called the Appellation Series. This particular wine is made from a blend of Viognier grapes from three different California appellations, each with very differnet soils and climatic conditions, rendering very different aromas and flavors.

The first thing you notice is how aromatic this wine is. As soon as the cork is removed, rich floral and tropical fruit aromas fill the room. The flavors are equally as rich and even more complex. Sue’s described her first sips as “fireworks” exploding with different flavors. This is where the three appellations shine through. The cooler location (Fess Parker Vineyards, Santa Barbara) provides the structure with bright, citrus flavors and well balanced acidity, while the warmer areas (Ripken Vineyards, Lodi and Lange Twins Vineyards, Clarksburg) flesh it out with lush, ripe apricot and pear flavors. Careful aging in a variety of oak barrels and some time resting on lees offers a creamy, honey-like texture that reminds you of silk. All of these aspects blend together so well that you hardly notice its high alcohol content (14.5% ABV).

2008 Rosenblum Cellars “Kathy’s Cuvée” ($18)

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Varietal Voyage – The Beginning

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Varietal Voyage
For sometime now, I have wanted to expand my knowledge of the vast viticultural world of wine. I have tasted a fair share of wines, but always seem to gravitate to the same familiar varieties. Not that there is anything wrong with liking a few good wines, but there is so much more to experience!

I recently read in Karen MacNeil’s “Wine Bible” about a plan for expanding your knowledge of wine. She spoke of a systematic plan, sampling different wines over a six month time frame. This was exactly what I was looking for. With a little research and some consultation with Sue, the plan was hatched!

Over the next six months, Sue and I will partake in a voyage of varietal discovery. The first three months focuses purely on white wines. The following three months are devoted to reds. Throughout each trimester we will explore four varieties and three different regions for each.

Month 1-3: The Whites

  • Sauvignon Blanc (US, New Zealand, France) – VV1, VV2, VV3
  • Chenin Blanc (US, France, South Africa) – VV4, VV5, VV6
  • Chardonnay (US, France, Australia) – VV7, VV8, VV9
  • Viognier (US, France, Australia) – VV10, VV11, VV12

Month 4-6: The Reds

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (US, France, South America) – VV13, VV14, VV15
  • Merlot (US, France, South America) – VV16, VV17, VV18
  • Syrah/Shiraz (US, Australia, France) – VV19, VV20, VV21
  • Petite Sirah (US, France, Australia)

So that’s the grand plan – twenty-four wines over the next six months. Stay tuned. This blog will be the travelogue of our adventure!