Viognier is an aromatic delight, typically with floral notes singing of white peaches, apricots, tropical fruits, sometimes grapefruit, jasmine, and, almost always, honeysuckle. The taste provides more of the same and has an undeniable sweetness but not an icky sweetness. You get a full roundness and a soft finish. As rumor often does, rumor has it that viognier originated in Dalmatia (now Croatia) and was brought to the Rhône Valley by the Emperor Probus in 281AD. DNA maven Carole Meredith, a UC Davis professor emerata, says that notion has long been disproved. Spoilsport.
It pairs well with many things that swim or fly, or tries to fly. It’s good to get something in a creamy recipe.
Dan Baldwin, Rios Lovell winemaker and San Francisco Bay Winery owner/winemaker, had this to say about growing and harvesting viognier grapes:
“The season begins early for viognier and these vines wake up and push their buds before all of the regular red varieties grown here in the Livermore Valley. Being an early riser comes with some danger as frost can damage the new tender shoots and clusters even before the flowers shed their calyptra covers when the average daily temperature hits 70-degrees Fahrenheit. By Mayday the frost chances are almost nil and we can leave these worries behind us and let this fine variety develop throughout Summer until the harvest. We like to ferment this grape with yeasts other than those used for Chardonnay in order to express some of the more exotic fruit characteristics of this variety.” The Rios Lovell Viognier is estate grown, so Dan has first hand knowledge of the vineyards.
Let’s hit the wine trail:
2016 NellaTerra Viognier Livermore Valley ($22). The grapes were harvested from the Nella Terra estate vineyard. This Livermore Valley Viognier was made with the intention of being light and crisp with fruity floral aromas, and they succeeded. Go to the tasting room located high on a hill above the Sunol Grade for a natural high. The pleasant grounds has a brook and a waterfall. I brought this aromatic delight to my dinner with Judy at a two- person dining suite. Her penetrating blue eyes looked at me over the rim of her glass as she tasted this viognier that matched her special sweetness. Them there eyes really lit up when she tasted the fresh wild caught salmon boiled with a bouquet garni. “Yes, yes, yes,” she said, about the viognier and salmon. “It’s salmon season. I’m buying some even if it’s a bit pricey.”
2017 Omega Road Viognier Alta Mesa ($23). Stick your sniffer over the rim of the glass for fresh pear and apricot aromas with hints of Meyer lemon. On the palate, honeysuckle and Argentine Tangerine dance and balance each other, and the bright acid blends beautifully with fresh fruits and hints of savory rubbed rosemary.
Omega Road released this beauty in late May. Omega Road’s Alexandra emailed, “We paired it with a grilled chicken salad (chicken, celery, Greek yogurt, apple, dried apricot, and strawberry).” With little difficulty I duplicated the recipe and was transported to my salad days. The salad wed to the viognier was a match made in the vineyards of heaven.
2014 Rios Lovell Viognier Livermore Valley ($20). From the tasting room you can look out at the vineyards whence came the grapes for this floral wonder with the subtle scent of a man who knows how to go easy with the aftershave lotion. The finish whispers with hints of a just-opened can of Dole pineapple, and a light breakfast of white grapefruit and a slice of Beckman’s 4-seed Sourdough toast.
For food pairing I thought I was with Tom in an informal Indiana cafe. The jukebox sang, “Oh my my, oh my my, oh hell yes, Honey put on that party dress.” The waitress wearing Mary Janes poured the Rios Lovell Viognier with its shadowy color of cantaloupe. The waitress returned with the Persian chicken. I alternated between it and the viognier with some umm umm umm sounds. I looked at Tom but he was gone. Too soon.
Cedar Mountain Cedar Mountain Viognier Port Livermore Valley Toy Vineyard ($25). What can one (or more) say about this superb Viognier Port that displays intense peach, apricot, and citrus flavors punctuated with a rich nutty finish. It opens with crispness and has a long soft finish and an aftertaste of bananas. It brought home a silver medal from the San Francisco Wine Competition.
Tasters close their eyes and sigh when it is paired with pecan pie with no top crust and the pecans visible and seeming to ooze juice.