Viognier… the Other White Wine!

Viognier… the Other White Wine!

by Beth Heiserman

Viognier is white wine varietal from the Rhône Valley in France. Officially, it is the only white grape allowed in the region. It is also grown around the world, such as Australia, North and South America. We brought in our 2016 Viognier from Lake LA. That is approximately 50 miles north east of Santa Clarita. It is my favorite white varietal.

Viognier is a full bodied white wine that is full of aromatics like peaches, tangerines, violets and minerality. Generally, it is not aged in oak because the exposure to oxygen in a barrel can strip the amazing aromas in the wine. It needs a long hot summer to produce a good crop, which the north Los Angeles County is the optimum place to grow.

Viognier’s origin is unknown at this time. It is thought that the Romans brought it from an area in the Roman Empire which is now in Croatia. In my article, “Why do we use Oak Barrels for wine?” I explained that when the Romans went west they brought wine. Recently, in 2004, UC Davis did DNA profiling that showed that it is related to an Italian grape from the region of Piedmont called Fresia. It has a substantial amount of tannins and acidity.  It has notes of strawberries, raspberries and violets. It is also a cousin to Nebbiolo.

Some winemakers occasionally ferment Viognier with Syrah which are both from the Rhône Valley. When blending Viognier with another grape it adds a delightful bouquet and slightly lightens the colors to make it vibrant. This is a common practice in Australia to blend the two together, generally 85% Syrah and 15% Viognier. It’s not customary to blend two different regions of grapes together. I love to think out of the box and experiment with unusual choices.  In 2016, I wanted to make a more of a traditional Rose. That year, our harvest brought us a lot of Merlot which from the Bordeaux region. As we picked the Merlot, a batch was waiting for us to de-stem and crush, so we may start the process. We started to pick around 6am, by 3pm, the color was so intense. I felt we needed to add a bit of Viognier to lighten the color and add a bit of fruitiness and a floral aroma.

Our 2016 Rosé of Merlot was awarded 83 points in Wine Enthusiasts Magazine in December 2017. One day I was walking from the tasting room to the office and I saw a rose that was so beautiful, so I took a photo of it, and that became the picture on the label. This special wine is a skin-contact Rosé, which is Merlot and Viognier. It has light tannins and medium acidity. It’s bursting with young vibrant fruit. It has notes of blueberries, anise, peach and orange peel, which compliment a slight sweetness for perfect balance. It pairs with a spicy Thai food, blueberry peach pie or baked brie cheese with apricots. Tonight for dinner, I am preparing a chicken coconut curry, carrots and aromatic rice with a cold glass of 2016 Rosé of Merlot.

In the tasting room, our tasting options change monthly. For the month of February, I will have all three of our current Rosés including the 2016 Rose of Merlot, plus you can try many other award winning wines.