Friday, July 15, 2011

Viva Virginia Viognier!

The much anticipated pre-#WBC11 Virginia Viognier tasting has come and gone. Of number of lucky conference attendees were shipped six Viogniers from different Virginia producers for tasting during the virtual event. I was lucky enough to be selected and I am thankful to the organizers and participating wineries (listed with contact information at the bottom) for taking the time and offering up the product to help me get to know a part of the Virginia wine landscape.

I convened a small group (me + 2) at my house for the tasting, preparing some snacks with flavors and textures drawn from the notes provided for the event. We had cheese, fruit, a cold shrimp dip, crackers, bread and spicy chicken skewers to sample with the wines as we progressed through the tasting. We were by no means alone with many others tasting and Tweeting during the event.

I’ll share my notes on the wines next (in the order we tasted them), then offer the recipes I used for the snacks so the curious can try them for themselves. I haven’t seen any wrap-up posts from others yet, but I will update a list at the end of this post as they get published.

Horton Vineyards NV Sparkling Viognier

When this selection arrived I was intrigued as I have never had (not that I know of) Viognier in sparkling form.  After tasting it the question the group of us came up with was “how would we know it was made from Viognier if it wasn’t disclosed?” This isn’t a rookie question, we do have a bit of blind tasting experience, but more of one from the perspective that the wine didn’t evoke a Viognier sensibility to us in any obvious way. Does the fact that it was sparkling make that harder?

What we did find was more fruit in the nose that I am used to with sparkling wine, but I am sure this wine is of better quality than many I have had, so that doesn’t give it away for me. I also picked up a deceptive sweet sensation in the center, which I did enjoy. All of us found that the Dubliner cheese made the wine pop with more fruit and a crisper finish.

Overall I very much enjoyed this wine, but don’t really have enough experience with sparkling wines to put it any style context. There were no flaws I could detect, and I could see glasses of it disappearing very easily which votes it high for a wine to entertain with!

Blenheim Vineyards 2010 Viognier

I immediately noted that the nose reminded me of a subtle Muscat, with a perfume essence. In the mouth I picked up a woolly (another in my group said lanolin) essence much like a French Chenin. The acidity in the finish reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc, and a picked up a touch of salinity. All together I was confused about what I was drinking and wasn’t sure I was tasting something with the desired composition. I let it breath a bit and came back to it and didn’t find a change. A second tasting today didn’t change my impression. I am going to take a guess that it didn’t travel well and may have needed some time to rest after its trip. I look forward to trying other wines from Blenheim next week when I am in VA.

King Family Vineyards 2010 Viognier

This wine has tons of fruit in the nose, including melon and peach. This wine presented the full body and balance I am used to in Viognier, and that I have only been able to produce once in my own wines, which made me smile. All of us picked up a little baking spice aroma, from the malo perhaps, and experienced a nice clean and crisp finish.

The cold shrimp dip was very assertive with this wine, but the flavor transformation was exciting to savor. The best pairing was the spicy chicken skewer which helped to focus the wine and bring out the acidity.

Barboursville 2009 Viognier Reserve

The shocking thing about this wine was the note that it had had 11 months of lees contact. That seemed like a lot to me, especially for a Viognier. The best description of this wine the group of us had was “old world rustic”. The intense acidity, yeasty undertones and light aromas were not expected, but not displeasing. Quite a few other Tweeters questioned if this wine was off, and it got me thinking that the trip might have taken this guy for a loop too. It didn’t seem to be put together. As it was I could see using this wine to pair with a number of white wine friendly dishes where the pairing act in itself wasn’t going to get a lot of focus. It pains me to write these things after only one tasting, but I am truly optimistic that I will get another taste soon and then might find more of what was sought after in this wine.

Cooper Vineyards 2010 Viognier

The initial impression of this wine gave me a sinking feeling. For I love Viognier, it is my favorite white wine. I have made it every year since 2007, and I have searched for my initial success ever since, and I love finding new ones to try. Oaked Viognier though makes me cringe. It just seems so unnecessary to do that to such a wonderfully aromatic grape. BUT, this wine is excellent! Only 40% of it was fermented in used barrels and the balance of it comes off better than I have ever experienced this treatment before. The baking spices in the nose are pleasing (makes me think of baking in the fall) and the peach and dried fruit flavors in the mouth were there and clear.

I paired this wine with the goat, Brie and Dubliner cheese, enjoying all of the pairings. With some strawberry and peach I got more fruit from and experienced the crispness of the wine.

Delaplane 2010 Viognier – Maggie’s Vineyard

We ended the tasting with this wine, and for me it ended up being my favorite. And that wasn’t because I was at home and had a buzz! This wine has the aroma, body, and flavors that I love in a Viognier! My summary description was “warm pecan pie”. It had just that right balance of nut, sweet and fruit (pear & ripe peach) that had me pouring another taste pretty quickly!

The notes indicate it is off-dry, which I think is an overstatement. It does have some sweetness, but not enough for me to classify it that way.

I tasted this with most of the snacks on hand, and it found that it went well with the spicy chicken skewer as the notes alluded that it might.

Now on to the snack recipes!

Cold Shrimp Dip

4 tsp minced fresh onion
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
Dash of hot sauce
1 dozen chopped cooked medium-sized shrimp
2 tbsp. chopped dill pickle
1 ½ Tbsp dried thyme

Soak the minced onion in lemon juice; then mix with cream cheese, butter, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Mix in the shrimp, pickle and thyme into cheese mixture. Refrigerate for at least several hours. Serve on crackers or crusty bread.

Spicy Chicken Skewers

3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp Tamari
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp red pepper (from tube)
1 pound chicken tenders

Mix all ingredients, except chicken, well. Place chicken in marinade, mixing to coat. Cover and marinate overnight. Soak wood skewers in water for 20 minutes prior to skewering the chicken tenders. Grill the tenders 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

The participating wineries can be found online and on Twitter with the contact information below.

Horton Vineyards - - @HortonWine
Blenheim Vineyards - - @BlenheimWines
King Family Vineyards - - @kingvineyards
Barboursville Vineyards & Winery - - @barboursville
Cooper Vineyards - - @coopervineyards
Delaplane Cellars - - @DelaplaneCellrs

A huge thank you goes to the wineries, the folks at, and Frank from the DrinkWhatYouLike blog (@DrinkWhatULike) for involving me in the event.

This time next week I will be tasting and tweeting with 399 others in the heart of Virginia wine country!



Claudia said...

Blind tasting wine is something that intrigues me! I love seeing pairings for wine and food - especially cheeses. Some are such a happy marriage and some should be divorced.

Wining Ways said...

Great recap on the Viognier tasting. Looking forward to meeting in VA. Where in NH are you located? I plan to visit Sweet Baby Vineyards next on my tour of NH wineries.