viognier tasting

Monday, April 23, 2007


Our tasting group met yesterday to sample some Viognier. It was a small crowd this time, so there were only five wines, and out of those five, I only really liked two. And both are priced under $10, which is fabulous since I'm sort of broke right now.

My favorite was the McManis 05 Viognier, California. (Really, this was no surprise. We drink McManis at home. It's damn good.) Their Viognier had everything I look for in a Viognier -- floral and citrus notes on the nose, with more citrus, good acid and a refreshing feeling in the mouth. Good stuff.

Not far behind was the Bridlewood 05 Reserve Viognier, Central Coast. Of all the wines we tasted, this one and the McManis were by far the freshest and liveliest. The Bridlewood had aromas of honey and peaches with a citrusy mouth.

And then we get to the rest of the pack. I ranked the Cave de Chante Perdrix 05 Condrieu third even though I wasn't a huge fan. I didn't think there was anything inherently wrong with this wine; it was just made in a completely different style from the largely American Viognier that I am used to drinking. So instead of the bright, lively flavors I typically find -- and like -- in U.S. Viognier, this wine was much more austere. It was minerally, with some orange and honeysuckle. And a little bit of dirt/barnyard. (I guess I am not the big Francophile I thought I was when it comes to Viognier. This was one of the wines that I brought to the tasting, and I really thought it would do better. Um, especially since I paid $38.99 for it.)

Despite the difference in style, I still found the French wine better than the Jewel 05 Viognier, California. This wine didn't seem balanced to me. The alcohol was only 13.5%, but for some reason, it was much more apparent than in the other wines (and I think there were two at 14.5%, but you couldn't tell). I got alcohol on the nose, and the wine itself was a little soft compared to the others. And it tasted hot, too.

And coming in dead last -- way dead last -- was the other wine I brought: the Clautiere 05 Viognier from Paso Robles. This is wine I've had so many times (hell, he even worked at the winery last harvest). I know this wine -- it's usually fresh, floral, grapefruity -- the kind of thing you'd want to take to a baby shower or brunch. But this bottle was bad, bad, bad. It didn't have any of those characteristics at all. I think it was corked. There was no fruit. Just wet cardboard. And maybe some metal. Sad, sad, sad. This is what makes me so angry about TCA -- here I was, trying to introduce my friends to a fabulous, little-known Paso winery that I personally adore and so few people have experienced, and now they will probably walk away thinking Clautiere just isn't up to par. But it is -- when the wine isn't corked. Argh.

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