Tag Archives: Viognier

Le Versant Viognier

Catching up on some tasting notes from the last week or two – between a bad internet connection at home and some extra hours on the job, I haven’t had enough time to blog!

Viognier is one of my favorite white grapes; it makes a full-bodied wine with loads of aroma and a lively palate, without the heavy oak that goes with Chardonnay. I’m enjoying this with a simple mushroom risotto.

Le Versant Viognier (2012) Pays d’Oc, France – $12

Photo0376Color: medium-gold, with good viscosity.

Aroma: a nice mix of floral perfume and white peaches.

Taste: more on the crisp side than is usual for a varietal Viognier, then a fuller mouthfeel towards the back of the mouth. Flavor notes include peach, apricot, Golden Delicious apple, and apple blossoms.

Decent enough for dinner, but not show-stoppingly good.





The Executioner from Shinas Estates

George Shinas, Australian winemaker and judge, is a great character.  All of his wine labels feature judicial themes (The Guilty, The Innocent, The Verdict, The Executioner, and Sweet Justice) with awesome sepia-tone photography. I’m fortunate enough to have a signed poster from George, courtesy of the great sales job I did with his special reserve wine, The Executioner. And I’m cracking open a bottle of that for dinner tonight.


The Executioner is a blend of George’s best barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Shiraz (43%), with just a dash of Viognier (2%) to improve the aromatics – this wine is an Aussie twist on a Cotes du Rhone, and adding some white to a big red is a Rhone tradition from way back. I broke out one of the big Riedel glasses for this – it deserves nothing less.

I’ve got a chorizo pizza coming out of the oven, and I thought I’d share the before-and-after pictures of that as well. This is a whole-wheat crust with mushroom marinara and a blend of four Italian cheeses. It’s topped with Mexican chorizo, baby portabella mushrooms, onion, and kalamata olives.




The Executioner (2008) Victoria, Australia – $30

Photo0346Color: a deep purple-red, almost opaque in the center.

Aroma: plum, blackberry, and cassis dominate – you can just feel the Viognier trying to break through with some floral notes. There’s also some eucalyptus and mint in there as well.

Taste: powerful stuff; while Cabernet led on the nose, the Shiraz is noticeable right off the bat on the palate. Big notes of spice, with some of the eucalyptus, then followed in the mid-palate by Cabernet fruit. The finish is still ripe and juicy; this has several more good years in the bottle. Even though it has a whopping 15% alcohol, it’s not hot at all. The finish has just a bit of tannin coming through.

With the pizza, more floral notes come out on the palate, including some violets. A little extraPhoto0347 air and this is just overall pleasant, harmonious, and powerful. The interplay between the fruit notes and the other elements are fascinating – very bite and every sip is a new discovery. A fantastic wine; the supply of this is limited to just a few hundred cases in the US, so if you find some, snap it up. Highly recommended.

Drinking Tonight: Blue Fin Viognier

When I last worked at Trader Joe’s 5 years ago, Blue Fin was a relatively new line, with just Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They’ve expanded the brand since then, and I was excited to try this Viognier. I’m a big fan of this lush, aromatic, and fruity white from the Rhone Valley; it’s one of my two or three favorite white varieties.

Blue Fin Viognier (2012) California – $5

Photo0311Color: quite pale brassy yellow.

Aroma: heady, the way Viognier should be; I get apricot and peach, honey, and some luscious floral notes.

Taste: an excellent, full texture with white peach and a little minerality. This isn’t cloying, but it is rich and coats the tongue nicely. There’s just a touch of smokiness on the finish.

I so prefer this to a heavy, oaked Chardonnay. For $5 this is a steal, and it works just as well with hearty risotto in the winter as it does with shrimp salad in the heat of summer. Highly recommended.


Drinking Tonight: Goats in Villages Chenin Blanc-Viognier

The Goats do Roam people have cut back on the number of wines they produce. That’s a good thing – they were getting to be a parody of themselves, in my opinion. During that process, they’ve private-labelled a few productions. This is clearly labelled as coming from them, but it’s sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s (in the Ohio market, at least). There’s nothing on the label about the blend proportions; let’s see what we can figure out. I’m drinking this with a seafood risotto.

Goats in Villages Chenin Blanc-Viognier (2010) Western Cape, South Africa – $12

Photo0256Color: full straw yellow with a lot of green undertones.

Aroma: big perfume aromas, which means that the Viognier percentage is significant. I get just a touch of the melon aroma from the Chenin Blanc – but Chenin is always quiet on the nose compared to Viognier.

Taste: ah, there’s the melon, followed by some dried apricot and more floral elements. I’m guessing that this is somewhere in the range of 60% Chenin and 40% Viognier. The finish is pretty powerful, with dried fruit and some candied/carmelized notes. It’s certainly big enough for risotto, and would easily handle lobster or hearty fin fish.

Overall, this is a nice example of the South African take on a White Rhone style. I like the visual and olfactory appeal, and it’s certainly big enough in the mouth. It’s good value for the money: not an absolute steal like some of the Spanish I’ve been drinking lately, but enough to get a Recommended tag from me. Buy a few bottles before it’s gone!


Drinking Tonight: 3 Whites with Gazpacho – Orvieto, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier

I just posted my recipe for corn gazpacho. I used about a half-cup of the Orvieto in the recipe, and I’m tasting that with 2 other whites as well – all three purchased from Trader Joe’s in the last 2 months. These are all very different wines in style, body, grape, and geography, so let’s see which works best with the cold soup!

Photo0161Gaetano d’Aquino (2012) Orvieto Classico, Italy, $6.50

Color: very pale.

Aroma: light floral notes and melon.

Taste: Very clean, with good acidity and a light, bright texture. Creamy lemon and little touch of pineapple, then a crisp finish.

This is the wine is used in making the gazpacho; it’s my favorite cooking wine because it is unoaked and has such a clean flavor profile, with good acidity. You need that acid when cooking to balance the fats and provide some zip. I like to have a bottle of this on hand for any time I’m making a chicken simmer sauce or risotto, and it’s absolutely fabulous for deglazing.

Michel Leon Gewurztraminer (2011) Alsace, France, $15

Color: a darker gold color.

Aroma: huge lychee fruit, then some spice and pepper.

Taste: this is sweeter than I was expecting, it definitely needs to be drunk on the colder side. Lots of lush tropical fruit and good minerality. Not so great with gazpacho, but this will be awesome with Thai. Pretty well priced; most name brand Alsatians start at $20 and up.

Honey Moon Viognier (2012) California, $8

Color: medium yellow-straw.

Aroma: apricot, peach, peach nectar. Almost foxy.

Taste: Heavy on the body, with lots of stone fruit layers and some smokiness – think peach melba. Classic Viognier profile. Not a lot of length, though – I was expecting more on the finish.  Best of the three with the Gazpacho.