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July 9, 2001 • The Ripe Tomato

Although no vines could be found in the state prior to 1990, Viognier, with the persistence of the Rhône Rangers, has become California's emerging (or should we say "curious"?) white varietal. For perspective, when reading our notes and recommendations, keep in mind that only a couple of panel members profess to really like Viognier in general. Several tasters admitted they have not been so far enamored and that this tasting was a little like a "forced march", which may account for many negative or halfhearted comments. Surprisingly, panelists detected a number of wines with sulfur-dioxide problems, although most seemed to clean up with a little airing.
Vintage Varietal or "Name"
Appellation, Vineyard
Tasting Notes: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish, alcohol %. Summary. ($ paid)
**consensus (flaws?)**

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (Listed Alphabetically within each category)

2000 Viognier
Lodi, Ripkin Vineyard

Light straw; mildly sweet, fresh, light, complex aroma mingles honeysuckle, grapefruit, stone fruit, oak, and lees; very pleasant, peach, apricot, clean, light, lively flavors; light to medium body with some richness; slightly tart, "snappy" balance; finish has just slight hints of heat and astringency, 14.6%. Very well-grown, well-made varietal example that makes an easy-drinking, very enjoyable wine. ($11.50) BEST BUY


2000 Viognier
Paso Robles, "Mill Road Vineyard"

Golden; rich, clean, spicy, citrussy, very ripe fruit and honey-like, butterscotch aromas; light, easy-drinking, clean, concentrated fruit, apricot, slightly earthy flavors; rich, medium-full body; well balanced, crisp; long finish with a little heat, 14.5%. Overall a very nice wine, although the aromas set up more expectation than the flavors provided. ($16.)

2000 Viognier
Mendocino County

Pale gold; rich, fresh, honeysuckle, orange blossom, fruity, peach, citric, lemony aromas with grassy (stemmy?), Sauvignon Blanc-like (cat box?) notes; clean, mouth-filling fruit flavors match nose (underripe?); medium body; crisp balance is slightly tart; long, clean finish, 14.5%. Overall well-liked, although with a slight "edginess" that put an exact label just out of reach. ($14.)


1999 Viognier
Edna Valley, Estate

Light gold; candied peach, butter, alcoholic (sour milk? wiener? sulfur-dioxide? ) aromas; light, canned peach and butter rum flavors with a hint of bell pepper (sour milk? chemical?); rich, medium body; tart balance; fruit shows mainly in the finish, 14.7%. The flavors were tolerable and balance fine, but the aggressive aroma was a put-off. Some tasters thought this may have been a bad bottle. ($25.)

EXP (R.H. Phillips)
1999 Viognier
Dunnigan Hills

Pale gold; clean, floral, lemony, spicy, "rainwater", candied, "bubble gum" aroma (initial sulfur-dioxide?) with slight wood; bland, nondescript flavors; medium body; well balanced, slightly flabby; clean, long, slightly bitter finish, 14%. Fairly well balanced, innocuous tasting wine, marred by sulfur. ($13.)

2000 Viognier
Paso Robles, Fralich Vineyard

Very light pale yellow; mild, peach, floral, candied aromas; slightly sweet, lemon, apricot, pear, syrupy flavors match the aromas; full, luscious (thick?) body; well balanced; long, clean finish, 14.6%. There was some controversy over this wine - some panel members thought the balance flabby, some tart. It seemed overall very clean and quite pleasant without much complexity. ($20.)

Pepperwood Grove
1999 Viognier

Light yellow gold; rich, ripe to overripe strawberry, pineapple, honey and oak aromas (slight sulfur-dioxide?); pleasant entry, light, concentrated, fruity flavors; medium to full body (cumbersome?); well balanced, slightly tart; slightly alcoholic, slightly bitter finish, 12.5%. Too fruity for some panelists, but others thought a good candidate for quaffing if well-chilled. ($7.50) BEST BUY

1998 Viognier

Light greenish-yellow; pleasant, very light, citric, lemon, anise, grassy, herbal (burnt?) aromas; very light, lean (almost no) flavors; body controversial (thin, watery or full, fat); balance slightly low acid, 12.5%; quick finish. Not very exciting, but also nothing objectionable in this wine which, well chilled, would make an agreeable and quite reasonably-priced quaffer. ($7.) BEST BUY


2000 Viognier
California "Sierra Series"

Light yellow; (initial sulfur-dioxide?) citrus, peach, cantaloupe, lees, and wood in aroma; initially harsh, austere, mineral, (chemical?) flavors were flat and lacking fruit; body; tart (sour?) balance; slightly tannic, slightly bitter, slightly hot in finish, 13.5%. Renwood needs to pay attention, if they expect to be in the Viognier market. ($10.50)

Smith & Hook
1998 Viognier
Arroyo Seco

Light amber; unpleasant, overripe stench (sulfur-dioxide? corked?); bland, flat minerally, "rubber band" (slightly oxidized?) flavors, completely lacking in fruit; bitter, hot finish, ??%. What happened here? Bad winemaking, bad storage, or some of each? One taster's remark: "Tastes like wine drunk through a hot garden hose." ($14.50)

This Panel included Regulars Kevin, Deanna, Glenn, Marlene, Jon, Ray, Tammy, James, and Guest Peter
Next Viognier •  About Viognier




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