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A Golden Surprise: Virginia Viognier

The 2009 Barboursville paired wonderfully with some antipasti.

I must admit I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Virginia wine country, where the recent Wine Blogger Conference took place. The Oxford Companion to Wine notes that “Chardonnay and the red Bordeaux varieties do exceptionally well [in Virginia], and interesting wines are also made from Norton, Touriga Nacional, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Viognier and Petit Manseng.” After reading this passage, I suspected there might be a few standouts, but that most wine would be just “eh.”

What a wonderful surprise to find wine after Virginia wine tasting really good. And I don’t mean just “good for Virginia;” these were world-class wines hiding in the picturesque foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on par with wine made just about anywhere.

I was especially delighted by the quality of the numerous Virginia Viogniers I tasted, which ranged from crisp and floral to lusciously rich and soulful. The Oxford Companion to Wine mentions that “there has been considerable experimentation with [Viognier] all over North America, notably in Virginia and Canada.”

I would venture that the time of experimentation with Viognier in Virginia is over. They know what they’re doing.

Here is a list of some of my favorite examples:

NV (non-vintage) Horton Sparkling Viognier “Dom Virginion”: It’s unusual to find a sparkling Viognier even in Virginia, perhaps because it’s “a pain in the ass” to produce, according to the winemaker. But this cheekily named bubbly is worth seeking out. It offers ample small bubbles, a yeastier nose than I expected, a fine medium body and zippy acids.

2010 Horton Viognier: Blended with 11% Petit Manseng, this expression of Viognier had a restrained floral nose and some ripe apple character on the palate. Fun perhaps with some crab cakes or a pork cutlet. Horton’s 100% Petit Manseng is also quite tasty; it reminded me of barely ripe pears.

2009 Barboursville Viognier: Crisp and minerally, with food-friendly acids (perhaps the result of harvesting on the early side of ripeness). Light on its feet, but a serious wine.

2002 Barboursville Viognier: Wow — voluptuous and rich. Despite its age, it still expressed a hint of tropical fruit in the aroma. A very romantic choice, this wine proves Viognier can age with impressive grace.

2010 Chrysalis Viognier: A beautiful wine, with the classic floral nose. It felt a bit buttery in the mouth, but ample acids maintained balance. Some chalk came through towards the end of a long finish. Simply lovely.

2010 Breaux Viognier and 2010 Veritas Viognier: I’m afraid my tasting notes on these two wines, sampled during our final dinner, are a bit sparse. I simply wrote “Yes!” next to their names. But I think you get the idea.

But Virginia is not just Viognier. Stay tuned for the Red Report.

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5 Comments to “A Golden Surprise: Virginia Viognier”

  1. Sounds like we have another Virginia Viognier convert! This is of course why Viognier was recently designated as Virginia’s signature state grape.

    We have made believers from many in the wine blogosphere over the last year via several Virginia wine Twitter tastings. Most recently, we hosted a Virginia Viognier Virtual that featured a few of the Viogniers you noted above – all were well received and made a few new Virginia Viognier fans. Really glad to see this level of recognition for Virginia Viognier. Cheers!

  2. Hi Frank,

    I am indeed a convert! And perhaps a bit of an evangelist – I’m going to talk to my favorite wine shops to see if I can get them to carry some Virginia goodness.

    Cheers to you!

  3. The UK loves Virginia wines. Check out my blog for more information. winesofvirginia.blogspot.com.

    Regards, Chris Parker, New Horizon Wines

    • And with good reason – they’re making some really good stuff down there. It sounds, rather ironically, that you might be able to get Virginia wines more easily in the U.K. than we can in Chicago!

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