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.