With friends visiting from California, we tasted eight viogniers single blind (bagged, but not unknown) out on the patio last night. Four were from Washington state (the only four I could find on a three store search), two were from California, one each were from Idaho and South Africa. The results were that we essentially liked two quite a bit and didn't care much for the other six. There was no third place, in other words, though I thought a couple would at least rate a 'C' from someone who likes viognier better than we do. My guests (words in quotes are their descriptors), it turned out, were no more 'into' that grape than I am. Strangely, two were bretty; I so rarely run into that in whites.
Anyway, the wines:
A) Floral, honey, stuffy old lady perfume, more RS than we tolerate, oily finish, light on acid--essentially, everything I hate about Viognier. C-. 2004 Mt. Baker Vineyards from Yakima Valley (WA) grapes. 13.6 abv, $11.
B) Extra pale. Bretty, "cabbage", "durian", minerals, good acid, dry limeade finish, "watered down squirt". C-. 03 Terra Blanca, Yakima Valley, WA, 13.5% abv, $17.
C) Green-gold. Good acidity, citrus peel, pineapple and green apple. C+. If we had bothered with a 3rd place, this would have been it simply because it had some acid and didn't have any off flavors. Jewel (a Woodbridge product), California. 13.6% abv, $12.
D) Very, very attractive nose, sweet and exotic but not cloying or strange. Banana, green gauge plum, pear, white pepper, chalky minerality, diesel, great delineation of flavors, excellent and elegantly balanced, hypnotically complex. Stunning, in fact. A real, "So maybe THIS is what viognier is supposed to be?" moment. My first place wine; and everyone else's 2nd place choice (but what do they know
). A+. 2004 Whitman Winery (Columbia Valley). $23. A big thanks to Bucko for recommending this.
E) Pineapple sherbet and washed rind cheese nose, "euw", very bright acidity, clean , crisp, limade finish (a recurring theme), "Clorox clean". C. 2005 Foundry, South Africa, 14.5% abv. $10.
F) Bright yellow. Very recognizable viognier nose but where we didn't like that in wine A, we liked it here. It wasn't stuffy, and had more fruit than flowers. Fresh, ripe pears and star fruit, some lavendar, moderate/adequate acidity, sunny--rather chardonnayish, in fact, but in a good way. B. 2005 McManis, California, 13.6% abv, $8. First place with Bob and the visiting California chardonnay lovers.
G) Light gold. Big brett nose, sweetness overwelms the acidity, simple, candied syrup flavor. Yuck. D. 2004 Maryhill, Columbia Valley, WA.
H) A junior version of wine #B with a cheesy, overripe nose. D. 2003 Sawtooth Viognier, Idaho.
Anyway, an interesting tasting with a lot of really unworthy wines. And it was the result of a pretty unproductive search for viognier. Which in itself is telling: the paucity of viognier options suggests that nobody sells viognier because there's little demand for it, but no wonder there's no demand for it when all consumers have to choose from is crap like this!
The Whitman I was only able to get by special order, but in fact I ordered three wines that Bucko recommended and this was the only one that came in. But thank goodness for that one wine, because it showed me what's possible.