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In This Issue
 Wine Focus - Viognier Our long-running Wine Tasting 101 feature broadens its focus to incorporate novices and experts alike in this monthlong visit with the aromatic Viognier variety.
 Orleans Hill 2005 California Viognier ($10.99) Made from organically grown grapes, this tasty Viognier is ripe, juicy and attractively affordable.
 The California Wine Club Reds, Whites & You Sale: Free shipping with The California Wine Club!
 This week on
A dissertation on matching white wines with food, a poll on your favorite aromatic white, and a conversation about good, inexpensive Riesling.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Wine Focus - Viognier

It's been just over 2 1/2 years since we took our last close look at Viognier, the increasingly popular aromatic white grape that many of us who didn't grow up speaking French find easy to like but profoundly difficult to pronounce.

Practice saying it as "Vee-ohn-yay," though, and you should be able to order a glass without drawing a sneer from the snootiest sommelier; indeed, you may win praise for your sophisticated taste buds.

As I wrote in January 2004, when we took on Viognier as topic for our monthly Wine Tasting 101 feature, it hasn't been all that long when wine lovers thought of Viognier (if we thought of it at all) as a painfully rare grape variety, seen only occasionally in the offbeat, and expensive, Northern Rhone appellations Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet.

During the 1990s, though, the grape gained increasing attention - not least as an "Anything-But-Chardonnay" alternative - in California and other New World regions.

Some of the New World versions aren't easy to warm up to, particularly when producers choose to make it as a powerfully alcoholic, oak-infused points-chaser. But at its best, in California and France alike - Viognier shows luscious peach and apricot aromas with distinct floral overtones that serve as a trademark of the variety. (It may not be lost on offbeat-grape fanciers that the Spanish/Portuguese Albariño/Alvarinho, also an aromatic white that's gaining its own growing band of fans, bears a surprisingly similar aroma profile. A Viognier-Albariño matchup might make an appetizing and educational tasting.)

This fresh and aromatic quality shows at its best when the wine is young. With the possible exception of Chateau-Grillet, Viognier is not recommended as a candidate for cellaring. Drink it within two years of the vintage if you can, and don't consider it past its fourth birthday.

Viognier most often shows up in single-varietal bottlings, but it occasionally appears in blends, including a few splendid Chenin Blanc-Viognier bottlings from the Golden State. Less obviously, Viognier is a minor player in the blend of Cote-Rotie, a robust red wine from the Northern Rhone that gains a bit of complexity and heightened flavor from a splash of this aromatic white in the mix.

Our focus on Viognier this month also marks a slight evolution in the long-running Wine Tasting 101 feature, which this month moves from the Netscape WineLovers Community to our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion group and takes on a new title, "Wine Focus," to emphasize that the monthly grape variety or regional discussions are open to wine novices and more advanced enthusiasts alike. Meanwhile, the former "WT101" forum in the Netscape WineLovers Community also evolves a bit, with the new title "Wine of the Month" highlighting community tastings of a specific wine. More about that later this week.

Orleans Hill Orleans Hill 2005 California Viognier ($10.99)

Clear light gold. Peach nectar and vanilla aromas, ripe and full. Luscious texture and a hint of sweetness on the first taste segues to a finish that's more dry and tart, with medium body and a hint of alcohol (it's listed at 13.5%). Pleasant enough if just a bit awkward. It's from the same producers as the no-sulfites-added "Our Daily Red" featured last week, but the label language "Made from organically grown grapes" indicates that this wine is normally sulfited. (July 1, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Viognier's heady aromatics call for bold flavors to match, and Cantonese shrimp with lobster sauce made a fine choice.

VALUE: Nothing at all the matter with this affordable price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Viognier in general is not for aging, and this fresh and fruit-forward model is no exception. It will last through the year, but don't cellar it.

Here's a link to the winery fact sheet on Orleans Hill Viognier:

Look for vendors and compare prices for Orleans Hill Viognier on

To participate in the "Wine Focus" section in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, click

You'll find the new "Wine of the Month" feature in our Netscape WineLovers Community at this link:

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

California Wine Club
California Wine Club: Reds, Whites & You Sale

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Sorry, no substitutions. Free shipping can not be applied to previously placed orders. Sale ends July 6, 2006.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Vino 101: Grape Expectations (Part One)
Whenever Jorge Castillo presents a staff wine training for a restaurant, the same question invariably comes up when they taste a particular wine: "What would you pair this with on our menu?" In the first of a three-part series, Castillo offers a quick summary of popular white-wine varieties, with guidelines for pairing them with food.

Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

Poll: Favorite aromatic white
In honor of our new Wine Focus (formerly WT101) feature on Viognier this month, I've chosen the topic "Favorite Aromatic White" for this week's Netscape Forum poll. The ballot includes Viognier, of course, along with other likely suspects Albariño, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and the always reliable Riesling. There's also an "Other" choice for those who want to make the case for another grape. Click here to vote:

Two Inexpensive 2004 German Rieslings
Meanwhile, another favorite aromatic white has prompted an extended discussion of good-value German Riesling in our WineLovers Discussion Group. Click this link to read through the online conversation and, if you like, join in.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Supply, Demand and Pinot Noir (June 30, 2006)

 Serious Pinot Gris (June 28, 2006)

 No sulfites added (June 26, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Small Bites (June 29, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, July 3, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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