Is Virginia for Viognier lovers?
With 82 of Virginia’s 228 wineries producing Viognier, this vivacious varietal is set to make a name for itself in the state for lovers. In 2011, the Virginia Wine Board decided to designate Viognier as the state’s signature grape, hoping to brand it as a Virginia specialty, much the same way that Cabernet Sauvignon can be associated with Napa or Pinot Noir with Oregon. With such an astounding array of styles and character, Viognier certainly isn’t a bad grape to hitch your proverbial wagon to. Generally, wines from this varietal fall into two main styles: bright, lively and slightly sweet with plenty of stone fruit, apricot and honey, or a full-bodied, drier version that exchanges some of its fruit forwardness for oak and vanilla nuances. Virginia does them both, and does them both well.
Noticeably absent from the 2013 Governor’s Cup Case, one might wonder if Virginia Viognier is really the standout that the state was hoping for (though just one wine in the Governor’s Case is a non-red, and that was the 2008 Trump Winery Sparkling Rose). Still, here are three outstanding wines that make perfect partners for seasonal spring and summer dishes:
- 2012 Delaplane Cellars Viognier: My favorite Virginia Viognier, this wine is an excellent representation of the dry style. Aged in oak to soften the flavors, this wine is the perfect alternative to Chardonnay. On the fuller side of medium-bodied, this wine offers a beautiful, creamy texture and lingering finish (if you can stop sipping long enough to appreciate it).
- 2012 Horton Vineyards Viognier: This wine, from the vineyard that started the Virginia Viognier lovefest by besting its California counterparts back in the 90s, boasts delicious honey notes, blended with subtle oak nuances.
- 2012 Veritas Viognier: Packing the brightest fruit of the three recommendations, this wine is full of orange blossom and white peach. It offers the slight sweetness most people expect from Viognier, with honey and more orange fruit on the palate. Drink alone, or pair with foods that can stand up with the strong elements of this standout.
Whether Virginia will achieve global acclaim for its Viognier remains to be seen, but this thick-skinned grape may be just the right metaphor for Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry as it looks to take on heavy hitters from California and Condrieu on national and international stages.