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Getting Your Viggy On

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In recent years the Virginia wine industry has adopted Viognier as the state grape. And, as we are wont to do, wine bloggers took to exploring it, and giving it a nickname – “viggy”. (Hattip to Lenn Thompson, SwirlSipSnark and Drink What You Like – not sure which of you coined the term – claim it in the comments, y’all!)

Many of my favorite wineries down south are producing beautiful viogniers, and MissWineOH loves to share so that others will fall in love with all this slightly misunderstood grape has to offer. While this wine originates in the Rhone Valley and is best known as the grape found in Condrieu, Virginia is where I first experienced the floral nuances and bright acidity reminiscent of evenings with a glass of chilled white wine in a garden of southern flowers. You should not confuse this with midnights in gardens of good and evil, though there may have been some of that as well in the distant past. On this particular evening on a Cleveland rooftop, we gathered a group of  friends and colleagues, and 6 viogniers from around the world, and then paired them with some great summer dishes – and it was very good.

The Line Up:

Pillitteri 2010 (Canada)
Tarara Winery 2010 (Virginia)
Gerard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale 2010 (France)
Ferrandiere NV (France)
D’Arenburg 2006 – The Last Ditch (Australia)
White Knight 2008 (California)

The Menu:

All of these dishes were selected to pair with Viognier, without pairing with a specific wine’s flavor profile. I would also recommend seafood (shellfish or meaty fish), pork, or pasta dishes. These crisper wines would be beautiful with an alfredo sauce. The talented Caitlin Ziegler (@thatcaity) is a budding chef, and my daughter – and she did all the hard work that went into creating the food for this event.

Brie with Apricot Marmalade (if I can coerce the marmelade recipe from @thatcaity, you’ll get it on WineOH recipes!) 

Spinach Dip with Chunked Challah Bread

Fruit Infused Pasta Salad

Summer Squash Tart

Curry Chicken Appetizers

White Chocolate Lemon Cupcakes – with lemon garnish.

My thoughts: 

This tasting was inspired by finding a bottle of D’Arenburg, 2006 The Last Ditch at Viaduct Lounge in the cooler case, which I promptly absconded with at a decent price on an evening out with friends. This wine was probably the least viognier like of all of them – crisp with oak and cedar undertones and very little floral on the nose – almost like an unoaked chardonnay in profile. I wondered at first if I was tasting a pinot gris. Perhaps the age played a part in that flavor profile, but it was a very different style than the other wines. Try newer releases of this one. (2008 – $17)

The White Knight was playful and yet crisp – delicious lavender, orange and peach on the nose, with a smooth mouthfeel and bright acidity. I like the honeysuckle and slightly spicy finish on this wine. Its unique as a viognier on my palate, but a great wine. ($12)

Tarara showed as what I’d call “classic viognier” to me, but I’ll acknowledge a bias toward Virginia wines. It was one of the three I could identify immediately. (the other two being those above) The floral notes on the nose call to me, with melon and a buttery mouthfeel rounding out a pleasing finish with just a hint of wood. I wouldn’t call it an oaky finish, the taste is too subtle for that. I would say it was a stand out for me – very pleasing. (not sure this is still available)

Gerard Bertrand was a label I found at a trade tasting a few months ago and is readily available at an under $13 price point. It brings strong hyacinth and orange on the nose, with continuing citrus mid palate. Dry, with a bit of a short finish, not complex, but a great sipping or dinner wine at the price.

Pilletteri produces a viognier that was all pear and melon and then a slightly spicy finish. I expected a bit more oak based on some of the other Pilletteri wines I’d tasted – but this one is a perfectly beautiful specimen. A buttery mouthfeel and some vanilla on the nose, but I found no notes indicating aging in oak. ($18.20 CAN)

Ferrandier was a last minute addition to the party, and I was happy that I added it. This viognier from Domaine de la Ferrandier is out of the Pays de’Oc region of France. Its aged two to three months on the lees with a highly aromatic floral nose, full mouthfeel and strong pineapple and peach finish. Beautiful classic viognier which rightfully earned its place at the top of the lineup. It also comes in at $11.99 retail. 

All of the wines were served at about 65, and were wrapped in opaque plastic and numbered. While I knew what the lineup was, they were randomly numbered, so not even I knew which was which without tasting first.

The Results:

Our guests were asked to taste each one and then vote on each with a chip. Green (like) Red (don’t like) and White (on the fence).

And the winner, well…. that turned into a tie – with a very close second.

Ferrandiere and Pillitteri took top honors – with Tarara coming in close (by 1 vote)  – the others did well, as in none fell solidly into the “omg, I won’t drink this now, much less ever again” category – and all received at least 2 don’t likes. There were a few minds changed as participants went back and tasted a second time – there may have been an attempt at ballot stuffing, but that was promptly halted by one of our felines chasing a shadow, instead of playing with the chips.

So what do the results tell you?

Everyone’s palate is different. It’s a combination of good food, good wine and good company that makes your experience a memorable one!

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White Wines for Spring – TOWC Notes

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On a gorgeous Cleveland Spring evening, wine lovers gathered at The Olde Wine Cellar for an Ode to Spring, White Wines and Cupcakes on the deck of the wine shop. We were not disappointed with warm weather and a slowly setting sun. So what were we oohing and ahhing over on this beautiful evening with friends and strangers gathered to taste?

Wine and Cupcakes Selection

Brut D’Argent Blanc de Blancs

 Paired with White cake, custard and fresh strawberries with buttercream

How can one resist the urge to begin a tasting on one of the earliest warm days Cleveland has seen by sipping on some sparkling wine? We toasted to a new season with the very affordable and tasty Blac de Blancs from the Jura region on France.

This 100% Chardonnay has light effervescence, slight hints of crisp green apple and pear, a bit of mineral and some touches of buttered brioche at the finish.  Nice value.We paired this with the strawberry custard as a pleasing blend of light fruits. Champagne (or sparking, because even though French, this is not from the Champagne region) blends beautifully with fruits of all kinds. Think strawberry, apple, kiwi, peach… and of course you can easily add in the chocolate!

NV New Age Torrontes  – ArgentinaTorrontes Sauvignon Blanc blend

 Paired with Almond cake with roquefort icing

From one of Argentina’s most famous wineries – Bodega Valentin Bianchi, 90% Torrontes, 10% Sauvignon Blanc.

 Torrontes is the signature wine grape of Argentina. Aromas of fresh flowers and fruit, crisp, yet soft in the finish. Halfway through the fermentation process, the wine is centrifuged (spun) to halt fermentation, creating a slightly sweet, semi-sparkling wine. 9% ABV

The New Age is not your typical Torrontes, so if you are a huge fan, the effervescence may be a little shocking on your palate. That being said, for inexperienced wine drinkers, it is a great way to introduce your palate to a new grape. And if you like sparklings in general, you will probably find this to be a budget friendly one off from your usual bubbly.

Schloss Zell Mosel2007 Mosel Piersporter Michelsberg Kabinett Riesling – Germany

 Paired with Granny Smith Apple cake with Apple Cream Cheese and Caramel

Honestly, this cupcake could have paired with either the bubbly or the riesling. This wine and cupcake together just seemed like grandma’s apple strudel. Piesporter Michelsberg Kabinett is a very crisp moderately light bodied wine reminiscent of granny smith apples. The lively acidity results in a juicy clean palate feel that is ideal for a wide range of foods from cheese and appetizers to shellfish and meat.

There are so many variations on the theme when it comes to Riesling, this is your slightly off dry, slightly more acidity version. And it was a crowd favorite on our Spring evening!

2010 Tortoise Creek Wines Viognier – FranceViognier Tortoise Creek Winery France

Paired with Ginger Cake with Lemon Icing

 This Viognier, “Le Verger” is completely unoaked and therefore bright with lovely aromas of peaches, pears and honeysuckle that lead to a palate that is fresh and crisp but packed with fruit. Viognier can easily be paired with spiced dishes. I love a viognier with a sushi or fish. So I give you ginger and lemon… two of my favorite flavors with those dishes.

Viognier is meant to be consumed young, and typically will lose its perfume as it ages in the bottle, so don’t hold on to this one too long – not that you’d want to – its yummy (that’s a technical term), open it now!

2010 YardDog White Blend – Australia

Yard Dog White Blend South AustraliaPaired with Olive oil and sweet white wine cake with Basil Icing

55% Chardonnay, 18% Gewurztraminer, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Viognier, and 3% Semillon. from South Eastern Australia.

 This wine is barreled in old oak and stainless steel, so that the oak mellows the edges of the wine, but does not impart huge amounts of oak flavor – and its aged for 2-5 years, depending on the varietal, then blended prior to bottling. This one will cellar for a few years, so be sure to give it some air before sipping.

 The YardDog made me think of fish, pork, chicken… white meat dinners on a summer day. So its paired with a sweetened cake (to balance the semillion and gewurtztriminer – traditionally sweeter wines) with basil icing – one of the herbs commonly used on summer white meat dishes.

2010 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay – CaliforniaDave Matthews Band wine label Chardonnay

 Paired with Fig cupcake with Brie

Steve Reeder partnered with Dave Matthews to create this wine. They wanted to bring the traditional Central Coast flavors of spice and big fruit to their Chardonnay. This wine was aged for 9 months in oak and stainless steel, so you will get American oak on the nose.. which will calm after getting some air.

 At 13.5 % this is not a heavy Chard, nor is it a fruit bomb… this is, with some air, a lovely dinner chardonnay.

 It reminds me of sipping white wine on the deck with fruit and cheese, so I give you fruit and cheese.

If these pairings sound like fun, join us for our next public tasting on April 28 – tickets are available for the East Side tasting at The Wine Spot. Or give me a call, and we can put together a private tasting for your friends, family, company or civic group! 


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