Tasting Note: Two viogniers from the North

If you’ve had wines made from the viognier grape, there is a very good chance that they came from warm, if not hot climates, and exploded with aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, over a rich, luscious mouthfeel. Acidity, crispness, freshness? Not so much.

Yet there is another way to make viognier. A more northerly way, like the direction pointed to by Peay Vineyards, one of my favorite vineyards, who make a tiny bit of it in their cool Sonoma Coast vineyards. Syrah is picked as late as the last week of October, at the Peay vineyards, and without the high sugar and high alcohol that you normally see in California syrah.

What would be the perfect place to test the possibilities of cool-climate viognier? Canada, I would say.

Case in point, the 2006 St Davids Bench Vineyard 2006 Viognier by Château des Charmes. Generally speaking, the wine feels closer to a chablis than to a Rhône wine, with the bright acidity, citrus flavors and minerality it displays. So much so that, looking at this pale wine, I started wondering if it had ripened enough. But a couple of days after the first taste, I noted that the aromas had started expressing these tropical fruit notes that are so typical of the variety. So the varietal character and the ripeness were there, after all. It just needs time to develop. I’d be interested to see where that wine is headed, after a few years of cellaring.

The Jackson-Triggs 2007 Okanagan Estate Proprietor’s Reserve Viognier, for its part, shows a riper general feel than the Château des Charmes, but without the richness of its Rhône counterparts. The winery went for hang time, and got a fair bit of sugar and ripeness out of the grapes, with apricot and pineapple notes, a little pear and some jasmine tea, good intensity and acidity that opens up on the finish, providing a welcome bit of freshness. 

To come back to my North vs South thing, the way the two wines work would cast the Niagara region as the North, and the Okanagan as the South, even though the Westernmost vineyard is further north than the Eastern one. Nevertheless, in both cases, the wines show that there is an interest in growing viognier in cooler climates, and seeing it reveal a different personality. A little bit like syrah vs shiraz,

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  1. Posted March 31, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Hello Remy,
    We appreciate your comments about our wines. Please don’t forget the differences in the two vintages 2006 vs 2007. Hang time is the norm for all our varietals but clearly the 2007 vintage is showing far more voluptuous characters across the board.

  2. winecase
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Hello Michele,

    Always nice to hear from the producer. I’m glad you appreciate my comments – which should be easy, since I appreciate your wines quite a lot.

    Indeed, even the most euphemistic vintage reports for 2006 do point out to a number of difficulties, while even the most moderate reports for 2007 tend to go superlative. Very good of you to have made a very drinkable 2006 viognier after facing an unusually humid summer and even a hurricane tail around harvest time.

    I am confident that the 2006 viognier will reveal itself as a very interesting wine over time. Since the varietal character and fuller flavors came out with oxidation, after the bottle was opened, I’m sure the same should happen with cellaring. An age-worthy viognier sounds like a good idea to me: the richer, riper styles rarely age gracefully because of the low acidity.

  3. Heather Mitchell
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m interested to hear about those Ontario efforts into viognier. Township 7 does quite a tasty viognier over here in British Columbia.
    Cheers! Heather @ http://aussiewinecrush.wordpress.com/

  4. winecase
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the wine blogging world, Heather. Your blog’s already looking good.

    I know a bit about Township 7. Winemaker Bradley Cooper is a Twitter friend and fellow blogger. I keep hearing good things about his wines.

  5. Heather Mitchell
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the supportive reply! Brad’s new wine label Black Cloud is gaining quite the momentum out here too.

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