This weekend, our neighbors Jeff and Beky came over with some Viogniers in hand for an impromptu tasting. Jeff has long been extolling the virtues of Viognier and let me tell you, he's been preaching to the choir. They brought a bottle of Summerwood 2007 and Melville 2007 (along with a nice, sweet, late harvest Garretson Viognier for which no tasting notes were taken). I supplied what turned out to be an unfortunate Melville 2006 and Tablas Creek 2006.
Viognier is a classic Rhone varietal, which is used, unblended, in Condrieu. In California it is frequently blended with other Rhone whites (e.g. Roussanne, Marsanne) and is sometimes blended with Syrah to soften the flavors. Crisp, typically dry, flavorful, fruity and flowery, California Viogniers can be very good to excellent expressions of the varietal and are made all over the state.
Following are our tasting notes and scores. Wines were tasted blind. They are listed in order of scores, highest to lowest.
I am supposed to conspicuously point out that Jeff's wines kicked mine's butts decisively.
Summerwood Viognier 2007 (Paso Robles, Westside)
Nose: Flowers, french oak
Palate: More flowers, tart peach/nectarine, french oak, incredible balance and complexity.
Finish: Long, complex
Jeff: Not much nose. Very smooth, buttery, oaky taste. Smooth, light finish.
Beky: All around best blend. Rating 95
Julie: ...mmm, flowery, very drinkable Rating 87
Melville Viognier Estate - Verna's 2007 (Santa Ynez, Los Alamos)
Nose: Fruits, honey
Palate: Nectarine, tart, cotton-candy
Finish: Tart, fruity, sweet (residual sugar?)
Jeff: acidic, grapefruit, oak. Rating 89
Beky: sweet start, crisp, alcoholy. Rating 87
Julie: balanced, ...mmm. Rating 89
Melville Viognier Estate - Verna's 2006(Santa Ynez, Los Alamos)
Nose: Honey, some burnt/caramel apple aromas
Palate,: More caramel, burnt sugar, honey along with some tart fruit flavors
Finish: Long, tart, caramel
Jeff: sour, acidic nose. Good upfront, lingering taste. A little sour. Rating: 82
Beky: Bubbly, champagney. Rating: 83
Julie: Effervescent, old smell, tangy. Rating: 80
Tablas Creek Viognier 2006 (Paso Robles, Westside)
Nose: Not much
Palate: Dry, very light, not a lot of flavor development
Finish: Short, uninteresting
Jeff: No nose, no body, no structure, no flavor. Rating: 80
Beky: Smoky start, dry, oak, as if cut with water. Rating: 72
Julie: Dry. eh. Neutral. Rating: 70
Final Notes -
Not being used to overt oak in Viognier, it was surprising to me how well the Summerwood fared in the tasting. It was clearly the best balanced of the bunch with great structure. Almost delicate compared to the over-the-top fruit and alcohol bomb Melville, it still had a lot of flavor and complexity.
The Melville 2007 was a very good to excellent wine. After I finished my tasting notes and we had the "reveal", I found that the flavors grew on me a little bit. The Summerwood remained king, but the gap narrowed a bit. Melville Viogniers have been a long-time favorite of mine and are a California quality benchmark year after year.
The 2006 Melville was clearly past its prime. The burnt sugar flavors are telltale signs of storage at too high a temperature or too long a period. Once great in its prime, it had by now developed tired flavors.
The 2006 Tablas Creek was a big disappointment. Clearly lacking in flavor, structure and complexity next to its peers, it really had nothing to offer. This was rated highly by Parker, but was universally panned by our panel.
I'll continue to buy Melville's Viognier as I find it to be a very interesting wine and a decent value. And next time I'm up in Paso Robles, I'll certainly make a point of stopping by Summerwood to revisit their excellent Viognier.