Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A few Viogniers

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
Rating: 93
Jeff: Not much nose. Very smooth, buttery, oaky taste. Smooth, light finish.
Rating 95
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?)
Rating: 88
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
Rating: 85
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
Rating: 80
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.


  1. GREAT write up. It's as if someone infinitely smarter than all of us was standing in a corner, watching the whole evening, taking copious notes. We bow to your wine knowlege and vocab, Matt.

  2. I thought we were invited over for a cheese tasting. Never mind my tasting notes. The guidelines for the tastings were unclear at best!

    Also, you forgot to mention my 4 year wine tasting losing streak. I finally, more likely accidentally, found a decent wine to bring to the tasting. Couple that with Matt pulling out random Viogniers he had laying around the house then I feel my good fortune is due to his 2 year sunny window ledge storage of the 2006 Melville Viognier. I thank Matt for throwing the tasting my way for once and holding back on his laughter when reviewing my tasting notes! Thanks for the education Matt and thanks to Julie for hosting us on short notice. We had a blast!

  3. Thanks to Jeff and Beky for bringing the delicious wines and super "aggressive" snacks. Jeff, I can't believe you are criticizing your tasting notes. Did you see mine? Next time we need to start at 8 am when I am still marginally coherent.

  4. Beky,

    Thanks for the kind words. And yes, that was me in the corner with the lab coat and clipboard when Matt was "away".


    Seriously, at least you had the Summerville that you recognized the quality of at the winery when you first tasted it. All I had was stuff I picked up and hadn't yet tried. Kudos to you, Sir.

  5. Hey Matt,
    What do you know about "Root"? Uncrate just posted a thing about it, apparently a new liquor based on what root beer used to be before prohibition. $39 a bottle. Think it is accurate? Think it is worth a try? Know anything about it?

  6. Mikey,

    Consider me intrigued. Make that very intrigued. This is from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction which makes, among other things, some very cool t-shirts (I got one as a gift from Jeremy & Rachel). The Root page is here: http://www.artintheage.com/spirits-aita/
    It looks very interesting and is made from organic ingredients.

    I like root beer, I like spirits, Shazam! - it's on my to-buy list!