Saturday, April 30, 2011

Putting the "Yay" back in Viognier

Viognier is a tricky little grape; almost as tricky to pair with food as it is to pronounce (Vee-own-YAY). The difficulty arises in the low acidity. Acidity is what cleanses the palate after each sip, and what compliments the flavors in your favorite cuisine. Wines without much of their own must be paired with foods high in acid in order to be successful. A Viognier is great with salad, fruit, or hard cheese, but try it with a rich, creamy alfredo sauce and you'll have a flabby-tasting disaster on your hands.

But the River Aerie Viognier from Washington's Columbia Valley is uniquely high in acidity - for the varietal, anyway. This isn't extremely surprising when you think about it, because high acidity tends to be a trademark characteristic of Washington wines. It's part of the reason I like them so much. I had it with some (granted, quite acidic) pizza and while it may not have been a perfect pairing, it was certainly serviceable.

The aromas were pretty standard for Viognier, in that they were predominantly floral. But instead of the usual intense perfume, the honeysuckle and gardenia bouquet was supported by some tempting scents of juicy peach. The palate was more perfumey than the nose, and very much what a Viognier should be: like a walk through the garden. Honeysuckle and gardenia return, along with lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, and seductive nerula. The finish became fruity, with peach and succulent pineapple and a charming, grassy finish.

All in all, a rather delightful little bottle. Perfect for porch-sipping on a sunny spring Saturday like today. 

Date: 3/27/11
Wine: River Aerie
Grapes: Viognier
Vintage: 2006
ABV: 14.1%
Origin: Columbia Valley, Washington
Color: light gold
Nose: peach, honeysuckle, gardenia
Palate: still very perfumey and floral up front, jasmine, nerula - finish on peach and pineapple and grass.
Price: $8

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Lion In Summer

Well, I found your go-to white and red for this summer. They're both tasty and straightforward, and they're only seven bucks. You're welcome.

Interestingly enough, they're also both in the same series from the same winery: R Wines' Red Lion Chardonnay and Red Lion Cabernet.

Let's start, as we would in a tasting, with the white. This is one leggy blonde! Bright straw color in the glass, and a luscious viscosity that just doesn't quit. To be honest, it made me a bit nervous, but the alcohol doesn't overpower the fruit in the slightest. Because the fruit itself is so intense. The bouquet  is a tropical symphony of coconut, banana, and papaya, with some marshmallow and toasty oak on the finish. The flavors are also tropical but somewhat citrusier (yes, I know that's not a word. It is now.) than the nose, leading off with piquant starfruit, pineapple, banana, papaya, and juicy mango on the finish. Well-integrated oak throughout does its job of highlighting and supporting the fruit without overpowering it (I hate it when my Chard tastes like tree. I know I'm in the minority here, but that's just how I feel.) but the most pleasing thing about this wine is the mouthfeel. Full, round, and silky.

And just for the record, pairing it with Theo Chocolate's lemon-filled confections is like heaven in your mouth.

Date: 3/27/11
Wine: R Wines Red Lion Chardonnay
Grapes: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2007
ABV: 13.9%
Origin: California
Color: straw
Nose: coconut, banana, papaya, marshmallow, toasty oak
Palate: well-integrated oak, starfruit, pineapple, banana, papaya, mango. full, round, and silky.
Price: $7

The Red Lion Cabernet isn't quite as complex as the Chardonnay, but still enjoyable. A dark brick red in the glass, it offers up enticing aromas of blackberries, black cherries and cream, and ... pie crust. Seriously, pie crust. That was a first for me. 

Upon sipping, a tight core of smooth, sleek tannins delivers a clean shot of fruit right to the center of your palate. Perfectly streamlined acid. This wine screams "barbecue" to me. It sounds like this: "OH PLEEEEASE PAIR ME WITH BARBECUE! SOME STICKY RIBS! SOME JUICY BURGERS! OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE I'LL TASTE SO GOOOOOOD!" Just like that.

The truth is, neither of these wines are hyperbole-laden, write-home-to-Mom, killer amazing once-in-a-life time deals. But they are good, and they are great food wines, and they are seven dollars. And they have kooky labels. And Stelvin closures (aka: screwcaps). Which makes them the perfect choice this summer for potlucks, camping trips, family get-togethers, or just pizza night with the pals.

Date: 3/27/11
Wine:  R Wines Red Lion Cabernet Sauvignon
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2006
ABV: 15%
Origin: California
Color: brick red
Nose: blackberry, black cherries + cream, pie crust
Palate: same; tight tannins but smooth, nice acid.
Price: $7