by Fred McMillin
for May 5, 1998
Make Way for Viognier
"With enormous consumer acceptance and persistent demand, the future of Viognier is more than promising. It can have more depth of flavor and complexity than most Chardonnay. The very best is perhaps the finest white food wine available."
...Prof. John Baxevanis, "American Wine Review"
"In the past decade, Viognier (VEE-oh-nyea) plantings in California have climbed from 10 acres to 1,000 acres, with 90% planted in the last four years."
...Thomas Garrett, May 1997 "Wine Spectator"
While Viognier arrived in France's Rhone Valley some 2,000 years ago (thanks to the Greeks or the Romans), it reached California no more than 20 years ago. Golden State vintners were cautious, for U.C.-Davis did not recommend it...low yields, etc.
However, once a few trial plantings yielded a spicy, full-bodied, bold white, the rush was on. From only a handful of producers in the late 1980s, the number grew to 25 by 1994, 40 by 1996. One of the newest Golden State producers is Zinfandel-whiz Kent Rosenblum. Here's his first-ever Viognier.
1997 Viognier, Santa Barbara County
In 1970 I visited the Park Avenue office of the outstanding importer Julius Wile, prior to my trip to the Rhone. He told me to not miss the Valley's best white wine. It was Condrieu...100% VIOGNIER!
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