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by Fred McMillin
for May 5, 1998

Make Way for Viognier


Prologue

"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"


The Rest of the Story

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.


The Wine

1997 Viognier, Santa Barbara County
Rosenblum Cellars, Alameda, CA.
Composition—100% Viognier
Grape Source—Fess Parker Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
Alcohol Content—A resounding 14.4%
Oak—Only a light touch of French and American
Food Affinities—Serve before and during your chicken or fish dinner.
The Bad News—Only 795 cases.
Price—$15 range


Postscript

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!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


 


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