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Category Archives: Viognier

Exploring the Rhône through a Wine Glass

During the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we were introduced to the wines of Cariñena, Spain. Predominantly Garnahca based wines, we were instantly in love. As we enjoyed the flavors of these wines, we began to yearn to explore other regions noted for their Garnacha wines. Perhaps the most famous of these regions is the Rhône Valley in France. There, as in most of the wine world, this fantastic and versatile red grape is known as Grenache.

The Rhône Valley is in the southeast of France. It is one of the oldest grape growing regions in the world, with viticulture documented as early as the 4th century B.C. The valley runs some 150 miles in a north-south direction, and as such, encompassess a wide variety of soil and growing conditions. The Rhône Valley can generally be divided into the Northern and the Southern. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is king, with the wines generally dominated by this grape. Village (and wine) names such as Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage may be familiar to you, as these are some of the more famous Syrah regions in France.

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Credit: WineFolly.com

In the Southern Rhône Valley, the wines are most often blends, with Grenache playing the lead role, usually supported by such cast of characters as Syrah and Mourvèdre. These wines are commonly known as GSM. In addition to reds, the Rhone Valley also produces some stunning white wines, from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne grapes. While we’ve had Grenache and Viognier wines before, including GSM and Viognier from the Rhône Valley, we wanted to deliberately dive into some fine Southern Rhône Valley wines to explore and get to know the region as well as the wine.

The more well-known villages in the Southern Rhône are Côtes du Rhône, a rather generic term for wines from this area, Côtes du Rhône Villages – denoting a more specific identity of place and quality, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and what is arguably the most famous and best quality Southern Rhône region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are many other villages worth exploring, but we wanted to focus on the most famous and prolific for now.

The Southern Rhône is a Mediterranean climate, as one might expect in the South of France. Long, warm summers and mild winters provide ideal growing conditions for Grenache. In addition, the Mistral winds, blowing up to 60 miles per hour, some 150 days per year, provide cooling and drying to the tight, fungus-prone Grenache grape clusters. Hold on to your hat, to be sure, but appreciate those high winds for the effect they have on this cherished wine!

Before we dive into the wines, allow us to share another little tidbit from history. The famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape is roughly translated to “New Castle of the Pope.” In 14th century, the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon, a village along the Rhône River near the southern end of the valley. Apparently the Popes enjoyed the tranquility of French countryside! In 1317, Pope John XXII had a summer residence built at what is now Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Although construction was not completed until 1333, a year before Pope John XXII’s death, the name remains and the wines from this region remain coveted for their quality.

With our interest in Southern Rhône wines, we were pleased to receive the following bottles as media samples. Tasting through these wines, we were transported to the South of France in each glass. Though we have not yet been in person, the Rhône Valley is definitely high on our list of places to visit.

Now, on to the wines!

The wines below are media samples. All thoughts, opinions, and notes are our own. No other compensation was received.

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Artesis Blanc 2016


Golden color in the glass. Aromas of white flower, light straw, and tropical fruit. In the palate, there are flavors of lemon and grapefruit, with hints of mango, and soft floral and herbal notes rounding out the mouth. Soft, full mouthfeel with vibrant acidity. The finish is medium with pleasing notes of citrus, tropical fruit, and floral. Excellent pairing with grilled sea bass and rosemary quinoa.

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Artesis 2016

Deep, rich purple color. We decanted for about an hour before serving. On the nose, luscious aromas of blueberry, raspberry, and plum with spicy notes. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, and plum, with black pepper, baking spice, and vanilla. Notes of milk chocolate as the finish develops, ending with spicy black fruit. The mouthfeel and tannins are incredibly soft, round, and smooth, with medium acidity. We paired this with, of all things, carne asada tacos with a radish-cilantro salsa, and it was sublime. A truly amazing Côtes du Rhône.

Ogier Gigondas Dentellis 2014

Deep ruby color. Decanted for about an hour and pleasing aromas of raspberry, bramble, and black pepper. On the palate, there are flavors of cherry, red currant, cranberry, raspberry, and spice. At mid palate mineral and crushed granite notes emerge, along with hints of milk chocolate and black pepper. Medium body with mild tannins and acidity. We paired this with grilled Ahi tuna steaks, and the combination was amazing! The spice in the wine really enhanced the flavor of the tuna. This is a truly amazing wine!

Ogier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reine Jeanne 2014

They call this the wine of kings, king of wines for a very good reason. Rich, complex, and delicious. Cherry red color with brick rim. Aromas of chocolate covered cherry, licorice, and smoke. On the palate there are flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry, tobacco, licorice, cloves and other baking spice, and smoky notes. Tannins are firm but smooth, and ample acidity perfect for food pairing. We had this with grilled rib eye cooked medium rare, and it was heavenly perfection. Long, spicy finish with abundant red fruit and milk chocolate. Please may I have another?

As you can tell, we were very impressed with the wines of the Southern Rhône Valley. If you’d like to travel to the Rhône in a wine glass, head to your local wine shop and get yourself some of these amazing wines today!

Cheers

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo Credits, unless otherwise noted: Kent Reynolds

References:

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Review: Franc Dusak Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016

​Franc Dusak has been one of my favorite winemakers for some time, and he continues to impress. Under the umbrella of NakedWines.com, Franc produces excellent wines from a number of different varieties of grape, and some out-of-this-world blends, too. One of my favorite wines in his portfolio is his Viognier. I’ve reviewed Franc’s Viognier before; the 2015 vintage. I recently acquired a bottle of his 2016 vintage, and I was so impressed I simply had to share about it!

Franc Dusak Viognier 2016

Sporting a brand new label design, Franc’s Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016 is just as enticing, refreshing, and delicious as 2015…maybe more so! Franc reaffirms my newfound love for Viognier with this creation. In addition to being tasty and satisfying on a hot, late-spring day, it is quite versatile with food pairing and makes a terrific addition to a variety of dishes.

Currently the Head Winemaker for NakesWines.com, Franc is a third generation winemaker. The family hails from Slovenia, and Franc honors his family heritage and the original family winery on the label. In Franc’s Instagram and Facebook posts announcing the release of the 2016 Viognier, he explains:

“The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey.”

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Today we released my 2016 Sonoma Valley Viognier with my new label! This label really encompasses everything I have wanted and worked for since I started this journey so many years ago! The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey. I hope you all get a chance to try the new wine! Thanks for all your support and helping me to make this dream happen! Cheers! #francdusakwines #nakedwines #sonomavalley #viognier Photo Cred @anid13

A post shared by Franc Dusak (@francdusakwines) on

I contacted Franc via Instagram chat, and asked him about his vision as a third-generation winemaker. Here’s what he said:

Franc Dusak

Photo Credit: NakedWines.com

“I think the most important thing for me is that I carry on the tradition of winemaking in my family. I make wine to enjoy and share with your family and friends. I am pleased when enthusiasts see the passion that I put into my wines, but my hope is that everyone can enjoy them. There is so much work and thought that goes into each wine, hopefully those who taste them can feel that.”

Personally, I clearly see the passion in Franc’s wines. Here’s my review of this amazing Viognier. I’ll be buying a case of this to get me through the long, hot summer!

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Another Franc Dusak hit! Franc’s Viognier is always delicious and this vintage is no exception.

Golden straw color. Aromas of nectarine and honeysuckle. This wine is florally aromatic; it smells so delightful it could be perfume. On the palate, flavors of nectarine and peach, elderflower, pear, and floral notes. Started well chilled, as it warmed some apricot started to emerge. With a round mouthfeel, tangy acidity, and medium body, this is a great wine for food. We had it with grilled miso shrimp and asparagus, with spinach salad and it was amazing!

Make no mistake: this is not a “sweet” wine. It is fruit forward and floral, which may be perceived as sweetness. But it is a dry, delicious white wine. Franc, I tip my hat to you, sir!

Available exclusively from NakedWines.com.

Angel Price $12.99

This wine is still available from NakedWines.com. If you aren’t already a NakedWines.com Angelclick here, or the banner below, for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more! You’ll be glad you did!

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Review: Franc Dusak Viognier Sonoma Valley 2015

Awhile back I reviewed Franc Dusak’s Sonoma Zinfandel 2013, and as I usually try to do, included a brief introduction to Franc himself. I’ve had a number of Franc’s wines, and have been over-the-moon for all of them. I recently tried his Sonoma Valley Viognier 2015, and this white wine is no exception. It is spectacular!

Without belaboring the point, and considering my crazy-busy schedule right now which has severely cut into my blogging time, here is the review I posted on the NakedWines.com site for this amazing Viognier:

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I am now convinced that my original aversion to Viognier resulted from low quality, rather than the varietal itself. Every NakedWines.com Viognier I have tried has been simply amazing! Franc’s 2015 is no exception, and Viognier is now one of my favorite white wines!

Light straw color, with aromas of honeysuckle, white peach, and elderflower. On the palate, Golden delicious apple, white peach, elderflower, and a hint of fresh pineapple, mingling with fresh, light acidity; it’s like drops of gold on the tongue. Light to medium bodied and pleasantly dry, this is a stellar Viognier.

Served with Chicken Breast with Basil-Wine Sauce (the Viognier is in the sauce!) it is an amazing, heavenly experience.

4.5 out of 5 hearts (92 – 94 points)

Angel Price: $11.99 (still currently in stock – hurry to get yours before it’s gone!)

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NakedWines.com frees talented winemakers from the burden of marketing and sales, and allows them to focus on what they do best: make unbelievably delicious wines. These are all small batch, boutique wines, that Angels (members) can purchase for amazing, discounted prices. If this Viognier, or any of the dozens of other phenomenal available wines, sound like your cup of tea, follow this link for a voucher worth $100 off your initial order of $160 or more. Free wine? It doesn’t get better than that!

 

Viogn-Yay! Review: Benjamin Darnault Viognier 2015

I’m not normally a big Viognier fan. There are just too many low quality offerings out there that are off balance, and often the characteristic floral notes come off as just sweet. When I do buy Viognier, it’s usually for white sangria. So when this bottle arrived in a sample pack for review, I was a little apprehensive.

Benjamin Darnault produces wine for NakedWines.com. His flagship wine, Minervois, a Grenache-based blend from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, is an Angel favorite. He also produces some stunning Rhône wines. I’ve had several of these reds, and have always been impressed, so this gave me hope that his 100% Viognier would be a winner, too. Here’s what I thought when I gave it a try:

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Many of the reviews here [on the NakedWines.com website] have said this is a great wine for a hot day. Well, it’s 106F today in my neck of NorCal, so this seems to be the day to give this a go!

Clear, straw color in the glass. The aromas…oh, my…the aromas! I could smell the floral and citrus aromas from, literally, 3 feet away as I poured! Honeysuckle, elderflower, white grapefruit, and mild apricot explode on the nose. On the palate, the floral notes mingle with apricot, mango, grapefruit, and lemon. Bright acidity gives it zip, while a creaminess at the back of the tongue softens it and provides a medium-full mouthfeel. The finish goes on and on with yellow citrus flavors.

Viognier is probably the only varietal my wife enjoys more than me, and I love this one! Crisp, refreshing, and delicious, this is a great hot-weather quencher, that also goes well with a variety of foods. Yum.

4.5 out of 5 Hearts (92-94 points)

Angel Price: $10.49

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If this sounds like your kind of wine, and you’d like to try this or any of the dozens of other small batch, high quality wines available from NakedWines.com, click here for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!