Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Viognier 2013

Viognier seems to be enjoying quite a rise in popularity in the U.S.  In part, that may be because the grape can be grown successfully in areas and climates that are outside the well-known wine-growing regions.  For instance, Viognier is widely found among vintners in Virginia.  Virginia Viognier evidently first gained national notice in 1993 when a Horton Vineyards Viognier won top honors at a California wine tasting.  In fact, Viognier is the state grape of Virginia, and is grown by roughly forty percent of the State’s vineyards.  No surprise, I suppose, that my first Viognier was a Virginia wine.  Terroir being what it is and an integral part of the wine-making process, I was keen to see what this Trader Joe’s Viognier from the greater Sacramento area might be like.

Winemaker:  Trader Joe’s (ASV Wines for Trader Joe’s)
Wine:  Petit Reserve Viognier
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Clarksburg, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:   A bright lemon yellow, this TJ offering was light-bodied with scents of honey, citrus and fig on the nose.  Acidity was quite high – racey, even – and alcohol was at 13.7%.  On the tongue, I found this Viognier to be largely focused on one flavor – copious bitter orange.  I thought it was an interesting light white.  I didn’t dislike it, but I wouldn’t serve it at a cocktail reception.  I think it should be paired with something.  What to pair it with, though, that’s the question.  If you’ve found a successful match for this selection, please drop a note and let me know.  With all that bitter orange, I wonder if something sweet and chocolaty might work?


A Little Winery Down B’ham Way

That’s B’ham as in Birmingham, Alabama.  Not what you were expecting?  Me neither!

On a road trip awhile back I had the time for a quick stop at the Vizzini Farms Winery in Calera, AL just south of Birmingham.  It’s conveniently close to I-65 – just around the bend.

First, let me say that the staff are very friendly and helpful.  In addition, the winery building has a relaxed coziness to it.  Like many wineries these days, they have a little in-house bistro with indoor and outdoor seating.  Seems like it must be pretty popular, because there were several occupied tables when I arrived in the mid-afternoon on a Monday.  Since I was on a schedule, I didn’t have the time to linger and try their dishes.  But I was able to belly up over at the wine bar where I tasted a few of their products.  They make a full line of wines there but grow only their Muscadine grapes on site.

For the quick tasting I tried their Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Great White (Muscadine).  It was an interesting group of selections.  I didn’t take detailed notes.  I was on a road trip, after all.  Still, I did get definite impressions of several.  For instance, I was fascinated by the intense viscosity and smokiness present in their Muscadine selection.  The label indicates it’s made from Scuppernong grapes.  In addition, I thought the Pinot Grigio and Viognier were very much in keeping with what I understand to be typical varietal characteristics.  I was personally a little disappointed in the Pinot Noir.  It wasn’t terrible, but it struck me as a bit weak and lacking in character.  As for the Sangiovese, I bought a bottle so that I could ponder it at my leisure.  They were willing to waive the $6 tasting fee if I bought something.  So, of course, I did!  I’ll be posting my tasting notes on that bottle soon.

Overall, it was a nice visit.  I do wish I’d had more time to relax and enjoy their hospitality.  Maybe next time I’m that far south I can drop in again.  On the other hand, there are a number of other wineries on the Alabama Wine Trail.

Screwtop Wine Bar: Worthwhile Waiting

The Wine Rangers headed out to another nearby watering hole to sample some vino.  I was the first to arrive at this very popular spot on a Thursday evening.  Not wanting to waste the time, I succumbed to the friendly staff’s offer to serve me a little something while I hovered – with quite a few other folks – waiting for a spot.

One thing I really like about this establishment is that their menu offers wines by the bottle, glass, and sip (half glass).  That provides almost an incentive (not that I need one – lol) to experiment.

After perusing the list, I ordered a half glass of the Early Mountain Viognier 2011 from Charlottesville, VA.  This Viognier was pale straw color.  On the nose I found spiced apple cider.  It was light-bodied with the characteristic touch of viscosity, and acidity was bright.  Flavors were a solid core of apple (no pun intended) with hints of spice and a touch of fig.  It was a pleasant sipper, and disappeared all too quickly.

As my fellow Wine Ranger, Heather, was running late, I had another look at the wine list.  Unable to resist the temptation, I ordered a half glass (aka sip) of the Villa Wolf Rosé 2012 from Pfalz, Germany.  The Villa Wolf was a pretty salmon color with a floral bouquet.  Although a light-bodied wine, it  had good acidity and a fun, almost flirty flavor profile of bing cherry and lemon/lime.  Flavors weren’t heavy but light and lively.

Eventually, the Wine Rangers were reunited, and the evening began in earnest.  But a report on that adventure will have to wait for another post.  In the meantime, I wish you worthwhile waiting, too.


Honey Moon Viognier 2011

11#10  This post represents a minor milestone.  It’s the tenth installment in my tasting of wines from the local Trader Joe’s shelves.

Winemaker:  Trader Moon (Delicato Vineyards for Trader Joe’s)
Wine:  Honey Moon Viognier
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  California
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:   This was a fairly simple, straightforward wine.  It had a very strong bouquet of peach and citrus.  Primary flavors for me were peach, lime and honey.  On the finish the citrus lingers and it gets a tiny bit of grass, too.  Although not heavy, the wine has a fat feel in the mouth – as if it had a lipid element to it.  Perhaps that has to do with lower acidity.  Alcohol is 13%.   It was certainly pleasant enough to drink.  I could see this as a refreshing cooler to sip in summer.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer. 

Viognier From Virginia

Originally published 1/3/2013 at Blogarhythms.

I went out to dinner recently and had a glass of wine I didn’t expect to see on the wine list.  Here’s the long and short of it.

Vineyard: White Hall
Varietal: Viognier
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: Virginia
Price: $18

Notes: It’s great to see and taste wines from unexpected places. Although Virginia is not well known for it’s wine, it does have a well-established wine industry that can bring some nice gems to the market. This Viognier has solid yet subtle citrus flavors at the fore with an intriguing mineral on the long finish. I’m not sure if it was the food I was eating along with it, but in the middle it presented like cool spring water. I’ll have to try it again (it I can find it) without the meal, and I think it would well be worth doing so.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Big House White 2011

It seems of late that the American market is becoming more interested in blends.  Or maybe it’s just the stores I frequent.  At any rate, I saw this selection on my local supermarket’s shelves and thought I would give it a try.

Vineyard: Big House Wines
Varietal: White Wine (blend)
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:   Big House Wines out of Livermore, CA brings us a blend that is quite a mash-up of grape varietals – many among the lesser known or lesser seen – including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia Bianca, Orange Muscat, Marsanne, and Muscat Canelli.  Even with the Muscats, Big House has made a dry white at 13% alcohol.  I found it to be quite pleasing with flavors of pear and green apple, some hints of warm spices, a splash of  lime as it moved across the tongue, ending with some grass and honeysuckle on the finish.  It’s fairly light-bodied but surprisingly viscous on the palate.  At $9, why not serve it at a relaxed get-together with friends?  If nothing else, it’ll definitely be a conversation starter.  And I bet it will be enjoyed by anyone who can move past their loyalty to a particular varietal.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  Please see “About” for my full disclaimer.