INSIDER'S PICK: 2013 CALERA WINE CO. VIOGNIER CENTRAL COAST (Vinous 90points) $21.99
Viognier is a tricky grape to maneuver into great wine, in that making it “Bigger” does not automatically make it “Better”. The grape is best known for its intense flowery aromas, among the most distinctive and flamboyant single scents in the wine world. But the beauty is also in its balance. When done well, there are cool and refreshing notes behind the wild floral and tropical sides, an attack of a thousand knives instead of a single sledgehammer. But too often the desire to push the intensity leads to letting the grapes hang for a long time, and the ‘Reserve’ wines become heady with alcohol or cloyingly sweet from increased sugar in the grapes, as well as losing the balancing effects of natural acidity. It’s one of the reasons Virginia has done so well with the grape over the years, as many of the better ones have come from vineyards that gain cooling influences from the nearby mountains. California can fall victim to the over-sized versions of Viognier, but some producers like Calera (best known as one of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers since the mid-1970s) have always been able to maintain that balance as well as anyone.
From the first pour the tell-tale Viognier aromas of wild flowers and white fruits jump from the glass, with some hints of mint and lime in the background. The aroma is big, but not over sized. On the palate the fruit is big and juicy and beautiful, fleshy and round with lots of fresh pulpy flavors, and just enough citrus skin tannins to give the sensation of actually biting into the fruits themselves instead of drinking some extract. When a Viognier is TOO big it can be hard to enjoy the glass once you get past the initial impact of the first sip. When done like this, it is a joy to drink from start to finish.
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