Textbook New World Viognier

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. Established out of an appreciation of winemaking, the land, and Burgundy’s concept of terroir, Cristom is known for their estate Pinor Noirs. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Cristom’s vineyards are all certified sustainable and carefully tended such that come harvest all fruit is as healthy and expressive of the terroir as possible. Cristom winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar and wines are fermented whole cluster with native yeasts, all in an effort to produce high quality and elegant wines with a sense of place.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Viognier

100% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Estate Viognier is pale straw/yellow in color with medium gold and water white hues. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, vanilla bean, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, mango, peach, white florals, wax, and herbs with an almost medicinal character. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (-) acidity and an oily mouthfeel into a rounded, long finish. 978 cases produced.

Price: $30 average (I paid $22). I would surely pay $30 for this, because it is a great example of New World Viognier, but I can call it a value much closer to the $22 I paid. There wasn’t as much depth in this that I hoped for. Pair with quail, lobster, or sea bass.

Perplexing and Fun California White Blend

Today’s Story: Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery

I previously wrote about Dirty & Rowdy when reviewing their 2018 Familiar Mourvèdre in Wildly Fun California Mourvèdre, but I will recreate their story below.

Dirty & Rowdy is a small, family-operated winery founded in 2010 by couples Hardy & Kate and Matt & Amy with the goal of producing minimal intervention “honest wines.” Known for their range of Mourvèdre bottlings, Dirty & Rowdy also produces Petite Syrah, Chenin Blanc, and blends that include a GSM and Semillon-dominant white almost all with 100% whole cluster native fermentation, either zero or minimal SO2 added, and no filtering or fining when bottled. Dirty & Rowdy sources their fruit from vineyards in Mendocino, Monterey, Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Amador Counties, with most vineyards organically farmed or at a minimum “responsibly” farmed and unique.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Familiar Blanc

55% Semillon, 16% Chenin Blanc, 15% Pinot Blanc, 10% Viognier, 3% Muscat, 1% Marsanne; 12.3% ABV

The 2018 Familiar Blanc is gorgeous medium gold/yellow in color and completely transparent. The delicate nose emits aromas of melon, peach, tropical citrus, white florals, straw, chamomile, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, this easy drinking wine displays notes of pear, golden apple skins, lemon zest, grapefruit, honeysuckle, white pepper, stone minerality, and wax. This is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity and a fully-rounded mouthfeel into a medium length finish. The wine is produced with 60% whole cluster and 40% skin native fermentation with no winemaking additives and minimal SO2.

Price: $30. Similar to my experience with the Dirty & Rowdy Familiar Mourvèdre I reviewed a few weeks ago, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and fun wine. Pair this with shellfish, roasted pork, or Manchego cheese.

Refreshing Small-Batch Languedoc Blanc

Today’s Story: Domaine Saint Sylvestre

Domaine Saint Sylvestre was established at the end of 2010 by husband and wife duo Vincent and Sophie Guizard. Located in the small commune of Puéchabon within the Terrasses du Larzac appellation of the Languedoc region in France, the domaine consists of roughly 8 hectares of vines planted to Roussanne, Marsanne, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. They produce two white wines, denoted Blanc and Le Coup de Calcaire Blanc, as well as one red, denoted Rouge. At young ages, both Vincent and Sophie joined their respective grandfathers in family vineyards and learned how to grow wine grapes. Vincent ultimately went on to learn how to produce Languedoc wines from Olivier Jullien at Mas Jullien between 1998 and 2000 before venturing on his own to clear hillsides of rolled pebbles and oak trees to plant his own vineyards. Between 2003 and 2010, Vincent worked at Domaine de Montcalmès in an effort to raise their status to become one of the top producers in Puéchabon, with the domaine using fruit from his parcels Fon de la Coste, Red Défriche, and White Défriche. These three parcels laid the foundation of Domaine Saint Sylvestre and are the source of their fruit today.

Vincent and Sophie are both highly involved in their vineyards, said to consider each vine an individual person that demands the same attention in each parcel. All vineyard work (including pruning, trellising, and de-budding) is accomplished by hand and green harvesting limits yields to a low 20 hl/ha. The vineyards are completely tilled and the only treatments used are with copper and sulphur. When it comes time to harvest their fruit, Vincent and Sophie pick by hand controlling for varietal and parcel with some picking being more selective to include only the highest quality grapes on a vine when necessary. The fruit is destemmed at the winery and crushed by variety and parcel before being fermented using only natural yeasts. The two white wines are aged in Burgundian oak for 12 months, while the red is aged in Burgundian oak for 24 months.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Domaine Saint Sylvestre Blanc

45% Roussanne, 45% Marsanne, 10% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Blanc is transparent medium gold in color with water-white variation near the rim. On the nose, this showcases aromas of lemon, apricot, stone fruit, beeswax, chamomile tea, limestone, tropical minerality, light vanilla, and brioche toast. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of lemon and lime zest, dried orange peel, quince, mango, honeysuckle, white florals, wax, and bright spicy minerality. This wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a long, dry finish. 150 cases produced.

Price: $45 (though closer to $26 if you can find this in France). This is a delicious and well-made Languedoc Blanc and will be, I presume, unfortunately hard to find. The domaine’s low yields were lowered further thanks to weather with this vintage, but the quality is all there. Pair this with herb-roasted chicken, vegetable stir fry with Asian spices, or prawns.

La La Land

Today’s Story: Guigal

Guigal was established in 1946 by Etienne Guigal in Ampuis, a small village in the Côte-Rôtie appellation of the northern Rhône region in France. Etienne arrived in Côte-Rôtie at the age of 14 in 1924, and early in his career he helped develop Vidal-Fleury for 15 years before starting his namesake venture. His son, Marcel Guigal, took over management of the Guigal domain in 1961 when Etienne was struck with temporary but total blindness, and Marcel was joined by his wife Bernadette in 1973. As Marcel and Bernadette worked tirelessly to expand the family business (namely by purchasing Vidal-Fleury in the early 1980s and Château d’Ampuis in 1995), their son Philippe (born 1975) grew amongst the vines with expectations of one day joining the domain. Today, Philippe serves as Guigal’s oenologist alongside his wife Eve and the two strive to produce the greatest wines of the Rhône Valley.

Guigal has experienced significant expansion since their first acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in 2001 when they purchased the domains Jean-Louis Grippat and de Vallouit to not only strengthen their stature in Côte-Rôtie but expand into the Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Crozes-Hermitage appellations. In 2003, Guigal started producing their own wine barrels to not only learn more about the entire wine production process but control another facet of their business. Guigal expanded yet again in 2006 by purchasing Domaine de Bonserine, and made strides in 2017 by purchasing Château de Nalys in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to establish a foothold in souther Rhône.

Today’s Wine: 2004 Côte-Rôtie ‘La Turque’

93% Syrah, 7% Viognier; 13% ABV

The 2004 La Turque is mostly opaque and medium ruby in color. This requires at least an hour decant, but then the nose blossoms to emit aromas of plum, blackcurrant, bing cherry, licorice, cola, smoked game, loamy soil, white truffle, flint, cracked pepper, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of ripe red cherry, redcurrant, candied raspberry, dried blueberry, forest floor, graphite, earthy mushroom, leather, smokey tobacco, dried green herbs, and mineral. This supple and elegant wine is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. 350 cases produced.

Price: $300. Though not one of the “greatest” vintages of La Turque, this is an exceptional wine drinking beautifully right now. I would say this has another five years left in its prime drinking window and could be a great introduction to Guigal’s “La La’s.” Pair this with wagyu filet mignon, grilled lamb, hare, or pheasant.