Virginia Viognier: A Tasting. Part One Of Two

Pretty Viogniers all in a Row!

This last Thursday (7/14/11),  I was given the the unique opportunity to participate in a wine tasting unlike anything else I’ve ever been involved with before. The tasting itself actually ties in quite nicely with my coming trip to this years Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville (details to follow). All the wines were indeed from the great state of Virginia.
Now I don’t know about you, but for me Virginia, when I think about it for any great length, doesn’t immediately conjure up images of wineries and vineyards. However, the people at are doing everything in their power to change that perception.
They approached me a few weeks ago (mainly due of my participation in the WBC) to join a Twitter tasting of 6 different Viognier wines over the course of 2 hours. It sounds like a long time, but I promise you it’s not!
I’ve participated in a couple of Twitter tastings before, but never with as many as 6 wines. The basic premise is that over the 2 hours, each of the 6 wines will be given 20 minutes for everyone to taste and “tweet” their notes online. Some, as I do, also post photos along the way. It adds a much more visual aspect to the whole thing. I know to some it may sound like a big wino nerd-fest, and I’m not denying that, but it’s a great way to share your opinion online and gain an insight into the thoughts of others.

It’s worth noting that I get sent sample bottles of wine for review all the time. I don’t want that statement to sound arrogant, it’s just the truth.The thing is that very rarely do wine samples I receive make it onto this site. Mainly because a lot of it is crap, but there are a few other reasons (ask me in person). Reviewing all sample bottles is a mistake I made early on, but my lesson has been well and truly learnt! I don’t want to get off on too much of a tangent, because it’s a whole topic for conversation in itself…



Horton Vineyards Sparkling Viognier (Methode Champenoise)

Horton Vineyards Sparkling Viognier - Methode Champenoise

First impression, I don’t like the label (even though I have a cat). I think they can do a little better to dress up the package. Just my humble opinion.

The Horton Vineyards Sparkling Viognier was made in the Methode Champenoise style. All this means is that the wine obviously wasn’t made in the Champagne region of France, but was made using the same production techniques as they do for Champagne. It’s a fairly noteworthy term, as there’s quite a few other ways to make wine Champagne bubbly for a cheaper price than Methode Champenoise (simple carbonation for example). What this should immediately tell you is that Horton Vineyards are taking this wine seriously.


General Tasting Notes: A bready / yeasty quality on the nose, that you often find with true Champagne. Peach, apricot, Granny Smith apple and fresh cut flowers hold together this well made sparkling Viognier. A little lemon curd and sherbet toward the finish. So refreshing, it’s good enough to drink in the morning!

Recommended Food Pairing: Very adaptable to many different pairing combinations. Great accompaniment to fruits, nuts, cheeses or simply served as an aperitif.

Case Production: 500

Retail: $25

Winemaker Bio: Mike Heny has been making wine in Virginia since 1990, witnessing the dynamic growth of an industry that now boasts international recognition for distinct wines made from unique grapes. He joined the winemaking team at Horton Vineyards in 1997. To this day, Mike devotes his days to preserving the aromatic richness of Viognier and Petit Manseng, expressing the beautiful berry fruit of Cabernet Franc and Nebbiolo, and releasing the intense richness of obscure Tannat and Norton grapes.




Blenheim Vineyards Viognier

Blenheim Vineyards Viognier

My favorite label of the bunch. Modern and contemporary, whilst also staying classy.
Established in 2000 by owner Dave Matthews (yes, THAT Dave Matthews), Blenheim Vineyards is a family-operated winery located 20 minutes southeast of Charlottesville.


General Tasting Notes: A beautiful nose that jumps from the glass at you. One of the lighter bodied Viogniers out of the 6 I tried; the Blenheim is crisp and clean, with intense apricot, ripe pineapple, mango, a little anise, and a beautifully soft finish.

Recommended Food Pairing: This Viognier will pair well with seafood and lighter chicken dishes. It also works well with aged goat cheese and dishes that have a fair amount of spice.

Case Production: 527

Retail: $19

Winemaker Bio: Born in the Netherlands, Kirsty Harmon has spent a majority of her life in Charlottesville. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1998 with a degree in biology, Kirsty developed an appreciation for wine through a job that allowed her to apprentice for famed Virginia winemaker Gabriele Rausse. After making wine for several years in Virginia, Kirsty moved west to pursue more formal training at the University of California at Davis, where she graduated with an M.S. in Viticulture and Enology in 2007.
After graduation, Kirsty spent six months at Domaine Faiveley in Nuits St. Georges (Burgundy region), France. In the Spring of 2008, she worked as a harvest intern at Craggy Range Winery in New Zealand. Kirsty officially joined Blenheim Vineyards as winemaker in June of 2008.




King Family Vineyards Viognier

King Family Vineyards Viognier

You might want to look into changing the font on this one guys! Looks very similar to the King Estate winery label in Oregon. Just a suggestion.


General Tasting Notes: A little more body and viscosity on the King Family Viognier. Peach, melon, green grapes (weird descriptor I know, since it’s made from green grapes), green apple, and with mineral and wet stone toward the dry finish.

Recommended Food Pairing: Seafood, crab cakes, white meat, and spicy foods.

Case Production: 550

Retail: $24.95

Winemaker Bio: Matthieu Finot was born in Crozes Hermitage in the Rhone Valley. He first studied viticulture and oenology at Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy. After successfully receiving his advanced BTS degree, Matthieu worked in many different wine regions around France including Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Provence, and Jura. Matthieu then wanted to gain world-wide experience. He worked in Italy and South Africa before settling in Virginia. He also teaches classes on winemaking and taste analysis at Piedmont Valley Community College.



Part two of this article to follow tomorrow…

1 Comment

  • July 16, 2011

    Frank - Drink What You Like

    Excellent recap, Kris – thanks for participating.  Look forward to Part Two, and meeting next week at WBC11.  Cheers! Frank

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