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milbrandt viognier“When a Bit Player Becomes a Star”

Megan Fox started out as an extra in Bad Boys 2, Brad Pitt was an anonymous partygoer in Less Than Zero, Clint Eastwood was an extra in many films before his first feature. It happens. Sometimes the bit players are better than the stars.

Will this happen to Viognier?

Viognier is a blending grape used in Southern Rhone whites. A small quantity is often blended into Northern Rhone Syrah to give it complexity. But as a stand alone grape it has fallen on hard times. Some U.S. vintners have tried it, but it tends to be flabby and alcoholic when the grapes are harvested late, or tart and inexpressive when  harvested early, and the question of whether to age in oak or not has not been answered. It is not an entirely a lost cause; I had a good one recently from Lodi producer Acquiesce. But the grape is notoriously sensitive to excessive heat, low yielding, and difficult to ferment without losing flavor. It may be destined to become the supporting actor who is too temperamental to work with and thus gets ignored. Only in the tiny appellation of  Condrieu in the Northern Rhone does it seem to reach its potential, but even there it is hit or miss and the misses can cost you plenty.

if Viognier is to break out and become a star it will be because of examples like this one from the banks of the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

Beautiful, delicate apricot, tangerine, and rose petal aromas supported by undertones of ginger- spiced, vanilla custard play on the intense nose.  Fresh tangerine glides and slithers on the crisply mineral palate. It is medium bodied but on the lighter side for Viognier, without the oily texture often found with this grape. It is refreshing all the way through the long, very dry finish. The deft deployment of 20% new French oak leaves no apparent woody or burnt notes, just a background of spiciness to set off the fruit. Just a lovely nose. A thoroughly successful effort.

This is a small production, 620 Cases.

Score: 91

Alc: 13.5

Price: Around $18