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Cristom Viognier Estate 2011


$26.95 Regular

in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case




On the nose there is no doubt to the Cristom Viognier's identity, with streaks of honeysuckle, blueberries and ripe pear. The palate is sumptuous but never big; kept focused by a lemony fringe from start to finish. As it winds down and notes of crushed rock develop in the distance, I can almost feel the breeze off of the Rhone River as it curves by the town of Condrieu. (I keep my eyes closed, lest I open them and realize that I'm actually on a couch on a rainy day in Alpine.)

Viognier is a grape that I love dearly. Condrieu, the famous French Viognier, is a secret passion of mine. How can you not love the stuff, given its predilection to sumptuous fruit and an enticing perfume. The catch is that these same qualities which winemakers often try to highlight can often run amok. I've had examples of domestic Viognier that were so soft I wanted to pour them over ice cream or use them to season an old picnic table.

Without acidity, all wines are hopeless; no energy, no mouthwatering zing, they flop around like a dieing fish and are about as fun to drink as warm water. Add to that the too-much-perfume conundrum and you've got a recipe for disaster.

The more elegant versions of Viognier from France's Northern Rhone Valley (Condrieu is the best, imho) express this perfume in subtle measures, letting it waft gently rather than penetrate. Those wines also have balanced amounts of acidity, giving the wine vibrance and lifting it up, even amidst its sometimes substantial textures.

In this country, balanced Viognier is, quite simply, a rarity. That is why I like this one from Cristom Vineyard. Their estate-grown version, produced in very small quantities, reminds me of those impeccably balanced wines of the Northern Rhone. - Jean

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