Viognier (pronounced Vee-Ohn-Yay) is a very special grape and one that must be handled with great care. The Viognier grape/wine is a special treat. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes and acidity, but it is also a very picky grape. It is very easy to lose to mold and because of this wineries will plant roses next to the grape vines to act as a canary for detecting mildew early on. The grape needs to be picked late otherwise; it does not generate the classic perfume that we are used to seeing in Muscat and Riesling wines. The wine maker has many choices with how he/she wants to manage the grapes. The wine maker can allow the wine to go through malolactic fermentation (to give it a bit more weight) or let the wine lie in the must (to give it more perfume) or to let it have a bit of wood to give it roundness. With all the choices and difficulties that Viognier wines have, they rarely meet expectations and are therefore, not one of the current popular white wines. Finally, Viognier is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines, also the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner.
The 2012 Dalton Viognier Reserve Wild Yeast is a very special wine, and one that really shows the wine making skills of the Dalton Winery. To start, Viognier is one of those grapes that are super finicky to grow and produce. A Viognier is classified by its creamy and rich consistency, famous Viognier perfume, and rich fruit, all packaged in a dry white wine. It differs from Chardonnay, because where Chardonnay normally has residual sugar (non fermented sugar that adds a lift and some sweetness), Viognier is normally bone dry. It is ironic that when you taste this magnificent wine, you may initially think this is a sweet wine, but instead what you are sensing is the ripe fruit and the rich perfume that make this wine a truly successful Viognier!
I have been waiting with baited breath for this wine to be released, and I must stress that this wine is different to some extent from previous vintages, but equally lovely. To start this wine is pure oak, and a wine that you would think was a total disaster – but you would be VERY wrong! This is a classic example of a wine that needs time to let the oak settle and let the fruit appear! What fruit WOW! Once that oak becomes a background, rather than a primary sense, you get the full throttle Viognier effect! The lovely flower perfume, followed by the wine’s classic oily texture makes the waiting all worth it!!! Read the rest of this entry
Well this past weekend was quite a busy one, as I was enjoying the Shabbos meal, but also thinking about my quick trip to New York for the Jewish Week tasting. This year the GKWE (Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza) was canceled so the only cross-importer wine tasting was going to be the Jewish Week City Winery tasting, which was on a Sunday afternoon! That meant I either stay in NY for Shabbos (not happening), or I fly out late Saturday night for NY and pray I get there in time – barely did – but that is a different story for another posting.
We enjoyed the usual lemon rosemary roasted chicken, quinoa, and a fresh salad, along with my very last bottle of any Dalton Viognier :-( Again, I have stated before, Dalton is releasing a new 2012 vintage of this lovely wine – when it is ready. The best kosher Viognier out there, are from Midbar Winery, Yatir Winery, and Teperberg Winery, but the most anticipated Viognier release will undoubtedly be the 2012 Dalton Viognier – which will be out and about in a bottle by mid year – so LOOK for it, it will be worth the effort.
Until then I will have to live with my memories of this wine. As a side note the wine was made with wild yeast, which while it sounds sexy is really not something most folks will pickup in the wine. However, who cares, the wine is lovely and anyone who has some of these bottles – it is in drink now mode. Finally, this was a shmitta wine – and though I do not drink them normally – this was bought before my change of heart, and was made legal to drink via a process, but not one that you can use going forward – email me if you care. The wine note follows below:
2008 Dalton Viognier Reserve Kosher – Score: A-
The nose on this gold-colored wine screams of toast, butterscotch, honey, orange blossom, and peach. Overtime the wine’s nose also shows off rich white chocolate and spice. The mouth is bright and balanced with good oak influence but also ripe white and tropical fruit, asparagus, grapefruit, and lemon, all wrapped up in an oily texture and rich mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with caramel, straw, melon, and pineapple. This was the last of my bottles and one that could have lasted a bit more – but is at its peak for sure – so it is in drink-now mode.
This past weekend we enjoyed a quiet shabbos dinner with one of my favorite dishes, my wife’s Lemon Rosemary Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken Recipe. Along with the roasted chicken we made some lovely quinoa and fresh green salad.
To pair with the chicken and quinoa I opened a bottle of the 2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast. Six months ago we opened one of our two bottles of this lovely Viognier elixir and it was tasting fantastic then and it is tasting great right now! It is a bottle that I have really loved for sometime and one that Dalton stopped making after the 2009 vintage. As stated here, the great news is that I tasted the new 2012 Viognier and it was awesome and it should be on the market in the next year or so. Until then we must wait and live with whatever Dalton Viognier you may have laying around or get a bottle of the 2009 Yatir Viognier.
Personally, I found the bottle to be great, even though others have said the bottle is dead or dying. It was because of these statements that I must come out and state whole wholeheartedly that “the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”! The wine tasted lovely, it was bright, and rich with lovely summer fruit and I miss it already as it was my last bottle. Yes, I am having serious withdrawal issues, and I only finished drinking it a few hours ago. Till the new Dalton Viogniers come out, I will have to drown my sorrows in a bottle of Yatir Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, or Midbar Viognier. The other options; Yarden Viognier is too Yarden (oak), the Galil Viognier was OK (as told here), and the 2009 Goose Bay Viognier is nice but I hope they will be pouring a new vintage at the Kosher Food and Wine Experience and/or at the International Food and Wine Festival.
In the end, other than the Yatir Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, Terra, or the Midbar Viognier there really is no other kosher Viognier out there that is in the same league. It makes me so happy that the Dalton Viognier is coming back – so look for it very soon.
The note follows below:
2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast – Score: A-
The nose on this light gold orange haloed colored wine is expressive with honeysuckle, butterscotch, toasty oak, floral notes of jasmine, peach, and apricot, with the honey, toast, lemon, and butterscotch showing itself more expressively over time. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and oily, layered, and textured with cut grass, grapefruit, melon, summer fruit, pineapple, all balanced well by bright citrus and acid, and mouth rounding oak. The finish is super long and spicy with smoky notes, caramel, cinnamon, rich honey, and candied fig.
I cannot help but continue to wonder out loud why Dalton would give up on such a wonderful wine and go with the Dalton Alma white blend, which was OK at best? How could you stop producing a wine that is beautiful and luscious yet still balanced and rich, a wine that reminds me of a basket of fruit on an oil slick surrounded by a garden of violets and honey bees! Yeah the oil slick may be a bit off-putting, but I really wanted to get across the idea of its viscosity and mouth coating ability.
The wine is clearly one of the best kosher Viognier wines out there. For the longest time, I have lamented on the fact that there are no fantastic Viognier wines in the kosher world. Yarden’s is too – well Yarden, oaky and big, the Goose Bay is good every so often, but not to this level, and the Yatir and Galil are OK as well, but they both lack the viscosity, honeyed notes, and true fruit heft of the Dalton Viognier.
Viognier is a white grape that it is closer in style to a Chardonnay than to a Sauvignon Blanc. All wines can be operated on – but classically these are the styles that the white wines have:
1) The Sauvignon Blanc – can be as clean lined and crisp as a Sancerre and become fat and a bit ugly like in California, and everything in between. Still the classic lines of a Sauvignon Blanc are crisp clean lines, with intense fruit and floral flavors. If picked early there is more green, if picked too late there is more of a fruit bomb which winemakers turn into a fat wine because of all the sugars – or manipulate it by decreasing the alcohol. It is commonly high in acid and is not meant for a long shelf life – though many a Sancerre have lived long lives – mostly because of the crazy acid and mineral characteristics that come from the terroir.
2) The Chardonnay is the wine that we all know and can have many different lines. It is a grape which by its nature is screaming to be modified. The grape loses its crispness early on as it ripeness but in its place comes the weight, fruit, and body. The more oak that is applied the more toast, espresso, smoke, and spice flavors get introduced. The grape has less acid as it ripeness but gains more fruit. This is the real quandary with Chardonnay – when do you pick it? When it sits on the vine for too long you get a ton of fruit, little or no acid and high alcohol. To counter act that wineries will de-alcoholize the wine and add pH as well. Again – Chardonnay is a grape that is screaming to be managed. However, when done correct you can either get nice green and floral wine with less acidity than Sauvignon Blanc, but still enough to hold the wine up and enough fruit to carry the day. Or you can make it California style and lose the acid but gain nice weight and body (from the fruit, alcohol, and oak) – but pH added still tastes fake to me.
3) The Viognier grape/wine is a different beast. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes and acidity, but it is a very picky grape. It is very easy to lose to mold and because of this wineries will plant roses next to the grape vines to act as a canary for detecting mildew early on. The grape needs to be picked late otherwise, it does not give the classic perfume that we get from the Muscat and Riesling grapes. Depending on if the wine maker puts the wine through malolactic fermentation (to give it a bit more weight) or let the wine lie in the must (to give it more perfume) or to let it have a bit of wood to give it roundness. In the end, the wine is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines and the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner.
The Dalton Viognier lacked the insane perfume notes but instead showed crazy honey and floral notes, maybe even more potent than perfumed and intense all at the same time. The note follows below:
2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast – Score: A-
WOW! This wine is like pure heaven in your mouth and drives me crazy to think that Dalton would give up on this wonder for the Alma white blend that is not in the same ballpark. The nose on this wine screams from the second it hits your glass with roses and violets (classic Viognier notes), followed by lovely lychee, pineapple, and peach. The mouth is round and so seductive with a silky smoothness that is elevated by the wine’s rich viscosity, along with lovely honey, and grapefruit, while being balanced with bright acid and cut grass. The finish is long and spicy with hints of cloves, toast, and caramel. This is a wonderful wine that has a year or so left in the tank. Drink one now and enjoy it again in 8 or so months. What a shame that it is not being made again.
This past week we had the extreme honor of having the company of Jeff Morgan, from Covenant Winery, Benyamin Cantz from Four Gates Winery, and John Herzog, the west coast manager for Royal Wines. The evening was filled with lively conversation around and about food and wine. The varied points of conversation moved about like a weather vane in a hurricane, all of it thoroughly enjoyable and informational, to say the least.
We started the meal off with Kiddush on a glass of 2007 Dalton Viognier Reserve, Wild Yeast. It was as good as I remembered it, from the last time I tasted it at the 2010 Gotham Wine Extravaganza. It was rich and smooth with lovely acidity and bright summer fruits that were wrapped in a bee’s nest of honey, caramel, all gathered from flowers that abound in the area (metaphorically of course). That was followed by some Challah that the Rabbis’ wife made, which was nice, but I did miss my wife’s whole wheat Challah, no slight of course intended.
The courses started with some smoked wild salmon and some smoked farmed salmon, along with black olives, and hummus. The Dalton Viognier easily stood up to the hummus and smoked salmon and was quickly laid to waste (again metaphorically).
The next course was my sweet and sour brisket, brown Basmati rice, and a fresh green salad. To pair with the meat, I opened two bottles, and I wish I had opened them both earlier. The first was the 2001 Capcanes Peeraj Ha’bib, which I had opened a few hours before, and was thoroughly enjoyable, but was time to drink up, and I think was helped by opening it, to allow it to hit its potential. The second wine I opened was the 2001 Yarden El Rom, which is lovely, but needs time to air out and open. We quickly made waste of these as well, but I wish I had opened the El Rom earlier, to allow it to show its best characteristics. Finally with desert we enjoyed some Tzuba Port that I brought back from Israel.
Jeff of course was super generous and brought over some of his trademark wines, as did Benyamin, but we never got a chance to enjoy them, I hope we can rectify that problem soon!
Again, I want to thank all our guests for making the evening as memorable as it could be, and I hope we get another chance to do it all over again, in the not too distant future. The wine notes are below:
2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom – Score: A
The notes on this wine have not changed drastically, the tannin is still kicking, the mouth equally as rich, and the heat has dissipated. This is one of the best wines I have tasted from Israel. The wine is still a bit closed, so an hour or two of air time would be of great help! The nose on this brilliant and deep garnet to black colored wine is filled with heavy layers of blackberry, cassis, raspberry, tobacco, and oak. The mouth on this wine was also a bit slow out of the bottle, but that changed quickly enough. The mouth was complex and multi layered. This is no simple wine, it hits you in waves. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still tannic though the tannins are breaking down and adding even more opulence to this rich and mouth coating wine filled with blackberry, cassis, rich sweet oak. eucalyptus, and almost jam like – but not in a chewy annoying way – more in a rich and cultured manner. The mid palate follows off the first set of layers and is where the structure comes in. The structure is built on tannin, acidity, and lush layers of vegetal flavors. The finish is crazy long and is filled with blackberry, cassis, chocolate, tobacco, rich dirt, slight vegetal notes, and sweet wood. This is really quite a fine wine and one that is not yet peaked at all, though quite enjoyable now as well.
2001 Celler de Capçanes Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera,Montsant – Score: A-
Drink up – this wine is lovely but is really at its peak or a drop past it!! The score from previous tasting is a bit lower then the first score we gave this wine, and the same as my second tasting, but not because of tannins. The notes are very much in line with my previous tasting. I recommend opening the bottle 1 hour ahead of time, and NO more than that and enjoying it then. This bottle will not last four hours after opening, so drink now and enjoy. The nose on this deep black colored wine, with a bit of a brown halo, is popping with blackberry, plum, cassis, sweet cedar, herbs, raspberry, licorice, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied and mouth coating wine is now smooth and layered with blackberry, plum, black currant, and cassis. The mid palate is packed with lovely tannins, bright acidity, and concentrated black fruit that comes at you in layers. The finish is super long, spicy, and concentrated with cloves, herbs, blackberry, plum, raspberry, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The wine lingers long with cedar, plum, tobacco, rich vanilla, and chocolate.
2007 Dalton Viognier, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this light gold orange haloed colored wine is expressive with caramel, honeysuckle, butterscotch, toasty oak, flora, melon, lemon, peach, and apricot, with the honey, toast, lemon, and butterscotch showing itself more expressively over time. The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is oily, layered, and textured with melon, peach, apricot, citrus, and honeysuckle. The mid palate is still rich and balanced with acid, butterscotch, caramel, oak, and spice. The finish is super long and rich with butterscotch, rich honey, caramel, summer fruit, and melon.