Get to Know Viognier

My 17-year-old just pulled out of the driveway with a car he bought today. His first car. Remember your first car? The power you felt when you were behind the wheel of the literal manifestation of freedom? The things that happened in that car and the places you went that you would never want your mom to know about?

Thank God I have wine and comfort music. As the Indigo Girls harmonize perfectly on “Closer to Fine,” I pour myself a glass of Illahe Viogner. The aroma of honeysuckle and orange and citrus fills my senses. I sip. Delicious. (I don’t use delicious with wine often, but this is an appropriate description for this Viogner.) It’s slightly sweet with lime and tangerine and green apple and pineapple and more honeysuckle. It’s almost creamy. There’s some good acidity happening. A few sips and I am actually feeling a little closer to fine.

One of the first things I look for when I’m learning about a new winery is the sustainability practices the winery employees. Illahe, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, takes a low-impact approach to their natural winemaking.

From their website:

Illahe is a LIVE-certified, Salmon Safe vineyard. We use cover crops on the entire vineyard. We are part of Oregon’s Deep Roots Coalition, and as such do not irrigate mature plants. We do extensive green pruning and conduct plant topping. We prune by hand and harvest by hand. We use sulfur spray to control for powdery mildew and botrytis.

We aim for balanced production and optimal ripeness. This includes a program of no irrigation, leaf pulling to decrease shade, and dropping green clusters after veraison. One of our goals at Illahe is to reduce the use of fossil fuels throughout the year. We have solar panels and we use our horses, Doc and Bea, to mow and to bring grapes to the winery at harvest.

That’s some impressive sustainability cred.

If you’re unfamiliar with Viognier, now is a good time to dive into a bottle or two. It’s frequently compared to Chardonnay, but while I’ll rarely choose a Chardonnay unless I’m familiar with it (I’ve had one too many glasses that have made me feel like I was sucking on a log), I’ll happily choose a Viognier if one is available. Viogner usually spends time in oak, but I’ve never had one that was too oaky for my taste.

Viognier is often described as smelling like rose petals and orange citrus. Perhaps you’ll smell peaches or pineapple or honey suckle, also. Actually, you’ll smell what you smell. If you pick up something different, you’re not wrong.

It can taste tropical and citrusy, and it’s a little sweet but it’s the fruit flavors and not residual sugar that gives it sweetness — usually. It’s food friendly, and it’s acidity makes it good with some fattier meats that other white wines may not pair so well with.

Disclaimer: Illahe sent me a bottle of their Viognier as a media sample.

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