Thursday, April 12, 2012

Black Ankle Vineyards Viognier (2009)

Legend says that the name "Viognier" originated with the Roman words "Via Gehennae" or "Valley of Hell."  It is thought that this name was an allusion to the difficulty of growing the grape.  The difficulty in growing the grape is belied by the fact that, today, it is grown around the world.  Most famously, it is grown in the Northern Rhône valley, where it is the only grape used in producing Condrieu wine.  According to Wikipedia, Viognier grapes are also cultivated in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Canada and eleven United States.

Well, in this regard, Wikipedia is wrong.  Viognier is grown in twelve States, with the twelfth state being Maryland.  One winemaker, Black Ankle Vineyards, produces a wine made with 100% Viognier.  According to the label, the grapes are grown on decomposing slate laced with quartz, on hills that face West and North.  Only 220 cases were made of this wine. 

The author of Wine & Food: A New Look at Flavor, Joshua Wesson, describes Viognier as a rich white wine, having delicate aromas and flavors of ripe apricot and pear, with a honey finish, a buttery mouthfeel, and a relatively high alcohol content. Black Ankle's Viognier pours a light gold in color. The wine does have the aromatic elements of a rich white wine.  I could sense some pear, but there were more prominent aroma of Parmesan, honey and even a little vanilla. 

The flavors of the Viognier are also very interesting.  The pear flavors were there, along with that vanilla, and, just as Wesson suggested, a buttery mouthfeel.  The Viognier had some mild oak flavors.  It was definitely not like an oaked Chardonnay, but the wine did have some hints of a wine aged in oak.  A little buttery feel, a little vanilla, some oak flavors.

I think this Viognier will pair well with a variety of dishes.  The best dishes are seafood, particularly lobster, crab and meatier fishes like bluefish, snapper or halibut.  It could also pair with chicken and pork dishes, provided that the dishes not have heavy cream or tomato based sauces.  This wine could also pair well with dishes that feature artichokes and mushrooms.  As for cheeses, this wine would pair well with soft and semi-soft cheeses, such as Gruyere and Brie.

Black Ankle's white wines, like the Viognier, are very hard to find.  Fortunately, Clare found a bottle at State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland.  A bottle sells for about $26.00.


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