North American 2010 Viognier: Kunin Paradise Road Santa Barbara, and Dominio IV “Still Life” Oregon

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With two West Coast N. American Viognier’s from the same vintage I decided to taste them side-by-side.

Viognier is a grape known for the Rhone region of France. However, it no longer holds a very strong presence in that area, and since the 1980s has gained footholds in multiple locations of the United States, including the southern states. It was even last year named Virginia’s official grape. Still, it is best seen in California, and has more recently begun to show in Oregon though with smaller volume.

Kunin Paradise Road 2010 Viognier, Santa Barbara

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The Paradise Road Viognier bottles the first Viognier for Kunin from this particular vineyard plot. The site has been providing Syrah for Kunin for years, but 2010 is the first time they have specifically selected Viognier from the location.

The wine carries with it a lovely combination of clean presentation with rich flavors. The wine showcases apricot and meyer lemon, with touches of honeysuckle, marzipan, and herbal notes on the nose, turning to fresh fruit citrus and white pepper on the palate. There is a lovely minerality here as well.

At first taste the richness of the palate fooled my guess on the production choices Kunin made here. As the wine enjoys air it opens to a more obvious mineral focus, balanced with an even cleaner fruit presentation. Kunin kept this wine in entirely neutral (more than 6 year old) barrels, with no malolactic fermentation. The choice keeps the acidity balance in the wine overall. But to add body, they chose to do full cluster pressing, and leave it on lees for 7 month barrel aging.

All together, it results in a lovely wine that I very much enjoyed on a warm sunny day, and that would be a brilliant winter white as well. It’s a white with the drinkability of summer, and the anticipation of fall. The mood here is one that has grown accustomed to summer heat, and yet can begin to feel the leaves and fruit anticipating their turn.

Dominio IV “Still Life” 2010 Viognier

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Dominio IV’s 2010 Viognier, so titled “Still Life”, showcases fresh, fleshy fruit–a mix of stone fruits, and touches of jasmine, with hints of citrus, pear and lemon zest. The result is a rich flavored, relatively light bodied white that balances the opening dance of Springtime with a steady finish. This is a wine that anticipates summer–lightly tart to start with a balancing fruit sweetness, that opens to a softer, steadier presentation. This wine is crisp, while still also warm in the mouth, which I enjoyed.

Dominio IV has identified an area of Southern Oregon that does well with growing Viognier–the Rogue River Valley, with its higher elevations at 2200 feet brings together warm day temperatures with still cool nights to enliven the ripe but still crisp flavors of the fruit. They source the fruit for this wine from sustainable focused farms that Dominio IV works closely with for selection.

The fermentation here is done in a mix of mostly stainless steel, and some barrel on lees. It is then aged in, again, a blend of neutral French oak barrels and stainless steel tank. After blending, the wine is then held in tanks for a month, and aged finally for two months in bottle.

This wine is just now being released.

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Thank you to Kunin Wines, and to Dominio IV for these Viognier samples.

This week will also look at Kunin Wines’ recent red wine portfolio release, and then later at Dominio IV’s recent red wine release.

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