The Viognier grape lives a complicated existence on Stolpman Vineyards. If the vines were human, they would certainly require counseling. They are only occasionally praised on their own; namely in 2001 and 2010, when we made a 100% Viognier. 2007 was the only year we have ever made a late harvest Viognier.
With respect to their older brother, Roussanne, the Viognier vines are like a Prince who will never be King, at least not within the Stolpman Vineyards Kingdom. Roussanne lives the high life, sleeping in late to bud deep into April after the trauma of frost. It lazily ripens through the summer, and hangs out late, to be picked in November for our much lauded L’Avion white wine.
Viognier buds early, and shoots out of the gates, ambitiously pointed towards the sky. It sets a vigorous crop even without irrigation and gives us a fresh, lively flavor profile as early as the end of August. We happily pick a portion of the Viognier at the very beginning of harvest, as we shared in our earlier blog post. That early picked Viognier is usually blended away into our white blend, formerly known as La Coppa Blanc, and now labeled Golden Point. The Viognier gives the Roussanne a boost of fresh fruit flavor and most importantly, vibrant balancing acidity.
Then, throughout the Syrah harvest, La Cuadrilla slowly picks just a few pounds of Viogneir each night, filling up one small yellow bin for every thirty five bins of Syrah. This 3% is co-fermented with the Syrah to intensify the red aroma and fruit profile of the red wine, but only when Sashi deems it necessary. And still, a little bit of viognier is left over each year, hanging on the vine to ensure the noble Roussanne will finally ripen enough into manhood to be fit for the Kingly L’Avion. If not, Viognier is there to step in and boost the Roussanne through natural chapitalization.
Unfortunately for Viognier, now that the Roussanne vines have some maturity and are well into their teenage years, Viognier hasn’t been needed in the blend since the 2007 vintage of L’Avion. So what do we do with the orphan viognier fruit, the raisined and multi-colored grapes left behind after helping both the Syrah and the Roussanne?
We make the ultimate pairing for Pumpkin Pie: Late Harvest Viognier
The 2007 Late Harvest Viognier shows beautiful notes of Coconut Cream Pie, Pear, Jasmine, and nuttiness within its rich, opulent, coating mouthfeel.
This year, we pressed the Viognier immediately and the juice measured in at a whopping 38 brix. Sashi thinks the final product will come out at a similar Residual sugar level as the 2007, somewhere around 10-12 grams per liter. The juice tastes of classic Viognier flavors: white flowers, peach, honeysuckle, and spices derived from raisination including cardamom, cinnamon, and all-spice.
The amazing thing about Ballard Canyon is that there was no Botrytis or mildew present when we picked on November 13th. The subsequent juice is pure. Therefore, Sashi put the tanks in our cold room and will leave it there a total of two weeks to allow all the particles to settle to make sure the juice is totally clear. It will be the only wine we inoculate with yeast in 2012 so we can have a precisely controlled fermentation to keep the purity of the wine. We are not looking for additional complexity from a native fermentation.
It was a truly amazing harvest in 2012 that started and ended with our mistreated Prince, Viognier. Where we broke our run of only native fermenations with Viognier, we did not use sulfur on a single lot that came into the winery this year. It was a naturally glorious vintage!