Viognier Blind Tasting III: Honey Moon Strikes Again!

Hello Friends,

This past Saturday, Corcoran Vineyards in Loudoun County hosted another Viognier blind tasting, and, I must say, the results surprised me yet again. If you recall, the past two blind tastings of Viognier have had something in common. The winning wine was the least expensive wine and made by the same producer. This time, against stiff and more expensive competition, lightning strikes three times, as the Honeymoon Viognier 2008, a $5.99 bottle made exclusively for Trader Joe’s, wins again! The two previous vintages of Honeymoon that won were the 2005 and 2007.

"The Art of Tasting" with Wine Superstar Mary Watson

Evaluating these wines were a great cast of palates, ranging from the casual drinker and lover of Virginia wines, to wine industry professionals, well familiar with the exquisite and exotic white wine grape variety of the Northern Rhone. Thirteen Viognier wines were tossed into the mix and bagged prior to pouring. The tasters only knew that they would taste Viognier wines. This was to avoid any preconceptions a taster may have about a wine, based on the label, price, country, producer, etc. I mean, a $99 wine is always great, right? And, a $15 wine is dull and uninteresting, right? Absolutely not! Thus, we removed such influential factors and used the UC Davis 20-point scoring system, which breaks down elements of sensory perception and lends itself to objectivity, for what is a rather subjective experience.

Getting Ready to Roll Out the Viognier!

Prior to the tasting, Virginia's own wine superstar sommelier, Mary Watson, did an informative and entertaining “Art of Tasting” presentation, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Lastly, we had a few rules: there was no table talk or cheese allowed, both of which can influence how the wines are scored. As fun as it sounds, there is a little work involved. Enough of Dezel’s rambling; check out the rankings and scores below.

Honeymoon 2008 Viognier $5.99 (3 Time Consecutive WINNER!!!)

1. 2008 Honey Moon Viognier (California) Price: $5.99 Score 15.7
This is Honeymoon’s third straight win! These victories have come against stiff and more expensive competition, such as Condrieu, some rather nice Virginia examples, Washington State, and other wine producing regions. Somehow, this inexpensive Trader Joe's exclusive is able to capture the style of Viognier that I have found to be to the liking of many Virginia wine lovers. The 2008 was not as lush and rich as the 2005 and 2007 vintages, but it offered inviting stone fruit aromas with a touch of tropical notes and honeysuckle undertones, that transferred beautifully to the palate. Hey, it’s cheap and has a great quality-to-price ratio, and after winning three consecutive blind tastings, those in and out of the industry need to drop the $6 and see what is going on in this bottle. This wine tops a lot of more expensive examples of similar style in my opinion based on QPR. (Order tasted 4th)

2. 2008 Bridgman Viognier (Washington State) Price: $12.99 Score 14.6
While I got the hint that the majority of tasters did not prefer oak influence in their Viognier, they had no choice but to be kind to Bridgman’s latest effort. Good fruit flavors, from apricot to pear and lemongrass, moderate acidity, and seamless oak and fruit fusion; to note, this wine was very lightly oaked. The Seven Hills 2007, another refined example of Viognier from Washington State took 2nd place at the last tasting. (Order tasted 3rd).

3. 2006 Rappahannock Cellars Viognier (Virginia) Price: $22.00 Score 14.3
No surprise here; their 2005 vintage received the distinguished 2006 Governor's Cup for their 2005 vintage under then winemaker Stephen Barnard. Rappahannock has a good reputation for putting out consistently good Viognier wines. (Order tasted 12th)

4. 2006 Prince Michel Viognier (Virginia) Price: 18.99 Score 14.2
Nice example; good citrus and stone fruit qualities bordering on tropical, aromatic, medium bodied, creamy, a true crowd pleaser. (Order tasted 13th)

5. 2008 Sunset Hills Viognier (Virginia) Price: $24.00 Score 14.0
Medium bodied, tropical notes, a pinch or two of spice, enjoy it now – a very good wine! (Order tasted 2nd)

6. 2006 Delfosse Viognier Reserve (Virginia) Price: $25.00 Score 13.9
Citrus notes, moderate acidity, some stone fruit, medium nose. (Order tasted 10th)

7. 2008 Chrysalis Viognier (Virginia) Price: $29.00 Score 13.8
Pleasant tree fruit and citrus aromas, nice texture and mouth-feel, well-balanced, a consistently good producer of Viognier wines. (Order tasted 6th)

8. 2006 Chateau des Charmes Viognier (Canada) Price: $19.99 Score 13.6
One of those love it or hate it wines; that being said, I have been told that 2006 was an extremely miserable (wet) year for grape growers. (Order tasted 5th)

9. 2008 Casillero del Diablo Viognier (Chile) Price: $8.97 Score 13.2
Soft nose, soft fruit flavors, sort of a neutral wine for a Viognier. (Order tasted 1st)

10. 2008 Veritas Viognier (Virginia) Price: $20.00 Score 12.4
(Order tasted 8th)

11. 2007 Sunset Hills Viognier (Virginia) Price: $24.00 Score 12.3
Floral and fruit nose with soft vanilla and toasty oak notes; to a majority of the tasters this wine showed too much oak influence, shadowing the fruit. (Order tasted 7th)

12. 2007 Corcoran Vineyards Viognier (Virginia) Price: $20.00 Score 12.0
One of the more popular Loudoun County Viognier examples, so shocked to see it ranked here; tasters thought this example was more neutral than what you would expect from the Viognier grape variety. (Order tasted 9th)

13. 2008 Barrel Oak Viognier (Virginia) Price: $N/A Score 11.8
This wine will not be released until October or November of 2009, but a bottle was submitted for this tasting. This wine is better than where it is ranked, but sort of proves my point, that Virginia Viognier drinkers generally do not prefer their Viognier wines oaked; especially those that are clearly noticeable. Get out and try this wine; it’s made more in the Condrieu style - ironically, a wine many Virginia Viognier drinkers say they enjoy. I guess, they forget that it is traditionally barrel fermented in 1/3 new French oak with the remaining using 1 to 3 years old oak barrels. (Order tasted 11th)

Click Here to see first Viognier Blind Tasting

Click Here to see second Viognier Blind Tasting

Happy Sipping!


Stay tuned friends ...more to come!

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