This week’s featured wine, Sawtooth 2004 Viognier, comes from the state of Idaho. Idaho! I think that’s kind of exciting. Even though it is located right next door to Washington State, you don’t see too many wines from Idaho around here. In fact, virtually all of the domestic wines sold in wine shops here come from the big three states: California, Oregon and Washington. But, did you know that wine is made in all 50 states? How much fun would it be to host a tasting of wines from Montana, Alabama or Hawaii? Okay, maybe I’m the only one who thinks that’s a good idea.

Viognier is thought to have originated in Dalmatia and subsequently been brought to France’s Rhone Valley by the Romans. Although it thrived in France for around 2000 years, by the mid to late 1960’s, Viognier was nearly extinct! This was due, in large part, to the disastrous phylloxera epidemic of the 1800’s that wiped out most of the wine crops throughout Europe. These days, Viognier is experiencing a bit of a resurgence. It is now grown in France, Australia, South America and many other parts of the world. It does well in several U. S. states including Washington, Texas, Colorado and Virginia. Still, it is not a hugely popular grape (like everything else, though, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before it is “discovered.”) Part of the reason that Viognier is not more prevalent in the wine market may be due to the fact that it is a notoriously difficult grape to grow. It is prone to mildew and must be picked at just the right time in order to display its unique aroma and flavor characteristics. Those finicky Viognier grapes!

Viognier is probably best known for its concentrated aromas and lush, tropical fruit flavors. These wines typically display a deep, golden color and a rich, creamy mouthfeel. Honeysuckle, orange blossom, apricot and tropical fruit aromas are all characteristic of Viognier. Although the bouquet commonly suggests sweetness, the wines are normally dry on the palate. Viognier is often compared to Gewurtztraminer and Chardonnay. These wines have a low acidity and frequently have sky-high alcohol contents. Shellfish and spicy foods, especially Thai and Vietnamese dishes, are great matches for Viognier.

For dinner, I made shrimp tikka but, instead of making the mango salsa from that recipe, I accompanied it with this sweet and sour mint chutney. I served the shrimp with sautéed pea shoots and steamed black rice. The brilliant orange shrimp combined with the black rice made this quite a stunning meal to look at. The shrimp was very flavorful, and the chutney provided an appealing sweet, spicy and refreshing note to the meal.

The wine was definitely intense. Its aroma reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite place – flowers mixed with some sort of sweet and strongly-flavored fruit. Robert and I both thought it tasted like apricot nectar. It was almost oily in texture; really thick and full. Definitely not a gulper, this wine. To be honest, this is not my favorite style of wine. I generally prefer whites that are crisp, light and minerally or herbaceous. But, it was good, and I did enjoy drinking it. And, it was a very nice match with the shrimp tikka and mint chutney: an exotic wine for an equally exotic meal!

1 Comment »

  1. I just had enjoy the last bottle of 2004 Viognier and it was absolutely amazing. Strong peachy flavor accompanied by delicious grilled fish and sauted spinach. Bravo! Seeking for more Sawtooth…you got me hooked!

    Comment by Lenka — May 22, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

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