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Virginia Really is For Viognier

True to form, I seem to be one of the last participants in the Virginia Viognier virtual tasting to post a recap. In the spirit of not accepting responsibility for my personal time management ineptness, I blame the recent 12 hours a day coverage of The British Open, and FIFA Women’s World Cup, and my wife for requesting that I mow the lawn and help with a sundry of house work items while she deals with sleep deprivation associated with having a new born, all wrapped in a summer-induced streak of laziness.

On May 6, I posted a piece about the Virginia Wine Board’s decision to designate Viognier as Virginia’s signature grape.   As expected, this decision resulted in a lot of buzz and chatter within the Virginia wine industry, and the ‘Signature Grape‘ post resulted in several dozen comments that provide excellent insights and opinions from several of Virginia’s winemakers (take a few minutes to read thru the winemaker comments).

As previously noted, this announcement from the Virginia Wine Board was timely as I’ve been working on a small side project, an e-book entitled ‘Virginia is for Viognier – A Guide to the Viogniers of Virginia.’  After the announcement I decided to gussey-up the ebook up a little, so finishing has taken longer than expected.

I started the Viognier ebook project because I’ve become a huge fan of Virginia Viognier over the last couple of years and have come to believe – through much research (aka – tasting) – that Viognier could be the future of Virginia white wine in terms of gaining prominence in the global marketplace.

As part of their strategy to introduce Virginia Viognier to a wider audience, the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office organized a Virginia Viognier virtual tasting on July 14th that included wine and food bloggers throughout the US as well as handfuls of Virginia wine fans right here in the Commonwealth.  The tasting also served as an introduction to Virginia Viognier for many wine bloggers bound for the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA, set to begin on July 21.

The virtual tasting included six excellent examples of Virginia Viognier, and more importantly showcased Virginia’s diversity of Viognier styles – from a sparkling Viognier, to crisp, steel fermented examples, to robust, creamier examples. (see this previous post on a list of participants).

In terms of exposure, this tasting was a huge success and by far the largest of the four previous Virginia wine virtual tastings.  According to Row Feeder statistics, there were over 1,200 #VaWine tweets during the tasting (6:30pm to 9:30pm ET), from 90 different tweeters, resulting in over 2.8 million potential impressions.

An interesting point about these statistics is the fact that only 18 bloggers were provided wines for the tasting, but there were 90 people tasting & tweeting about Virginia Viognier during the event.  Because of the pre-event buzz on Twitter coupled with the Facebook page promoting the tasting (created by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office), many Virginia wine fans throughout the state joined the virtual conversation by popping the cork on their favorite Virginia Viognier.

This virtual taste & tweet resulted in a lot of national and international exposure that Virginia wine would not have otherwise realized.  This level of exposure is one reason these virtual tastings have become so popular both here in Virginia, and in many other regions.

I’m sure the social media savvy wineries realize the importance of this level of exposure and value the buzz created, and I hope to see these tastings continue beyond the Wine Bloggers Conference (on a different scale).  In the end, I’m not sure what all this exposure really means… other than, well, exposure.

Like many of the other participants, we gathered a small group here at Ch. Morgan, paired the Viogniers with three cheeses recommended by Elaine Khosrova, Editor of culture Magazine (a nationwide magazine dedicated to the amazing world of cheese), to specifically pair with these styles of Viognier (thanks, Elaine!!!) – Nancy’s Camembert from Old Chatham Sheepherding in New York, French Epoisse, and a Grayson from right here in Virginia.

Below are details of each of the wines featured in the tasting along with a few tweets from the event.  (* Disclaimer:  Each of the wines provided as samples to participate in this tasting.)

The history of Virginia Viognier starts with Horton Vineyards founder, Dennis Horton.  This is one of the few sparkling Viogniers that I’m aware of, and the only one I’ve ever tasted.  Follow Horton Vineyards on Twitter: @HortonWine

@MichaelHeny1: from the oldest Viognier vines on the East Coast, planted 1989  <–cool fact!

@Melanie0: @hortonwines Okay, VA viogniers have my attention #vawine #vaviognier.  This is delightful.

@HortonWine: early pick in 98, it only made sense to make bubbly, the one wine we were never going to make

@TheOther46: Nice apricot, green apple and a touch of peach on the palate for the @HortonWine Sparkling Viognier #VAwine @HortonWine

@DMWine: @Hortonwine – the NV sparkling Viognier. Only a crazy visionary like Dennis H would think of this.

Located in Charlottesville, VA, Blenheim was founded in 2000 by musician Dave Matthews.  Part of the Monticello Wine Trail.  Blenheim wines will be poured at WBC11 event on Friday evening at Monticello.  Follow Blenheim on Twitter: @BlenheimWines

My notes: @BlenheimWines #VaViognier like summer roadside fruit stand: peaches, apricots, whiteflowers, honeysuckle in background

@KrisChislett: Very round on the Blenheim #viognier, very rich with certainly a lot in the way of tropical fruit

@TheOther46: I could stop after the @BlenheimWines Viognier.  Well-made, balanced and terrific QPR.  #VAwine

@KrisChislett: @BlenheimWines #vaviognier is perfumey like a muscat. Killer!

@VaWineEvent: Yum – anyone else getting overripe apricots and acacia in the #vawine Blenheim #vaviognier?

Follow King Family Vineyards on Twitter:  @KingVineyards

My notes: Something unique about King Family Vineyards – Polo field adjacent to tasting room  #VaWine #VaViognier #WBC11  http://yfrog.com/kjm0ccpj

My notes:I’m getting stronger peach syrup type of components on King Family

@WineHarlots: @KingVineyards Viognier 2010: Straw color, aromas of florals, honeysuckle, honey lemons…

@lenndevours: This is what I like in #vaviognier. Rich, but balanced. Fruit with floral/tea notes. This is a winner. < Agreed!

@SwirlSipSnark: lots of melon and honeysuckle – Matthieu has a very soft touch with his wines that I’m coming to really enjoy!

Founded in 1976, Barboursville is one of Virginia’s most notable and established wineries.  The Barboursville team recently completed a new 12-acre planting of Viognier vines.  Follow Barboursville on Twitter:  @Barboursville and @BVilleUncorked 

My notes: First impression of Barboursville 2009 #VaViognier… little petrol and lemon action

@DMWine: Barboursville doesn’t use oak on its Viognier. lots of lees stirring on tank.

@WineHarlots Barboursville Viognier 2009 :: Gold color, austere with lemons and apricots and well-balanced acidity.

@Raelinn_Wine: Barboursville #vaviognier #vawine  gorgeous. pronounced honeysuckle.

@KrisChislett: Banana, butterscotch, peach and honeysuckle, a little lemon on the finish.

@AnotherWineBlog: I like the tartness of the @barboursville  Really works with Stilton w lemon peel

Follow Cooper Vineyards on Twitter: @coopervineyards

My notes: Peach, baked peach, grilled peaches… RT @WineWonkette: Cooper has lots of fruit on the schnoz!

@DMWine: Cooper – lemon curd brûlée, limo cello, with an odd maple syrup note on finish. We’re kicking up the oak here, I think.

@WineWonkette: This one works with the cilantro lime goat cheese butter, but it makes it taste way more grapefruity! #VAWine #VAViognier #WBC11

@CooperVineyards: On lees 6 months, stirred every 3 weeks

@KrisChislett: Candied lemon zest and pineapple on the @coopervineyards I’m thinking the most full-bodied of the bunch!

Follow Delaplane on Twitter: @DelaplaneCellrs

My notes: One of the (original) growing number of true Rhone Rangers @DelaplaneCellrs

@VaWineTime: This has some big oak! It needs food…crab cake, spicy fish, something.

@AncientFireWine: @DelaplaneCellrs crispness perked up with a spicy chicken skewer. very nice!

@WineWonkette: I get the Pecan Pie on @DelaplaneCellrs too, now that you mention it!

@WineHarlots: @DelaplaneCellrs Viognier 2010: Pale yellow, orange blossom, honey, lemons with a creamy consistency

@VaWineInMyPkt: Personally, loving this one…I’m an oak girl…

A few general comments (tweets):

@suburbanwino: everyone’s talking about hot vintages.  But 5 of 6 wines are under 14%.  That’s cool (pun intended?)

@dmwine: For me, Viognier performs better with acidity rather than oak, delicate balance of freshness and body.

@TheOther46: Virginia is for Viognier!

@statweestics: #vawine is getting popular, +900% the last hour

Be sure to checkout what a few of the other participants thought of the event:

Thank you to the Annette, Amy, and Mary Catherine at the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for organizing such a great tasting (especially during this crazy busy time), and a special thanks to the teams at Horton Vineyards, Blenheim, King Family Vineyards, Cooper Vineyards, Barboursville, and Delaplane Cellars.

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