Viognier for Spring

I realized that I was in a red wine rut a few years ago and made a practice to try unfamiliar white wines at tastings. I quickly discovered Viognier, a medium bodied white wine, perfumed with apricots, peaches and white flowers. This stuff is amazing - delicate, yet heady; I can sit for hours just enjoying the aroma. The taste is a revelation – the silky smooth texture hits first, then the fruit and flowers explode. It’s quite wonderful.

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I use this wine to persuade anyone who claims to not like white wine to try it. A couple of years ago, I was put in charge of a company party at the office in May. With no cooking facilities, I had to use a caterer, so all the food was going to be cold or room temperature.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

As I worked with the caterer to create a filling meal to fulfill our diverse group (vegetarians, vegans, Muslims, Jewish, and several allergies), I found myself selecting interesting brightly flavored ethnic and seasonal dishes – Thai, Indian, Caprese Salad, poached salmon, grilled vegetables – what wines would go with all of that? Viognier turned out to be perfect. It has medium to medium plus acidity, making it a good match for vegetables, and those floral tones flatter spicy Thai and Indian food. It’s especially good with curries. Everyone asked what the wine was, and many of them went out to buy it the next day.

I knew that Viognier was a Rhône varietal, but it turns out that we’re making it in Washington State as well. Viognier thrives in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation, between the Columbia Valley and Columbia River at the south edge of Washington State. The steep hills allow for the heat that Viognier needs, but the well draining soil and cool nights give the wine structure.