From the Northern Rhone region, specifically, le Condrieu, Viognier has been winning over hearts and palates since its lucky comeback from near extinction in 1965 when there were only a remaining total of eight acres producing about 1,900 liters of wine. Its origins are not precisely known, but it is felt to be an ancient grape. It may have originated in Dalmatia and then brought to the Rhone region by the Romans, possibly in 281 AD. Some claim that it was named for a Roman outpost, now the French city of Vienne. A more intriguing story is that the name derives from the Roman pronunciation of the via Gehennae, or the “Road of the Valley of Hell”, possibly alluding to the difficulty of growing this varietal. Our experience with Viognier in the vineyard and in the bottle, have left us with an enduring appreciation for its lusciousness and versatility.
Viognier, like Chardonnay, can be made in many styles. It is capable of fulsome plushness, but its full aromatic potential is not realized unless it is harvested late when the fruit has undergone a process called engustment in which aromatic and flavor elements are fully expressed. Our combination of alluvial soil, long hot mid-summer days tapering to warm later in the growing season and cool nights seem to bring out the best in this varietal.