I narrowed it down to about 3 white wines and 3 red wines I thought would be decent, were reasonably priced, and that I knew I could find here in Chicago and that we could order for her parents to pick up in California… Part way there!
So… for this first post, I’m comparing two Viogniers. I thought they’d be comparable to a Chardonnay without the whole oaked/unoaked debate that alienates so many Chard drinkers (plus, on a selfish note, I'm not a huge Chardonnay fan, myself.) It’d be good with food and a nice summer sipper. I debated choosing another Sauvignon Blanc, but thought it’d be fun to have something different. (Though if we hate them both, there’s a Chenin Blanc waiting in the wings. Split the difference between Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay.)
Further complicating things, my allergies were on the warpath, so I was using Flonase which kills my sense of smell! Doh! I decided to combat this by enlisting a friend. My first tasting I did at home in the evening, the second tasting I did with my friend, Lilly, who was nice enough to help me out (plus, she went into it pretty blind- not knowing prices or having any pre-preferences…)
The first wine I picked is a 2011 McManis Viognier from CA.
It has a nice bright, clear, straw yellow color.
On first sniff, the nose (from what I could tell) is pretty heavy on peach, but also has something reminiscent of canned vegetables going on. Not in a bad way...
The first sip was acidic and not sweet on the front, then I picked up some minerally notes and again got the vegetable thing. However, it had a surprisingly tropical fruit finish. Pineapple, I think.
On the first sip, I think I like the aftertaste better than the actual taste...
I decided to close it up and try it again the next day. With food and a friend.
The second time, it really opened up and lost some of the veggie notes. It had definitely more tropical fruit on the nose (confirmed by a non-stuffed up friend.) And this time, I detected a more viscous mouthfeel- something I really like in a wine. The tropical fruit continues to come out in the flavor as the wine opens up as well. I'm thinking, on that note, that since the first wine is a Sauv Blanc, this one might be a good bet.
The second Viognier we tried was the 2011 Yalumba Y series from Australia (side note- Yalumba does pretty good, reasonably priced wines. I dig them.)
This wine had a brighter, slightly more greeny yellow color than the McManis, but had a similar crystal clarity.
On the first go, it had a very peachy nose, with no canned veggie thing like that McManis. The taste similarly had no canned veggie thing and has a touch more acid on the front of the tongue.
However, it has more of a savory, funky thing going on as well. Lots of mineral notes come out in the aftertaste. Reminiscent of a Chardonnay, moreso than the McManis.
The second go-round (with Lilly's assistance) I detected a sort of smokiness in the nose, followed by an almost cheesy funk. This time, the fruitiness was almost undetectable. The taste had a mild apricot thing going on, but had more of a complex, veggie flavor this time. It seems to have opened up and the fruit flavor compounds have dissipated a bit. Lilly liked this one best, if it were something she'd be drinking herself. She agreed with me that the McManis is more like an unoaked Chardonnay (see my previous taste-along-at-home post) whereas the Yalumba has a more vegetal complex funk. It doesn’t really have the caramel or toasted notes of a heavily oaked chardonnay, but does taste as if it was barrel aged, likely in older oak (which is less likely to impart flavor as it has all been leached out by previous wines.)
Faced with the task of making a decision, we talked it through and ultimately decided that both were tasty and would’ve been fine for the wedding- but even though the Yalumba was a shade more complex, the mellower, fruitier McManis would be more likely to compliment a Sauvignon Blanc and not alienate folks. A crowd pleaser, if you will. Here’s hoping it’s a success!
Stay tuned for the Cabernets!