Westerly Vineyards, Viognier 2006 paired with mâche and Asian pear salad

December 14, 2010

I’ve always had a soft spot for Viognier, and judging from the popularity the aromatic grape is enjoying today, I’m far from the only one.

Viognier was once a common crop in Northern Rhône, but by the mid-1960s, because of its low yields and susceptibility to powdery mildew, it had almost disappeared. Thankfully, since the late 1990s Viognier has experienced a resurgence – and is now widely planted in the South of France and California, with new vineyards popping up in lands as distant as Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

What’s most striking about Viognier are its luscious, intense, fruity, floral aromas and flavors. It was precisely those aromas that I wanted to pair with my equally aromatic mâche and Asian pear salad.

Westerly Vineyards, Viognier 2006
Producer: Westerly Vineyards

Region: Santa Ynez Valley, California

Grape: 100% Viognier
Alc: 14.7% 

Price: $25

Westerly Vineyards is located in Happy Canyon, on the eastern perimeter of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. “The ancient, stony soils, warm afternoons and reliable Pacific breezes are particularly suited to classic Bordeaux and Rhône varietals,” says the winery’s website. It takes only one sip of their 2006 Viognier to realize that owners Neil and Francine Afromsky have indeed found a little spot of wine-growing heaven.

The aromas emanating from the glass were signature Viognier: summer stone fruits and delightful floral notes, reminiscent of honeysuckle. And these aromas were fully delivered at fist sip – luscious peach, passionfruit, orange blossom and honeysuckle instantly soaked every taste bud. In the finish, a hint of anise sprang up and contributed wonderfully to the exotic flavors of the wine.

But luscious flavors were not the only seductive elements of this wine. It had a creamy, round texture and a balanced acidity. And even though I expected its high alcohol to distract a bit from its essence, this Viognier was well structured and altogether delicious.

Served with the mâche and Asian pear salad, the wine delivered yet again, and fully. Its floral aromas complemented and even accentuated the fragrant Asian pears, while its round mouth-feel and creamy texture balanced the slightly pungent vinaigrette and toasty hazelnuts. The distinctive flavors and nuance of this Viognier lingered on until the next mouthful of the salad.

Recipe: Mâche and Asian pear salad with hazelnuts and truffle vinaigrette

When it comes to pairing salads with wine, there are a few simple rules to follow. Read white wines and everyday leafy-green salad for a few tips about choosing a wine to go with your favorite salad.

© 2010 Viviane Bauquet Farre Food & Style NY LLC

Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

lisaiscooking December 15, 2010 at 8:45 am

Viognier is one grape that does well here, and we have some good local wines made with it. Sounds lovely with your pear salad, and the truffle vinaigrette sounds fantastic!

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Jason Phelps December 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

I fell in love with Viognier when I first had it.

I have made Viognier as part of my homemade wine collection every year since 2007. This year’s came from Lanza Vineyards in the Suisan Valley. It is just starting to drink well and I expect a little more time in the bottle will do it some good.

I love the floral aromas and the fruity body of this wine.

Thank you for such a beautiful pairing.

Jason

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Loren December 21, 2010 at 12:19 am

A good Viognier is a treat. I’ve had some nice ones out of California and A few places have started growing them in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. We made a batch a couple years ago with grapes from Chateau Labeau. They sell to several wineries in the area and occasionally allow home vintners to come in and pick. My attempt didn’t really do them justice as it came out kind of hot.

The pairing with the mache, hazelnut and Asian pear salad looks beautiful. We’ve got everything to make this within a few miles of home (including the truffles) It’s interesting how things that grow well in the same area often are so complimentary. Thanks for sharing.
~Loren

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