Bridlewood Reserve Viognier, Central Coast 2006
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Bridlewood Reserve Viognier, Central Coast 2006 Tasting Notes

California's Central Coast appellation covers the broad area of Monterrey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, but in the case of this Viognier the breadth of choice yields a successful wine that is more than the sum of its parts. Winemaker David Hopkins has fine-tuned harvests in six of the region's vineyards for these grapes. The $24 Rhône-style wine is mouth-filling and inherently civilized. I enjoyed it in a pre-dinner hors d'oeuvre setting, perfect for a wine of this character. Four people has no trouble emptying this bottle before moving on—well prepared—to other delights.

Viognier tends to bring higher alcohol levels than most whites, in this case 14.28%, but this wine presents no apparent heat on the nose or palate. The varietal mix is 89% Viognier, 4% Marsanne, 4% Chardonnay and 3% Roussanne, similar to what I have seen in a number of California Rhône-style wines. Most of Bridlewood's wines, with the exception of their Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, are firmly in the Rhône camp.

The forward nature of this wine makes it somewhat difficult to ascribe aromatic and flavor notes; the wine has aromas and flavors aplenty, of course, but its winning attributes are more in the touchy-feely camp. On the nose, the wine shows pronounced intensity, with aromas of peach, melon, lychee, and honey, supported by a wide floral base.

The nose promises a fairly full body in the wine, and you get it. At 5.3 grams of residual sugar per liter, the Viognier pokes slightly into the off-dry camp; my notes indicate a “dollop” of sweet. The sweet fits into this mix to be sure, since the acidity holds its own. My flavor notes show peach, honeydew melon, lychee, candied cherry, and dried apricot, but as I indicated above another tasting may yield entirely different responses. It's that kind of wine.

The wine shows significant fruit pulp and mineral through to the finish, and then a surprise; I got the impression I had just enjoyed one of the sweeter single-malt scotches. I have never written this impression before (and may never again). For that matter I have never used the term “lychee” in a review before, although here I use it as if it were an old friend. Being analytical, I may be tempted to dig a little deeper into the meaning of my unusual reactions to this Viognier, but why fiddle with a wine whose basic line is one of unalloyed sensual pleasure. My intellect knows when it's licked.

Verdict: Complex and delightful
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Rhône-style wines, both red and white (and occasionally a mix of the two) have been waiting in the American wings just about long enough.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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