07 Stephenson Cellars, Washington State Viognier
The night started with the klink of a glass. No toast, no celebration--just the drop of three ice cubes into my neighbor's chardonnay. Paso Robles on the rocks. To be fair, it probably was pretty hot and, hey, if it tastes good drink it. But here's where I started getting worried. That Paso had nothing on my viognier, whose thick, lead-weight glass was doing everything it could to hold the 14.5% alcohol inside. But this would be warmth without fire. More hot stone massage than soup on the roof of your mouth, the Stephenson viognier is a lusty embrace of a wine--an Edenic catalog of citrus with slick, oily flavors of Grand Marnier, honey-buttered brioche, angel food cake, candied orange peel, tangerine sections, and waffles. It's a hot, heady wine, but all that alcohol actually works well here--much like in a great zinfandel--translating itself into a subtle, prickly white pepper spice that seasons and supports the fruit. It has the power and freshness that most viognier, including those from famed Condrieu, desperately lack. Viognier is a rich, forceful grape--one that has the texture of oaky, creamy chardonnay, without all that, well, oak and cream. And as a testament to that, this Stephenson study actually makes me feel more powerful. Probably just the booze talking, I know, but you really feel like you could break tables with your head after drinking this wine. I guess that's the point. This isn't a great review. It's a tough wine to write about because words aren't what it inspires. It makes you want to do something, anything, all the way.