2021 Alban Vineyards Viognier Alban Estate Vineyard
Jeb Dunnuck | 97 JD
The 2021 Viognier Estate is tremendously expressive and vibrant! It’s layered and complex on the nose, segueing from savory matchstick to exotic, musky perfume, candied peaches and tangerine oil. The palate offers flesh and unctuousness without fattiness, full flavors that are tempered by a powerful textural bite and flinty streaks and energetic acidity that combine to create an alluring, shimmery finish.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 94 RP
Wine Details for 2021 Alban Vineyards Viognier Alban Estate Vineyard
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: If you're in the mood for a creative, compelling white wine, few regions can compete with California, and it's immense varietal diversity. With the pure, potent essence of grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Gris, these wines will stimulate your senses and arouse your intellect. Give in, and enjoy.
: Northern Rhone is home to some of the most hedonistic wines in the world, which can be greatly credited to the mighty Syrah grape. However, the white grapes of the region produce wines just as dizzyingly spectacular and pleasure-inducing as the reds. They may be overshadowed and overlooked, but not to be underestimated. One such grape is Viognier, which hails from, arguably, the Northern Rhone’s most distinctive wine appellation, Condrieu.
The appellation of Condrieu was officially created in 1940; it has since been exclusively devoted to the Viognier grape. However, the cradle of Viognier had enjoyed the presence of this mighty white for many centuries prior to its formation. The first historical reference of Viognier was mentioned in the same breath as the Condrieu region in 1781, in Barthelemy Faujas de Saint-Fonds’ Histoire Naturelle de la Province de Dauphine, in which it was written as “Vionnier.” It is likely much older and is speculated to have arrived to France during the time of the ancient Romans. Nonetheless, the varietal enjoyed great fame and success in Northern Rhone up until middle of the 20th century when it nearly faced extinction. With only 8 hectares remaining in the region (and the world) Viognier was slowly revived by devotees and advocates of the varietal and its fortunes have been reversed with greater regional, national and international plantings.
Since its renaissance in the 1970s, the Viognier grape and the wines of Condrieu have gained increasing popularity among consumers and growers alike. Today, Viognier represents nearly 5,500 hectares of vines in France. It has traveled beyond its borders and is distributed among many localities in Northern Rhone, such as the neighboring hillsides of Chateau Grillet, Ampuis and Cote Rotie. It is also gaining traction for its success in Southern Rhone and the Languedoc. Some successful plantings have taken root in the soils of South Africa, Australia and California; however, the grape is fussy and needs great care and attention for it to prosper.
Viognier is known to be unforgiving and difficult to manage in the vineyards; it is hard to cultivate and not naturally inclined to producing healthy, reliable yields. The thick-skinned, white and amber colored grapes are mid to late ripening and have naturally low acidity which require a great deal of sunshine to ripen properly. It is quite sensitive to heat; too much direct sunlight can yield overblown, hotly alcoholic wines which lack the grape’s true characteristics. Despite its difficulties, the grape reaches its true zenith in the hilly terrain and terroir of Condrieu, which is comprised of limestone, mica, schist and granite soils.
The wines produced from Viognier are deep golden in color, with an unmistakable, heady aroma of apricots, peaches and honeysuckle. Some wines take on herbal notes of chamomile, lavender, thyme and pine, depending on the location in which it is cultivated. When Viognier is crafted into sweeter styles, the hallmark aromas are softened and infiltrated by honeyed notes. On the palate the wines can range from light and spritzy to the oaked versions of rich and creamy flavor and texture, with a highly viscous mouth-feel.
Viognier is king of Condrieu, its stronghold; it has greatly influence winemaking in the Rhone Valley and is now being internationally cultivated. It may still need an introduction to a majority of consumers; though, pleasure seekers are probably well aware of the grape’s hedonistic qualities. Viognier has come back from the brink of extinction and today is considered to be one of the most distinctive, seductive and unforgettable varieties in the world.
: As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
: With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.
Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
: For the past twenty some years, the world of wine procurement has become a truly complex industry. Of course there was the renaissance period of the seventies and eighties in Napa Valley but this new trend seemed to go back to Europe; to Old World winemaking. There was a rebirth here in the United States where California producers were perfecting a new take on the Rhone varietals. French grapes grown in Napa Valley soil - The Rhone Rangers.
Alban Vineyards is the first important California wine and vineyard producer, focusing on Rhone Varietals; located in Edna Valley in the southern corner of the San Luis Obispo appellation. There were already wineries using Rhone varietals at the time but he became the first producer completely devoted to the grapes that are native to the Rhone Valley.
Alban bought land in San Luis Obispo in 1990 which is far north in Edna Valley. Of all the other growing regions, the cooler climate there is most similar to that of Rhone. He began growing red and white grapes such as Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne. Over the next few years he would add Grenache and then ultimately release his first vintage (fruit from his 1992 vintage).
As one would expect, Rhone Varietals can be complex, as can the blending. Alban Vineyards is extremely well suited for this myriad of components at work. The vineyards consist of different soil types, exposures and micro-climates. Some of the greatest vineyards, such as 8 acres of Seymour’s where the soils are laced with chalk and limestone. Reva, on the other hand is grown in soil dominated by clay and gravel. The soils of Lorraine come from a hotter, rockier terroir.
Today, Alban’s 66-acres under vine offers a wide range of variety, including Viognier, Roussanne, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The grapes are sourced for not only single variety offerings but are also for the top wines of their vast portfolio, such as Seymour’s, Reva and Patrina; all three of which are 100% Syrah. Alban Vineyards has an annual production of 6,000 cases. Alban is an outstanding operation and has been used as a grape source for other vintners, most notably, Sine Qua Non, Au Bon Climat, Failla, amongst others.