Weekend Wines

Weekend wines: Viognier is superb sips on the beach

May 18, 2012 at 4:23 PM ET

Bonterra /

It was late on a Sunday afternoon and a bunch of us were sitting around on the beach, soaking up some sun, talking about nothing in particular and enjoying some easy-to-drink wines. We all brought our own bottles. Nothing expensive or profound – a Long Island rose, a prosecco from Italy and, for me, a viognier from California.

Viognier (pronounced vee-ohn-YAY) is a traditional variety in France’s Rhone Valley, where it is used to make some of the world’s great white wines. It’s also grown in Australia, California, Virginia and elsewhere. In California, I have found, it often results in big, high-alcohol wines that can be unwieldy.

But that’s not the case with the one I enjoyed the other day, Bonterra’s 2010 Viognier from Mendocino County. This excellent $14 wine is fruity and fresh with alcohol at a reasonable 13.7 percent. Made with organic grapes, it’s one of my two top choices from half a dozen Bonterra wines I tasted recent weeks (click here for my review of the cabernet sauvignon).

The viognier is bursting with lime, white peach and apricot. There’s also a subtle vanilla note from six months of aging in oak. With its zippy acidity, it was just about perfect for casual sipping on a warm day in the sun and will pair well with lighter foods such as grilled chicken and fish dishes and salads. Wine received as a press sample.

I’ll be bringing you more great “beach wines” as we head into summer. In the meantime, do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.

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