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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2009 Cass Vineyards Viognier***
09CassViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $22 @ the Winery 7/5/10
A pale, almost water-white, lemon-colored wine with an aromatic nose of tropical fruit, lemon creme, apple and pear. The palate is medium-bodied with well-balanced and refreshing acidity. The flavors mirror the nose with pear and pineapple the most apparent with notes of banana, lemon and a touch of minerality on the lingering finish. Not as over-the-top fruity as the nose suggests with the 20% Marsanne giving the palate a nice creaminess to counter the acidity. This vintage delivered another outrageously high abv (15.5%), but hides/incorporates it seamlessly (for now). Delicous on its' own or with spicy seafood, this is a powerful wine for the price. This is the 4th vintage of their Viognier I've had and there seems to be a cool (even years/lower abv) vs warm (odd years/higher abv) pattern to this varietal on their estate. 2010 will keep the trend alive. I'll happily drink it regardless. Very Good QPR. (Stainless steel fermented and aged.)

2009 McPrice Myers Larner Vineyard Viognier**
09McPriceViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $28 @ the Winery 6/7/11
A pale, lemon-gold colored wine with bright aromatics of stone and tropical fruit, lemon, minerals and hints of flowers. The palate is medium-bodied, creamy and soft with flavors of mango, pineapple, peach, lemon creme and notes of minerals, melon and honey, along with a bit of heat, on the long finish. While intense and lush – was aged for 7 months on the lees in neutral French oak and underwent malolactic fermentation – it was was missing the lift of acidity, I remembered from when I first tasted the wine a year ago. Have a feeling the 15% abv and the malo have something to do with that. Certainly a flavorful version that makes your mouth take notice and one that may show a bit better with the right meal, but it's currently bordering on flabby. Should have drunk it last year. Wouldn't wait much longer if you have any left. All of McPrice Myers are produced in a very bold style that walks a very fine line of complexity and balance. This wine is no exception. A viognier that shows the grapes vivacious side, but one that will not be to everyone's taste.

2008 Cass Vineyards Viognier***
cass2008viognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $24 @ the Winery 4/5/09
A pale, lemon-colored wine with a nose of honeysuckle, stone fruits, citrus and sweet spice that just leap from the glass. The palate is round and fruity with flavors of melon, peach, lemon cream, flowers and hints of vanilla and tropical fruits on the lingering finish. Despite its ripeness the wine has just the right amount of acidity to keep the flavors well-balanced and the mouthfeel properly crisp. The alcohol is more restrained (14.5%) than the previous vintage which saves this version from being over-the-top and instead delivers an elegant yet intense wine. New World winemaking all the way. The 06, another cool vintage, held strong for over 3 years so will be hanging onto my last few bottles to see how this wine evolves. Hopefully as beautifully as that version. (Stainless steel fermented and aged.)

2008 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Viognier**
08CopainViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Mendocino, CA $20 Domaine LA 9/27/10
A pale, lemon-colored wine with a moderately aromatic nose of stone and tropical fruit, citrus blossom with a hint of honey. The palate is medium-bodied, ripe and round with medium acidity and a medium-length finish. The main flavors reflected the nose with apricot, apple, and pineapple at the forefront with notes of vanilla and minerals on the creamy finish. While I enjoyed the flavors of this wine, more subtle than many versions out there, there just wasn't enough acidity to counter the sweetness of the fruit. A bit more balance would have raised it to three stars. As is, a nice, everyday version that showcases a more cool-climate style.

2008 Halter Ranch Viognier**
08HalterViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $24 @ the Winery 10/24/11
Blended with 11% Roussanne
A pale, lemon-colored wine with a fairly subtle nose, considering the variety, filled with hints of citrus blossoms, lemon creme and stone fruits. The palate was rounder, riper and more intense than the nose suggested with medium-body and acid and a decent finish. The wine delivers flavors of apricot, pineapple, lemon creme, melon, apple and a hint of banana and yeast due to the sur lie aging in neutral oak. A well-crafted wine that showed a bit more focus with food, but a bit of heat when drinking on its own. Decent QPR but not a wine to remember. Drink now. (15% abv)

2008 Image du Sud Viognier Vin de Pays Méditerranée**
08ImageduSudViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rhone Valley, France $12 K&L Wines 1/30/10
A pale, gold-colored wine with delicate aromas of stone fruit, citrus and flowers. The palate is light-bodied and delicate with just enough acidity to balance the ripe flavors of apricot, peach and lemon with notes of honeysuckle and mango on the crisp, moderate-length finish. At 12.5% abv it's definitely more restrained than most New World versions, making it a great aperitif or seafood/citrus salad wine. I wished it had a bit more depth and complexity, but it hit all the right varietal notes and is a steal, considering most Viogniers cost $20+. Would buy again.

2008 Sobon Estate Winery Viognier**
08SobonViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Amador County, CA $16 @ the Winery 3/22/11
A pale, lemon-colored wine with a moderately aromatic nose filled with stone fruit and tropical fruits, sweet spice, lemon and hints of flowers. The palate is medium-bodied with good acidity to keep the ripe flavors of peach, pineapple and lemon in check, with additional notes of minerals, vanilla and ginger to round out the wine. The finish was medium length with predominantly banana creme notes. Despite being aged sur lie in older oak, the wine still holds true to Viognier's major characteristics, which isn't always the case. Blended with 4% Grenache Blanc, which would account for the bit of minerality. It has nice depth of flavor and balance for the price. Paired quite nicely with our sweet potato coconut curry dinner, holding onto its fruit and restraining the heat of the dish. Very good QPR. (14.4% abv)

2008 Thacher Winery Viognier, Hastings Ranch Vineyard**
08ThacherViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $25 @ the Winery 12/21/10
A pale, lemon-gold colored wine with bright aromatics of stone and tropical fruit, lemon and honeysuckle with hints of pineapple and baking spices. The palate is lush and round filled with ripe fruit flavors, moderate acidity and a medium-length finish. The flavors are intense, mostly lemon creme, peach and pineapple with notes of ginger, nutmeg and banana on the finish. While I enjoyed the depth and ripeness of this wine, it's a bit flabby. There's just not enough acidity to counter the overt fruitiness and deliver a well-balanced experience. Wish they had fully stopped malolactic fermentation, which would have given the wine a bit more structure and balance. That said it hides its 15.2% abv quite well, though I'm afraid that won't be the case for much longer. I would drink this sooner rather than later. A big, bold wine that's fun to drink, but is only for those who prefer a fruity style.

2008 Francois Villard Les Contours de Deponcins Viognier**
08VillardViognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rhone Valley, France $26 Woodland Hills Wine 2/5/11
A pale, straw-colored wine with a subtle nose of citrus, stone fruit, flowers and minerals with a hint of sweet spice. The palate was light-bodied with crisp acidity and flavors of peach, lemon creme, mineral and hints of honey and spice. Much more subtle than CA versions, which I liked. It was so crisp and clean I had no idea it was aged in 20% new oak, which only enhanced the fruit flavors instead of masking them. Not a wine that knocked my socks off, but a well-crafted one that was a bit more classy than many versions these days and better than expected for a Vin de Pays. Would love to get a chance to try his version from Condrieu. Good QPR. (13% abv)

2007 Anglim Winery Bien Nacido Vineyard Viognier***
anglim07Viognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $26 @ the Winery 3/7/10
A pale, lemon-colored wine with bright aromas of citrus, melon and stone fruit with a hint of sweet spice and flowers. The palate is medium-bodied and lush with well-balanced acidity and flavors of ripe melon, lemon creme, peach, minerals and a note of vanilla on the lengthy finish. This 100% Viognier is sourced from one of the most well-respected vineyards in Santa Barbara county and believe me you can tell. By fermenting the grapes in French oak barrels (7% new) the wine shows a bit more restraint and elegance than many other versions without losing the power and depth of the fruit. I'm not usually a fan of oak in my white wine, but its limited use here, along with aging it on its' lees, is what makes this wine stand out from the pack. At 14.4% abv, it delivers a fruit-forward though not overly-ripe experience with great depth and precision. Great QPR. Still vibrant, it has several years to go in the bottle. Glad I still have another one, though it probably won't last long.

2007 Bridlewood Winery Reserve Viognier**
Bridlewood2007Viognier.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $24 Out at Dinner 12/10/09
A medium, lemon-colored wine with strong aromatics of tropical and stone fruits with notes of citrus and flowers. The palate is light to medium-bodied with ripe flavors of peach, honey, melon and lemon with bright acidity and a refreshing finish. A well-crafted wine that shows what Viognier is all about without being heavy or too alcoholic, like some Central Coast versions. Wished it had a bit more depth and persistance of flavor, but was still enjoyable and actually delightful with our spicy food, which brought out the fruit and balanced the heat of the dishes. Have had this wine vintage after vintage over the past 7-8 years and it delivers a consistently pleasant experience. Always happy when I find it on a wine list.

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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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