Treana 2008 Marsanne / Viognier (Central Coast, California)
Price Point: $18-20
Color: Deep, Golden Honey (White)
Varietal(s): Marsanne, Viognier
My Rating: 16 (1-20 scale)
I hope my e-mail followers remain patient while I formalize the editing process here. I promise to have it done within the next few posts, so that when I post, it is posted. Blogger Desperately Seeking Editor!
OK then. If you remember how I described my last wine, the Clos du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay as high in alcohol and needing to be matched with food, this bottle of golden sunshine is equally high in alcohol, yet its uniqueness allows it to stand on its own and it almost dares food to touch it. The color is a deep golden yellow. One of the colors of the sunset you see as you watch it go down over Morro Bay. The legs are full, announcing the 14.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Funny thing is this wine never gets ‘hot.’ The alcohol never overpowers it and the multi-faceted and ever-changing aromas keep punching through to the end. This is the kind of wine you want to drink with your nose, just swirl around and continue to take deep whiffs of to the very end in order to appreciate the variety of smells flying out of the glass. First came honey with a punch of apricots; the next sniff was all peaches; the next was a hint of kefir lime with mysterious but intense floral notes, perhaps honeysuckle or acacia. However, in every whiff, there was the honey with a slight waxy, lanolin undertone. Yet, always that rich, unctuous honey.
While Marsanne is the slightly predominant grape (with 55%), the floral, bright, peachy Viognier (45%) shines through on your first sip. The Marsanne provides a nice backbone and structure to the intense flavors of the lighter stone fruits such as peach, apricot, mango & nectarines, as well as a bit of a deep citrus, perhaps pineapple, which allows the acidity and structure of this wine to come through and stand up, again all wrapped up in this cloud of honey. The deep long finish lights up a hint of minerality, but just a wisp. A majority of the grapes in this wine came from the Santa Lucia Highlands, who’s cooling climate helps give the wine these stunning aromas and flavors.
We paired this with a simple meal of Pumpkin Ravioli in a Sage & Brown Butter Sauce and Chicken Chipolata with a Shallot Reduction. The wine paired well, although my favorite glass was the one I had after the meal while watching Real Time with Bill Maher (I had to – Ann Coulter was on – HAH!).
Viognier is an aromatic grape variety known for producing textural white wines with strong stone-fruit flavors. On the nose Viognier wines can be very floral, showing aromas that are quite honeyed in sweeter examples. Apricots are the variety’s classic flavor association, often with a richness that can be interpreted as ripe peach. In the late 1960’s just 40 acres (16ha) of Viognier vines were all that remained in the world. It took interest from Yalumba in Australia’s Eden Valley to breathe the first signs of life back into the variety, along with a handful of enterprising wine growers in California, notably Calera. During the 21st Century, Viognier has had a remarkable renaissance, and is now found in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the US, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan. In some locations, notably California and Australia, Viognier has emerged as a prestigious niche variety. The reason for Viognier’s former decline is also the reason for its current cachet. It is hard to cultivate and not naturally predisposed to producing healthy reliable yields. Moreover, Viognier grapes have naturally low acidity and require a great deal of sunshine to ripen properly. Too much heat and they yield overblown, hotly alcoholic wine that lacks the fresh, steely, apricot zing that is part of the variety’s appeal. It is precisely this difficult balancing act that has led to so many Late Harvest Viogniers being created. As winemakers anxiously wait for their grapes to develop the right flavors, the sugar levels go through the roof, often leaving a sticky Late Harvest style as the only option. Both Condrieu and Chateau Grillet (in France) produce sweet versions of their wines to complement the dry ones, particularly in hot vintages, which drive yields down and sugar levels up. The terroir required to produce quality Viognier is warm and sunny, with a specific soil type. The steep granite slopes of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet have proved able to create perfumed Viognier wine that confidently treads the tightrope between feminine, elegant fragrance and sinuous muscularity. On the Cote Rotie, Viognier is co-fermented into the appellation’s Syrah-based wines, and even the permitted 5% makes a significant difference to the final product. Here, the limestone soils of the Cote Blonde have proved well suited to the variety (and certainly better than the darker, ferrous schists of the Cote Brune). Other terrains have not been so successful, particularly those lacking good drainage. Californian Viogniers in particular have tended towards the over-powerful end of the spectrum, many reaching 15% ABV. In Australia, Eden Valley Viognier produces the nation’s finest examples of the variety, although the cooler areas of New South Wales are also showing significant potential as Viognier-producing regions. Ongoing DNA research at the University of California Davis has suggested a genetic link between Viognier and the Piedmont varieties Nebbiolo and Freisa
Marsanne is a full-bodied white grape that is commonly blended with Roussanne or Viognier. Often touted as a Chardonnay alternative, Marsanne has weight and structure, but often lacks the fruit and perfume needed to make it a complete wine. This explains the long-standing tradition of blending it with the more aromatic Viognier or Roussanne. The tradition of Roussanne blending has its roots in the steep, granite-based soils of Hermitage of the northern Rhone, but is also used in the broader Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations. In the Savoie and Languedoc, however, Viognier is most often its blending partner. As a single varietal wine, Marsanne can be produced in a number of styles. In Switzerland and northern Italy it is produced as both sweet and dry wines. The Marsanne grape probably originated in the northern Rhone Valley, most likely from the area around the village of the same name, and it is one of the eight permitted grape varieties in the Cotes du Rhone appellation. It is grown extensively in California and Washington, but the grape seems to have found a natural home in Australia, where three-quarters of the world’s Marsanne is now grown. Marsanne first made its way to Australia in the 1860s where it was planted in the states of Victoria and South Australia. The Tahbilk winery was among the first to grow Marsanne in the Nagambie Lakes district, and now boasts what may be the oldest productive Marsanne vines in the world, the ‘1927 Vines Marsanne‘. Old vine Marsanne has the potential to age for up to 15 years and can develop deep amber colors and nutty, orange-marmalade flavors. In its youth Marsanne may be lightly colored with straw, and even green, hues. There is a typical earthen minerality to good quality Marsanne with honeysuckle and melon notes being characteristic of the young wine. Marsanne’s berry clusters tend to be loose and the variety is more productive and less temperamental than Roussanne. In hot climates, Marsanne can struggle to develop enough acidity to prevent its weight from muting its flavor, but cooler climates can produce complex and age-worthy wine.
*The descriptions of Viognier and Marsanne were taken from wine-searcher.com and edited somewhat by moi for clarity.