A fresh take on an old-school French variety, from a small farm estate.
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium Body, Lush
Ripe apricot, tangerine, white flowers, fresh acidity.Pairings:
Roast chicken and vegetables, squash.
“Viognier can be oily, but this one stays nice and light,” Cooney said. “You still get nice body, but it’s fresh.” The nose is pretty, opening up immediately with notes of fresh apricot and tangerine. The ripe fruit is abundant on the palate, the finish is floral without being perfumey—elegant notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom linger. The wine’s relative weight is balanced by clean acidity. Cooney suggests pairings of roasted fall squashes or roasted meat like chicken and pork.
“They’re farmers at heart,” Cooney said of this small, family-owned estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Illahe, which means “earth” or “place” in Chinook, specializes in Pinot Noir, but they favor the Viognier grape’s surprisingly elegant expression in the cooler climate vineyards they work by hand (with the help of a few horse-drawn plows). Most often found in white wines from France’s Rhone Valley, Viognier is a rarity even in its place of provenance, where it hearkens back to centuries-old wine traditions mostly forgotten in favor of bold reds like Chateauneuf du Pape. “Everything Illahe does is old-school,” Cooney said, referring to the winery’s approach to everything from the grapes they plant, to the wooden press they favor, to their additive-free approach to cellar work.