- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Rosenblum Cellars, Viognier, Kathy’s Cuvee, Santa Barbara, 2003, $20.

Rosenblum Cellars, best known for rich, ripe red zinfandels, has produced a delectable viognier, one of the finest in California.The wine manages to evoke this grape variety’s telltale floral delicacy while at the same time being full-bodied and rich, reflecting its sun-drenched California origin. It has excellent structure and balance and should drink well through the year.

Viognier, native to France’s northern Rhone Valley, can produce wines with a haunting perfume, a bouquet redolent of honeysuckle and spring flowers. When well made, its flavors echo summer fruits like peaches and nectarines, making it a delicious choice for warm-weather drinking.

Viognier, however, presents the vintner with a delicate balancing act. Pick the grapes too early, and the wine tastes hollow. Pick them too late, and the evocative delicacy disappears. The balance is especially precarious in California, where the sunshine matures the grapes faster than in France. Few vintners get it right. Kudos to Rosenblum Cellars for hitting the bull’s-eye with their Kathy’s Cuvee.

The one drawback to viognier is that it never ages well. So drink, don’t save, this wine. During the rest of the summer and fall, it should be delicious, particularly if paired with dishes that have a hint of sweetness in them — pork or chicken with a fruit compote or chutney, for example, or corn on the cob.

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