Monday, December 21, 2009

An Oh-Seven Viognier

For our Seventh Wine of Christmas, my True Love drank with me,
An Oh-Seven Viognier.

292. 2007 Sandhill Small Lots Viognier (Black Sage Road - Okanagan)

I thought it would be a nice little seasonal treat to ourselves to open a bottle of the Sandhill Viognier. There's been a fair bit of press (at least for wine-related topics in BC) about Sandhill and the fact that Howard Soon and company were recently announced Canadian Winery of the Year for 2009 by Wine Access magazine.

They also named the 2008 Sandhill Viognier as the magazine's Canadian White Wine of the Year. That's 2008 though. We've opened a 2007. Now, I've been a fan of Sandhill pretty much from day one (since it had the buzz of being Burrowing Owl's neighbour and you actually had a good chance of finding their wines), but I'm going to have to locate a bottle of the 2008 vintage because this 2007 didn't stand out enough to me to make it a wine of the year.

Don't get me wrong, the wine was still tasty and had its trademark vibrant nose and ability to go with food of all sorts. But, I likely would have sung its praises a bit more had I not known that the 2008 is supposedly such a big shooter.

As with all Sandhill wines, this is a single vineyard - Robert Goltz's Osprey Ridge vineyard, which is just down the road from Sandhill on the Black Sage Road. Osprey Ridge is a 12 acre vineyard that specializes in Rhone varietals (of which, of course, Viognier is one) and planting the vines in high density rows. This limits the yield of fruit per vine; however, the greater number of vines results in an overall vineyard yield that would be similar to one where fewer vines are planted. This hopefully intensifies the flavour profile of the grapes.

The production of and availability of grapes remains limited though and Sandhill only produced 241 cases of Viognier in 2007. That definitely qualifies as a "small lot."

The WineBC website has limited data - because not all wineries and growers participate - but it shows Viognier as being only the 16th most produced white varietal in the province. However, it is first in value per ton - excepting grapes harvested for icewine.

With the higher profile of the varietal and with the success of wines like Sandhill's in national competitions, my guess is that we'll see more BC Viognier in the years to come. We may never be like "seven swans a-swimming" in a sea of Viognier, but I could think of worse things.

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