Tasting Notes: Floral Viognier

ALBAN VINEYARDS EDNA VALLEY 2005 ($38). California winemaker John Alban consistently produces wines that more than hold their own next to the French originals. His viognier tastes lush but also bright and has a compelling honeysuckle bouquet.

CALERA MT. HARLAN 2005 ($28). No one in California has a stronger track record with viognier than Josh Jensen at Calera, whose 2005 tastes typically rich, honeyed, and dramatic, with mineral-tinged secondary flavors that enhance the primary, fruit-driven ones.

CAYUSE VINEYARDS CAILLOUX VINEYARD WALLA WALLA VALLEY 2005 ($35). This viognier from Washington State is not so floral as some but luxuriant, with echoes of orange blossom, peaches, and cream. Like many West Coast renditions, it emphasizes the grape's voluptuous character.

CHRYSALIS VINEYARDS 2005 ($29). Viognier thrives in Virginia's long, warm summers, reaching full ripeness without losing acidity, so the best wines are rich without ever seeming heavy. This one displays intense honeysuckle and apricot flavors yet remains always fresh and lively.

CONO SUR COLCHAGUA VALLEY 2006 ($10). This medium-bodied Chilean viognier has a floral and sweet spice bouquet followed by citrus and summer-fruit flavors. Not so nuanced as some others but offers fine value.

DOMAINE YVES CUILLERON CONDRIEU "LA PETITE CÔTE" 2005 ($65). Sumptuously aromatic, with flavors that are simultaneously sweet and mineral laden. This is Condrieu and viognier at their finest.

E. GUIGAL CONDRIEU 2005 ($50). Enticing honeysuckle and sweet orange aromas lead to complex but harmonious flavors. Condrieu still sets the international benchmark for viognier.

GARRETSON WINE COMPANY "THE SAOTHAR" LATE BOTTLED PASO ROBLES 2005 ($40). This is an excellent wine, reflecting plenty of bright California sunshine, with peach and tangerine flavors, a full body, and a satisfyingly long finish.

KING FAMILY VINEYARDS MICHAEL SHAPS MONTICELLO 2005 ($25). Virginia's Michael Shaps has mastered this tricky grape. His 2005 displays near-perfect balance and is also vibrant—a difficult but delectable combination. It may well be America's best viognier.

ROSENBLUM CELLARS "KATHY'S CUVEE" 2005 ($18). Exotic floral, honey, and litchi aromas introduce a luxurious California wine that maintains a fragile but—for now—successful balance. This wine is best drunk young.

STAGS' LEAP NAPA VALLEY 2005 ($25). From one of the few Napa Valley wineries to succeed consistently with viognier, this is a deep, fleshy rendition, with flavors reminiscent of peaches and apricots and a citrus-tinged but predominantly floral bouquet.

YALUMBA "Y SERIES" SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2006 ($11). Not so full as some but fresh and vibrant, with pure fruit flavors and a bouquet. A fantastic value from a very reliable Australian viognier specialist.