I don't always drink wine, but when I do it's always rewarding and I'm never afraid to try something new. I look at wine in the same way I do craft beer: If something isn't produced with a love of the craft, you can taste it. We see marketing ploys, artistic labels and high price points that make us assume constantly that what is inside the bottle is something of quality, and I'm a firm believer that all of those things are secondary to a true passion for the ingredients and the hard work that goes into making one the most romanticized beverages worthy of whimsical inspiration for those who drink it, that could justify poetry or just an incredible meal.
Winemakers Max and Polina Burns have teamed up with Matt Nagy and the Tanner Vineyard to produce Gara Wines and this 2014 Viognier that I could not wait to try. With only 50 cases produced, I was lucky to get my hands on a couple bottles.
Appearance: This is visually crisp and clean, and leaning toward a bright golden shimmer without looking yellow. Poured with an eight inch draw that aerated nicely with a few bubbles lingering around the edges. Not very syrupy in the way it coats the glass with legs that are uniform but drip like icicles down the side of the glass. I want to dive in!
Nose: Crisp apple, citrus, nectarine, pear, sage, and chamomile. This is buttery and rich in the nose, but still crisp and eye opening. Very evocative of the California coastline and Sierras. I envision blue skies, a body of water, and drinking this under a shaded tree at a vineyard with only the aromas as my influence to inspire this vivid daydream.
Taste: This mellows a lot and should be given ample time to open up. I would recommend tasting it around 52 degrees Fahrenheit so that you can actually taste everything. It is common for such a crisp wine to be served very cold, (near 45 degrees) and that is exactly what you would never want to do. If a wine is served too cold there is no way to taste every nuance. For people like me, and this particular wine, that is simply unacceptable. Green apple, nectarine, pear, and citrus shine through. As it keeps opening up it is noticeably becoming more buttery and less tart. The acidity is crisp and clean. At 14.2% ABV the lovely taste of alcohol is appreciated and this is the opposite of a dingy wine. This is a refined gift for your senses. It has a lovely fermented flavor that exudes quality.
Mouthfeel: Crisp almost leaning toward that of a great sparkling wine crossed with a Pinot Grigio to balance it out. The lovely crisp and fermented flavors do not die in your mouth as quickly as they could which is actually quite wonderful. A unique dryness. This melts away with a slight creamy mouthfeel that makes it even more delicious to pair with awesome food. This nuance is reminiscent of a fine and delicate bleu cheese.
Food Pairings: White bean cassoulet, mild cheeses, grainy fresh bread with grass fed butter, herbs, black pepper, chicken, nuts, and fish.
This makes an incredible aperitif on a hot day, and is so easy and fun to drink.
Overall: Beyond expectation for the price, and could become one of the leading names of this type. I wish to close with their statement that is on the back of their bottle: "Gara is about the little guy... the artisan winemakers and the local growers... the ones fighting an uphill battle day in and day out... the ones who do it for love."
These are the exact types of ideals that make me love California and the type of people who keep me going. I seek passionate risk-takers, and find their creations to be the most stable part of the industry. It can be seen in those who love craft beer, and small businesses in the craft beverage pursuit for joy that exists all around the world. This is exactly what Bipp's Beer is honored to share with you in this review, and a worthwhile reason to feel refreshed and enjoy something different. Let's all keep pursuing what calls us to do things the right way instead of the easy way, and enjoy every sip on that journey.
GARA Wines / 2014 Viognier / 14.2% ABV / Sierra Foothills, Tanner Vineyard / St. Helena, CA / Review: Final Score: 9.6/10