Smoking Loon Viognier

June 21, 2005

For some reason, I seem to be incapable of getting it together and finishing off my BBQ tasting notes. So rather than agonize over my notes, I’ll move on to something else for now. Let’s talk about Viognier, specifically the wonderful and well-priced Smoking Loon Viognier

As a long and rambling precursor, my wife and I recently took a trip to Minneapolis. At 7.5 hours away (7 if my wife is driving), it’s an easy long weekend trip from Winnipeg. And it is overflowing with a bounty of good restaurants and wine stores, including Surdyk’s, which is my single favourite wine store in Minneapolis. And aside from the Liquor Mart in Boulder (Colorado), it’s one of the best wine stores I’ve visited in the last few years. There’s an attached cheese shop which meant that we stuffed our cooler full of contraband Maytag Blue for the trip home.

One of the wines we picked up on our visit to Surdyk’s was the Smoking Loon Viognier from California. I had previously enjoyed this wine at my favourite Ottawa restaurant, but it’s not available in Manitoba. So I was happy to find it at Surdyk’s for $8.99 (US). And I was even happier to find out that everything in the store was 20% off that day, making the Smoking Loon a $7.19 purchase. To put this in perspective, my price per glass in Ottawa was $9.00

Smoking Loon is one of the Sebastiani family of wineries. They also produce the decent Pepperwood Grove series of wines, which retail for around $12-14 at the private wine stores in Winnipeg. Given

I’m a huge Viognier fan, and I’m only too happy to spread the word about this fantastic grape variety. If you’re a Chardonnay lover but you’re looking for something a bit different, try the nearest Viognier. Typically, a good Viognier will have a rich, mouth-filling taste and strong hints of peaches, nectarines or melons (honeydew/cantaloupe) in both the nose and the mouth. This is all done in a dry wine. I haven’t come across any oak-aged Viogniers yet, but I’m sure they’re out there. I don’t think it would suit oak very well, but I’ve said the same thing about Sauvignon Blanc and have been proved wrong.

Anyways, the Smoking Loon met this description perfectly. It smelled like a big basket of ripe peaches, and tasted lush, rich and beautiful in our mouth. A long finish was the perfect ending to an excellent glass of wine. It was wonderful when we drank it on its own, and it also matched very well with the five-alarm Thai shrimp pizza we put together last night.

So if you’re in Minneapolis, I am happy to say that you’ll find the Smoking Loon Viognier at Surdyk’s. You won’t find it in Manitoba, but it’s almost worth the trip. We also tried the Smokin Loon Chardonnay, which was disappointing, and we have a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon sitting in the wine rack, waiting for cooler weather.

However, if you’re looking for something locally, try the Cono Sur Viognier from Chile, which is available for $12.49 at the private wine stores. It’s not as good as the Smoking Loon, but it will still make you very happy. The MLCC sells the Arrowood Viognier for $27, which is a bit steep. But I hear it’s also quite good. And if you’d like a nice Viognier blend, the MLCC stocks the Tamaya Viogner/Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) for $10.49

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