Wine of the Week – Inspiration Vineyards Russian River Valley 2009 Viognier

It’s intriguing to me the high quality Rhone wines that can come out of the Russian River Valley, especially since this is known as a ‘cool’ climate, and the Southern Rhone is warm. While not widely planted, you can find Rhone whites Marsanne, Roussanne, & Viognier here. Grenache blanc doesn’t seem to exist yet in RRV, my likely hobby planting may be one of the first. Excellent Syrah (which does well in both cool and warm climates, with a big flavor profile difference) and small plantings of Grenache can also be found.

I am one of the odder ducks perhaps, as I also like Russian River Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley is of course the respected King, but there are quite a decent amount of very old vine, head trained Zin here.

What’s my point? I guess that despite being cooler, we have a long enough growing season and hang time, plus cool foggy nights. This allows for longer, slower ripening, good acidity, and good flavor profile maturation, without excess ripeness and alcohol, and loss of acidity. (As sugars increase, acid levels eventually decrease.) Acidity is what makes wine food friendly. Alcohol is what makes you fall down.

Achieving a Balanced California Viognier

What does this have to do with Inspiration Vineyards Viognier? It’s from Russian River, and I am comparing it side by side with a Dry Creek (much warmer climate) Viognier. California Viognier has unfortunately (earned in some cases) gotten a bit of a bad rap, for being too big, flabby (lacking acidity) and overly floral.

This is a varietal that is characteristically quite floral AND lower on acidity levels, so over ripening it is a dangerous proposition. Additionally some producers are leaving some sweetness (Residual sugar, or RS) on it to appeal to mass palates. A tiny bit of RS can be a positive thing in achieving balance, but some I have tried exceed that.

About Inspiration Vineyards

Inspiration Vineyards recently came on my radar in 2010 when they moved to a new tasting room in Santa Rosa (by Carol Shelton) and joined the Wine Road.

Jon & Barbara Philips have been chasing their dream, started making wine in 1999, and in 2001 plunged right in buying a house and 4.5 acres in the Russian River Valley. I have had the pleasure to meet them both. Passionate about wine, the region, the community. Jon is a wine geek extraordinaire. You can read more on theirA story here. They make a variety of wines; my favorites being their Rhones (Syrah & this Viognier) and Burgundian wines (Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.)

Wine Review – Inspiration Vineyards Russian River Valley 2009 Viognier

This is an excellent, balanced, expression of Viognier that is a pleasure to drink.

To The Eye: medium yellow straw, vibrant, clear

On The Nose: Fragrant as a Viognier should be, but not overpowering. White Peach, lime zest, hint of guava.

In The Mouth: Great viscosity, weight, mouthfeel, but not cloying as some can be. Peach, Stone fruits, citrus.

Food Pairing: Crab, seafood, grilled chicken, amongst others

Rating: Outstanding. 91 points

Where to Buy: Direct from Winery. $29.  Call 707.237.4980 for retail locations or email

Wine Geek Notes:

  • Vineyard: Marsha’s Vineyard,  Russian River Valley
  • Harvest Date: September 30th 2009
  • Brix at Harvest: 26.5°
  • Total Acid: .70 g/L
  • pH: 3.45
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Bottled Date: September 17th 2010
  • Release Date: March 1st
  • Vinification: 100% stainless, sterile filtered, no malo-lactic secondary fermentation.

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