The following is a part of a guest series authored by Lauren Gutshall on discovering new wines and beers.
This weekend we’re writing from the lovely Commonwealth of Virginia, where we’ve traveled for few days of rest and relaxation. In addition to the normal R&R routine, which will consist of fishing for Nate and lots of reading for me, we will also take some time to visit a handful of the state’s five distilleries, 40 breweries and 200 wineries.
Virginia has a rich history of viticulture; Thomas Jefferson had two vineyards at his Monticello home and today the state boasts a surprising number of great wineries. We probably won’t make it to a few of my favorites (Boxwood, Chrysalis and Linden), but we will make it over to see the incredibly friendly folks at Desert Rose and the wonderful Rappahannock Cellars.
I likely will leave most places with a hearty bottle of cab franc or a meritage blend, but I’m also planning to purchase a bottle or two of viognier, a white wine with a golden hue that is so popular that in 2011 the Virginia wine board named it the state’s signature grape.
The resurgence of viognier is interesting, especially considering that the French grape was almost extinct 50years ago. At the time, there were only three acres of viognier in the world. Fortunately, viognier was saved from extinction, and today is grown in several regions, including in Virginia, where it grows particularly well.
Viognier ranges from very dry to slightly sweet, but it almost always smells sweeter than it tastes. The bouquet of a viognier is one of its most distinguishable characteristics; it tends to have very strong floral notes of violets and roses, along with peach, pineapple and orange. Viognier smells like a freshly made tropical fruit salad.
The strong aromatics of a viognier are important indicators of its drinkability. Viognier is meant to be consumed when it’s young and it matures quickly. When a viognier is past its prime, it loses its strong flower and fruit nose. Instead it smells and tastes flat.
When you drink a glass of viognier you won’t just smell tropical fruits and fresh flowers, you’ll taste them too. The wine also has herbs and spices with hints of vanilla and a very light smokiness. Its dominating flavors are apricot, pineapple and peach, but it may also taste of honey, mango and butter.
Those same flavors crop up in brightly floral IPAs. I’ve talked about IPAs before, but I focused on the ones with the strong citrusy grapefruit bite. My hophead friends tend to like those IPAs that bite back, but I prefer the more gentle, aromatic IPAs with hops that enhance the herbal and floral qualities in a beer.
These IPAs have a very perfumey nose – much like viognier. And while they maintain the hop bitterness, they are usually not as harsh or pungent as other IPAs. They can range from bitter to slightly sweet and often have more tropical fruit flavors than their super-bitter relatives. Two great examples of IPAs that have dominating apricot, peach, and honey notes are the Ballast Point Sculpin and Ithaca’s Flower Power.
Since some breweries are taking these tropical fruit elements to a new level, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few local favorites that have incorporated apricots into the brewing process. Dogfish Head’s Aprihop is a beautifully hoppy beer with light apricot undertones. The seasonal beer is perfect on a warm spring day.
Those guys at Troegs are also getting into the game; they just released their Scratch #94, an apricot IPA that was described by a friend as “a crisper version of Aprihop.”
Of course our good friends at Pizza Boy Brewing are always mixing fruit and beer in the best ways possible. While not IPAs, they currently have Apricots Wheat on draft and Permasmile, an apricot lambic available in bottles.
IPAs and viognier pair nicely with spicy Thai, Chinese, Indian and Mexican dishes, but I’m drinking both this weekend sitting beside a roaring campfire.