A Difference You Can Taste: Perissos Vineyards 2014 Viognier
You might say that the Perissos Vineyard 2014 Viognier is a “whole bunch better”. OK, there was no 2013 Perissos Viognier due to the series of late Spring frosts. So, you might ask, “better than what”.
I first got the feeling that things were going to be different when, during the 2014 harvest, I showed up at Perissos Vineyard near the Texas hamlet of Burnet. Winery owner and winemaker Seth Martin was pressing his freshly harvested Viognier and keeping a close eye on the pressure gauge on his press.
As my notes said, “ I showed up to see what Seth was doing. It was a remarkable August 1st harvest day for his estate vineyard’s Viognier. The Muscat was already in the winery, the vineyard temperatures were hanging around the upper 80s, refreshing breezes whisked through the vines, vineyard hands were lunching on pizza and Viognier juice was running from his press….” [Click here for more.]
When I asked Seth, what was up to warrant all this attention? He said, “I’m trying something new, at least for us. We’re whole cluster pressing our Viognier.” Seth’s reference to cluster pressing was a reference to a technique counter to the norm in most wineries today where the grapes are sent through a crusher/destemmer before pressing.
Well, it’s a year later and I’ve just had my first opportunity to taste the fruits of Seth’s labor on the Perissos Vineyard 2014 Viognier. Available for a side-by-side tasting was Seth’s very worthy Perissos Vineyard 2012 Viognier.
The comparison starts in the glass. The 2014 Viognier shows its difference with a blush, a copper tone added to the golden straw usually exhibited by Viognier wines. In the glass, there was an aromatic finesse launched with waxy floral notes of plumeria integrated with peach and pear that seemed to seamlessly flow into the essence of white peach on the palate. By comparison the 2012 Viognier was also carried by aromatic notes but from ripe tropical fruits that land on the palate with a tartness of green papaya salad with orange citrus dressing. Both are good wine, but the 2014 Viognier raises the bar on what I would describe as finesse: the characteristic of a soft, more refined and integrated manner, yet interesting in its ability to linger on and on. Where the 2012 might be described as a bit heady and ripe, the 2014 plays a more approachable and passionate game capable of accompanying lighter fare.
Previously, I had seen the cluster pressing method used, but mostly applied to Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and especially in the making sparkling wines and Champagne. My introduction was during a winery visit in the Russian River region of California. Its main benefits were to overcome avoid harsh edges in early-harvested grapes with low Brix common for sparkling wine production. During my visit to Perissos, whole cluster pressing of warm weather grapes like Viognier appears to yield benefits Texan can enjoy.
When I checked my notes made after my 2014 Perissos visit, I found this comment:
“My guess is that this process will make a different style wine for Seth. It generally creates a more delicate, lighter-styled wine than using conventional destemming and crushing. However, it can also bring a few new high notes and tannins to the wine derived from the seeds and stems if higher pressing pressures are used. Such are the yin-yang stylistic dilemmas of winemakers that try to push their limits.”
I can say now that Seth’s careful attention to the pressure gauge on his press was well placed and the outcome for the Perissos 2014 Viognier was exceptional.