Friday, May 21, 2010

La Clarine Farms Viognier "Orange" (2009)


Natural Wine Week in Los Angeles prompted me to finally go to Susan Feniger's STREET on Highland.  We have said for months we were going to go there, but, one thing then another.  Well, you know.

The impetus that finally put us in that room was a wine being offered for Natural Wine Week, a wine with the word "orange" in its name.

La Clarine Farm Viognier "Orange" came about this way, as described on their website:
 "Last Fall I found myself with the sudden offer of some viognier (from the Sumu Kaw vineyard, where we get that fantastic syrah we make).  I knew immediately that the grapes would be of top quality, and the idea struck me that to make wine from this difficult grape, I should just stop fighting it and let the grape completely be itself.  That meant (for me, in this instance anyway) fermenting this white grape like a red wine.  Like we ferment all of our reds - whole clusters (stems and all), foot stomping, natural yeasts. Let's extract all that great aroma from the skins, all those tannins, and let's see what happens.  Let's press it at dryness and age it in a neutral vessel.  Let's bottle it without filtration and with just a pinch of sulfites." 
The result of all that whole-cluster, foot-stomping, aroma-extracting treatment is a wine that, while not quite what I would call orange, is the color of beer.  I think it looks like hefeweizen, but more because of the cloudy quality it has in the glass.  The nose is honey-sweet, but with a beery edge.  On the palate I get the sense of a late-harvest wine, believe it or not.  It's a sort of apricot brandy feel.

I wondered how this wine would pair with our food, and was very pleased to note that it, in fact, made the food taste even better.  That says quite a lot, because Susan Feniger's food is pretty darned good to start with.  It paired very well with the unique opening dish, which was a small plate of popcorn ball made from currants and cumin, to the best of my discernment.

An appetizer of winter squash and popcorn - completely delightful in its own right - was pushed over the top in the pairing.  My lamb taquitos with refried white beans is where the wine really shone, adding even more depth to a dish that already sported a yogurt tzatziki and a chile paste on the side.