Wendy and I were married in 1997 and just prior to that, sometime in late 1996, we went to the first winemaker event we had ever attended. It was in San Francisco at some hip restaurant/wine bar in the Hayes Valley neighborhood and it was being hosted by two winemakers who would become (really, they already were) two of the most important producers of Rhone varietal wines in California. It was Randall Graham of Bonny Doon and Bob Lindquist from Qupé. We had a fantastic evening tasting their line up of wines and listening to them reminisce and banter about vintages and vineyards and wines. What stuck with me, to this day, was a wine called Viognier. I think that night I tried to pronounce it like you would Wagner, the famous German composer. Oops. I think what stuck with me just as much as my embarrassment over the pronunciation of the wine was my impression of the wine. I absolutely HATED it! It was thick and heavy and viscous. It seemed distinctly soapy to me, and I remember looking around to see if others had gotten a similar dirty glass with a touch of soap accidentally left in it. Nope. I was alone in my critique of this wine. Others seemed to find it delicious. It would be several years and many, many Viogniers later for me to understand why I felt the way I did that evening. It’s simply this… It’s a style thing. Those wines were big, rich, ripe California styled wines and even though they weren’t to my liking, I would learn they were actually very similar to one of the greatest Viognier wines in the world at the time, the Guigal Condrieu, La Doraine. An unctuous wine done in 100% new French oak barrels with a whopping 15% alcohol and gobs of viscous fruit. If that was the pinnacle of this varietal... I would never make one. But then… I tasted the wines of a young winemaker named Yves Cuilleron from Condrieu. He was making Viognier in a bit more modern style and he was consulting with winemaker friends of mine right here in Santa Barbara County! Through these friends I was introduced to wines that had the distinctive white flower and nectarine aromas of more traditional Viogniers but wow, the acid! These were much less ripe and much more lean and fresh and vibrant. They were in a style that I absolutely loved and I have always wanted to make Viognier this way. So, here it is! My first Viognier for Crawford Family Wines and the only problem with it is, I think we hit it out of the park on the first release. Stainless steel ferment followed by a year in much older, neutral barrels has given us a beautiful wine with layers of complexity and vibrant acidity. There are so many food pairings for this wine. From shrimp and scallop dishes to spicy curries and chicken dishes with ginger, coconut or saffron. It is very versatile with food but will always be great just on its own.