Wine of the Week: 2019 Raft Wines Jonquille, Viognier, Central Coast, CA
A community of ducks is called a raft. A raft is also a pleasant place to float away your cares on a warm summer day. But for now, we’ll focus on a different raft… this one is a small winery in California that you definitely want to know more about. Raft Wines Jonquille is a great place to start.
Raft Wines was founded in 2016 by Jennifer Reichardt, aka @duckdaughterjj. Her family has farmed ducks in California since 1901. You may have heard of their famous Liberty Ducks. And, if you’ve dined much in the western part of the United States, you’ve probably enjoyed them as your meal. As a chef, I became very familiar with Liberty Ducks and the Reichardt family’s well-deserved reputation for dedication to quality.
So, when I first heard about Raft Wines, I was excited to give them a try. I ordered the Spring Sampler Pack from their website and will be sharing my tasting experiences with you over the next few weeks.
Getting to know California Viognier
We’ll begin with the Raft Wines’ Jonquille, a white wine made from 100% organically grown Viognier from Love Ranch in Madera in the Central Valley of California. I tasted the 2019, the third vintage of Jonquille (French for daffodil), of which, only 90 cases were produced. After naturally fermenting and briefly aging sur lie in oak barrels, it was bottled (unfined and unfiltered), just one month before I opened mine. I am sure it will continue to develop over time – I can assure you that it is off to a wonderful start!
The Viognier grape originally comes from the Rhône region in France. It is known for producing full-bodied lush white wines. The grape is also the only white grape used in classic red blends from the Rhône, including the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Viognier has also been popular in California for decades.
My review of the 2019 Jonquille Viognier
Often, I find that California Viogniers are so rich they overwhelm my palate. Some are so high in alcohol (14%+) that they overwhelm my other senses after a little while, as well. Not the case here. Although full bodied, the 2019 Raft Wines Jonquille comes in at a very friendly 12.5% ABV… easier to appreciate in the warmer weather ahead.
The color of this wine reminded me of the more demure, pale yellow version of its namesake daffodil. The five months spent aging on its lees in oak barrels contributed to the initial aromas and flavors – creamy, vanilla-spice-woodiness became more complex as the wine opened in the glass (and warmed from being in my cold fridge).
My first impression was of a French bakery. Think buttery pastry filled with rich lemon curd or perfectly poached apricots. Then, it got better. As the wine opened up, the luscious aromas of Asian pear came forward, followed by candied grapefruit zest. There is also a strong backbone of acidity and a clean, astringent mineral finish that almost reminded me of seawater spray (back to being on that raft!).
I enjoyed Raft Wines Jonquille with two different seafood dishes and loved it with both. First, lemon-poached salmon with tender herb salsa verde and cucumber-faro salad; then with oven roasted halibut served with a hash of crispy potatoes, kale, and wild mushrooms. You can’t go wrong with most lighter proteins, and simple spring/summer veggies… a little butter or light touch of cream won’t hurt a bit either!
Bonus note: Be sure to look for the cute duckie footprints on the cork and label. (A little whimsy is a good thing.)
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