Thursday, April 25, 2019

Stop and Smell the Aromas of Maryhill's Viognier!

By Pinny Tam

Viognier is a fragrant, medium to full-bodied, fruity, medium-alcohol white wine that originated in southern France. You can now find Viognier grown outside France in a lot of other countries such as the US, Australia, Italy, Argentina and Chile. Walla Walla in Washington State emerges as one of the main regions in the US that makes really good Viognier. Maryhill Winery, located in Columbia Valley AVA, Walla Walla, is the largest Viognier producer in Washington State and has perfected the making of  Viognier - as aromatic and memorable as you can get by any standards! 
What brought me to Maryhill Winery? Well, the 2018 Wine Blogger Conference was held in Walla Walla in October last year. Being one of the sponsors at the conference, Maryhill extended its hospitality to the bloggers in a post-conference excursion and showcased a few of their signature wines in the beautiful tasting room and winemaking facility in Goldendale, overlooking Mount Hood and Columbia River. 
Their large portfolio is truly impressive and reflective of the diverse winemaking in Walla Walla, sourcing 30 grape varieties from selected growing partners in eight of the Washington’s 14 AVAs, making 50 unique wines, and yielding 80,000 cases annually. With all the good tastes in memory from the excursion, I’m pleased to receive Maryhill’s most popular wine, the 2017 Viognier as a sample for a “follow-up” tasting. 
Maryhill’s tasting note of this wine is quite accurate. However, I did pick up some "personal" notes. When swirling this Viognier, the aromas of pear, melon and hints of guava and pineapple enveloped my nostrils, sending a warm welcome for sips to follow. As I started to taste the wine, I noticed tiny flavors of papaya and pineapple as well as a tad minerality and oak – making this Viognier crisp, fruity but with solid texture. The wine is medium-bodied and nicely balanced between acidity and oak, bringing “chews” (texture) and a lingering and sensational finish! Check out my earlier Instagram post of this wine. 

How do I enhance this tasting experience with food? I do what I do best, cooking food in Chinese style to match the wine. There are three quick and everyday seafood dishes coming to my mind, which are whole squid pan-grill with Hoisin and oyster sauces; Argentinian shrimp (shelled or no shell) stir-fry with ketchup and soya sauce; and imitation crab spicy ramen noodle served in a Korean noodle pot.  The ingredients of these three effortless dishes can be easily purchased from local grocery stores. It'll take less than an hour to prep, cook and serve all the food - an easy yet elegant dinner party to welcome spring is in the making.  
Whole squids have the most artsy and freshest look you could give to your seafood food. Cleaning squid is not difficult - just make sure you remove the purple membrane of the squid carefully and use a sharp knife to poke the ink pouches. When you pull the head out, also remove the greenish and slimy guts. To have the great look, don’t cut up the squid. Instead, grill the squid in whole in a heated up cast-iron grill pan and brush the Hoisin and oyster sauces onto the squid frequently to achieve the color and the mildly sweet taste (brought by Hoisin sauce) that goes incredibly well with Maryhill’s Viognier. It takes approximately 15 minutes. The picture-perfect and mouth-watering squid is on your plate. 
If you haven’t tried cooking your shrimp with ketchup and soya sauce, you should really try it as you are definitely going to lick your fingers or maybe your plate after eating all the shrimp. The sauces that coat the shrimp are tangy and savory, really enhancing the hidden tropical flair of this wine as well as its minerality. Seeing the messy ketchup fingerprints on my wine glass is a proof that I savor the meal!
The use of a personal ramen noodle pot to cook/present the ramen is really a thing now, due to the immerse popularity of eating ramen noodle soup all over the world. Ramen noodles are probably the easiest soupy comfort food you can cook at home in less than 15 minutes. Boil the water, drop the noodle in, add some greens and some protein of your choice (imitation crab and a fresh egg in my case), and here you go - a warm and hearty bowl of goodness that is to be consumed in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for lunch or dinner. A word on ramen…the 50 cents Top Ramen or Nissan noodles won’t really cut it. Trust me on this! Go to Amazon (e.g., search for Korean ramen) or an Asian grocery store to get the real-deal ramen. They have an al-dente texture when cooked right and also level up whatever protein and vegetable you put it. As I slurped the spicy ramen noodle in this Korean noodle pot, I couldn’t help but reach out for my glass of Viognier to replenish the freshness and to sooth the spicy effect. The Viognier is such a no-brainer match to this noodle.
As I’m sipping the Maryhill Vioginer now in spring, I won’t be surprised to sip it for the months to come till the end of summer as it is darn good!

Disclosure: The wine in this post is sample. All opinions are my own.

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