Yves Cuilleron, a Rhone winemaking legend, is known as the “King of Condrieu.”
I recall the first time I met him at Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles in 2015. The crowd around his table was five-deep but I had been told that I had to taste his wines.
I patiently waited for an opening and thrust my glass forward. Yves poured some Condrieu in my glass and I was transfixed.
Until then, I had never been a fan of viognier, which always built up anticipation with its aromatic nose but then disappointed on the palate with a lack of texture and acidity. Here was a viognier with the apricot, peach and floral notes on the nose that was backed up by the richness and bright acidity on the palate. I was entranced.
I met Yves Cuilleron for a second time when I was at Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône early this year. The four-day Rhône Valley wine fair started in the Southern Rhône city of Avignon, moving north to Tain l’Hermitage and ending in Ampuis, the town just north of Condrieu. On my final day, I was unexpectedly invited to join some friends to visit Cuilleron at his winery. I jumped at the chance to go with little expectation of what I was about to experience.
The Cuilleron family Domaine was founded in 1920 by Yves Cuilleron’s grandfather, followed by Cuilleron’s uncle who took over in 1960.
Viognier, the white grape that originated in the south of France, was named Virginia's official state grape in 2011. Perhaps it was because both start with the letter "v". Regardless, there is a lot of the highly aromatic viognier grown in Virginia.
This week I traveled to the east coast for a few events. I arrived a few days early so that I could head to Charlottesville, Virginia to stay with friends and explore the wines of the Monticello region. From the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the Shenandoah Valley, my guide, The Virginia Grape, demonstrated the diversity and the quality of the wines in the area. I tasted some delicious sparkling wines, white wines (viognier, albarino, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris) and red wines (cabernet franc, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon) but the wine that stood out this week and pleased my palate was.....
Pollak Vineyards 2015 Viognier, Monticello, Virginia