I’m not hep with the latest Hollywood gossip. My celebrities, on most days, wear hiking boots, flannel shirts, and rarely any jewelry, lest a string of pearls gets hooked on a crooked vine. When Clarissa Nagy, owner and winemaker of Nagy Wines, contacted me about tasting and reviewing her current releases, I was star-struck. In my eyes, Clarissa is an inspiration — for women, for winemakers, for anyone who, like her, has found a passion and made it a life’s work.

It’s interesting that my first taste of Nagy would be a Viognier, a varietal that, to me, can be much too delicate — what some would call feminine. Often watery on the palate, diluting the over-pronounced tropical fruit juice flavors, and with an abundance of that funky floral nose, Viognier can be quite, well, pretty. Pretty but not (always) tasty. But what Clarissa has done here is crafted a Viognier with backbone and substance. A feminine wine? No, a feminist wine — a wine with strength, purpose, and beauty.

About the Wine: Let’s first talk about the winemaker. Clarissa found her love of wine, much like I did, through her love of food. She received her degree in Food Science from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. While working at Edna Valley Vineyards in SLO, she met her husband (current winemaker for Byron Winery) and it was as a wedding gift that the two of them crafted their first vintage — a 2002 Viognier. So it’s only fitting that my first experience with Clarissa’s wines is her first experience as a winemaker.

The 2013 Nagy Wines Viognier is made from 100% Viognier grapes from White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos Valley, Santa Barbara County. The grapes were whole cluster pressed, settled for just one night, then barrel fermented in neutral French oak for 10 months.

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: A pale, straw-like yellow, the 2013 Nagy Wines Viognier emits an aroma reminiscent of a warm, but humid, summer day. Swirl, get some air in the glass, and move your nose around the perimeter. There are hints of honey, a bit of crisp green apple, the slightest aroma of pineapple, and the over-arcing essence of delicate white flowers. It’s a summer’s day in a glass to be sure.

The palate of this wine is where it shines. The initial taste and texture are undoubtedly beeswax — it’s that bit of schtank that comes from raw honeycomb, and that tactile tongue one gets from, say, licking the outer peel of an orange. In fact, that’s the main fruit essence here — I struggle to say flavor because any real citrus “juice” (or sweet-like) quality is kept at bay — it’s the essence of freshly grated orange zest. Let the wine linger in your mouth for a bit and exhale through the nose, you’ll get a bit more of those delicate white flowers to come through.

This is one hundred percent a dry white wine. The acid is present, but balanced, carrying through from start to finish. I know it’s a Viognier, but I want to call this a medium-bodied wine, if anything because there’s enough oomf on the mouthfeel to give the wine some weight. If you’re a red wine drinker who thinks you don’t like white wine, I think Nagy may have found your remedy with her Viognier: it’s not fruit forward (certainly not “sweet”) and the floral nose is just a light perfume lingering in the background. The finish is solid, complete, but you’ll find yourself curious enough to take another sip, and another, and another.

Food Pairing: I first enjoyed the 2103 Nagy Viognier as an aperitif, to fully experience all the nuances this wine has to offer, which, if you can do, I highly recommend. The next night I paired the Viognier with a grilled pork chop seasoned with garlic and a bit of lemon — a combination of flavors that uplifted a bit more of the acidity, and certainly the citrus zest, found in the wine. As a side dish, I roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts along with a bit of onion, olive oil, and salt. The texture of the squash — that simultaneously soft, but tacky texture — did well to complement the textures of the wine.

Was it the perfect pairing? I’m not so sure. But what I am sure about is that I have another bottle in my cellar that I look forward to enjoying and will absolutely update this post if I find something that pairs even better with this wine.

More Info: I did receive the 2013 Nagy Wines Viognier as a sample for review. For more information about Clarissa, her wines, and to purchase her wines directly, please do visit the Nagey Wines website.

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