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Winning viognier is all about the aromatics

Pumpkin pie and viognier couldn't have been better matched by an online dating service.

Every year when there's talk of the Thanksgiving feast, it's exciting to search for a delectable viognier to pair with pumpkin pie. This year it's our wine-of-the-week winner — the Arrowood, 2011 Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley Viognier at $30.

What makes a viognier such a great pie match is its spicy aromatics, which mirror the spices in the pie. Meanwhile the wine's bright acidity plays off the pie's creamy texture. The Arrowood viognier succeeds on both fronts, which is what makes it such a terrific holiday choice.

Winemaker Heidi von der Mehden, who produced the wine, said what the uninitiated don't know about the varietal is that it's irresistibly food friendly.

"Viognier has amazing, seductive aromatics and a texture that is unforgettable. It can possess a surprising undercurrent of acidity that makes it a wonderful food wine," von der Mehden said.

This tasty viognier is buoyed by crisp acidity and layered with notes of white peach, nectarine, apricot and honeysuckle.

"The Arrowood style of viognier is inspired by my desire to craft balanced wines that show complexity," von der Mehden said. "It's crucial to retain the variety's inherent and alluring aromatics. We always barrel ferment our viognier in neutral oak barrels, which gives the wine rich texture to match the intense aromatics."

The most gratifying part of making viognier is the aromatics, von der Mehden said.

"I love the wine's distinct floral aromatics," she said. "They're haunting."

Von der Mehden joined Glen Ellen's Arrowood Winery in 2007 as associate winemaker, continuing her education under wine master Richard Arrowood. She stepped into the lead winemaking role in 2010.

"I can't point to one specific moment where I fell in love with wine," von der Mehden said. "It was more of a slow burn that became a great passion once I learned more about the fascinating world of wine. It was like that great friend who one day you realize is someone you're in love with."


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