Celebrity Wine FAQ – Sasha Alexander

Sasha Alexander as Maura Isles, courtesy TNT

Sasha Alexander’s character medical examiner Maura Isles on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles may be quite the wine connoseur, but Alexander says she, herself, is not so much.

“Not as much as I would like to be,” she said during a recent visit to the show’s set. “But I do love good wine and I try to know as much as I can about it.”

She didn’t have a question for us in the conventional sense, but she does have a current passion.

“I will tell you my current obsession and that’s any viognier,” she said. “So I’m trying every type of viognier. And I’m really interested in the California versus the French viognier and that grape.”

We love viognier, too, mostly because it smells so good – it’s known for having a floral nose. It’s also a nice rich wine that is exceptionally food-friendly, think medium-flavored foods, such as a nice plate of creamy fettucine alfredo with some plump shrimp added. The grape has also got a bit of a rep as a challenging one to grow and make wine out of. We can attest to the challenge of making it.

But, boy, when it is made well, viognier is a glorious thing. Some labels to try include Cold Heaven Cellars and Rideau Vineyard (out of the Santa Ynez Valley), Sculpterra Winery (in Paso Robles), and Twisted Oak, in Vallecito, California. And it’s pronounced vee-oh-nyay (Alexander pronounced it correctly, just in case you were wondering).

And, as Alexander hinted above, there are definite differences between French viogniers (which are generally labeled by their place name Condrieu in France’s Rhone valley) and California viogniers. French viogniers, like most French wines, tend to be softer with more acids, while California wines tend to be bigger and richer, with more fruit flavors. This is has a lot to do with the warmer climate in California, where the grapes get riper faster, as well as American preferences.

Another interesting tidbit – you may be drinking viognier without even knowing it. Some wineries in both France and here in California (specifically our good friends at Twisted Oak) will ferment their syrah grapes with some viognier grapes thrown in – or co-fermented.

On the off chance, Alexander is interested, we hear that viognier vines are showing up in other states besides Cali, including Missouri and Virgina. Outside the U.S., there are viogniers coming out of Ontario, Canada. And never forget the Chileans and Argentinians. Those tend to be terrific wines at really good prices.

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