We, like many people we know ‘cellar’ our red wines. I say “cellar” because Houston homes do not have basements so any wine aging room is often custom designed to mimic the temperature and humidity found in a European cellar or a California cave. We do not have that luxury, so our wines aged for several years in a chilled storage facility. After multiple hurricanes and flooding that spared our neighborhood more than it did some in Houston, we moved all our wines from storage to our house. Most of them now occupy a wall of shelves, but the very “special wines” reside either in an iron wine “jail” or a wine refrigerator. Since most of what Joe cooks pairs best with red wines, if not paired with spicy or seafood, most whites tend to be “out of site, out of mind.” For wines made to drink ‘fresh’ cellaring very often doesn’t work and forgotten wines end up down the drain. But for whites with aging potential, we end up with some superb gems we forgot we owned. Such was our good fortune, with a bottle of 2009 Stark Viognier, Damiano Vineyard, Sierra Foothills.
My friend Thea Dwelle introduced me to Stark Wine when I visited Dry Creek Valley for Harvest back in the Fall of 2011. At the time Stark shared space with Cartograph Wine at a place called Garagiste in Healdsburg — then an industrial-chic brand new tasting room and microwinery housed in what was once a actual auto mechanic’s garage. After Cartograph’s Alan Baker gave us the micro winery tour, he and Christian Stark each took us through a flight of their respective wines. After consulting with Joe via the free WiFi (my original reason for meeting Thea there) I purchased a few bottles of Pinot Noir, of course some Syrah, a bottle of Cartograph Gewürztraminer 2010: Russian River Valley and a bottle of 2009 Stark Wine Viognier to ship home. We opened and shared the reds quickly but the Viognier was “mine” and I hid it away to make sure we saved it for a special meal. I hid it so well that it managed to stay unopened and preserved for nearly eight years.
Last night Joe prepared a Mediterranean-inspired meal of curried red lentils, green lentils with tomatoes, black olives and feta, bacon topped Brussels Spouts, and mixed greens with tomatoes and feta to accompany leftover pork belly from the night before. I decided it was finally time to open “my” Stark 2009 Viognier, and hoped it was still drinkable.
It was! Golden straw in color, the wine features aromas of Bosc pear, grapefruit and white peach, with hints of tropical flavors, vanilla and toasted meringue. Still plenty of acidity and minerality balanced out the classic roundness in this Viognier. Originally priced at $28. Sadly Stark Wines tasting room closed at the end of 2015, so the wine is no longer available. Cartograph opened its own tasting room at 340 Center Street, Healdsburg, California, about a 5 minute walk from the old Garagiste location. If you’re lucky you might catch Christian Stark hitting the drums with The IFIC.