Twenty-four years ago this coming August, Richard Becker and his late wife, Bunny, harvested their first vintage of Viognier grapes. Although their vineyard was started in 1992, the Viognier was planted a year later making Becker Vineyards the first to commercially produce Viognier in Texas.
“I really enjoyed Chateau-Grillet’s Viognier,” said Dr. Becker, explaining his inspiration to plant the varietal and produce the wine. “It’s located near the village of Condrieu in France’s northern Rhone region. Viognier makes a terrific wine. It’s surprising to know it was a varietal on the edge of extinction in 1965 with only 10 hectares left in the world.”
It is also a very old grape varietal. Becker believes the Roman Emperor Probus brought the grape varietal to the Rhone in 281 A.D. from the Dalmatians which is present day Croatia.
Although wine industry experts recommended him to not plant it because people couldn’t pronounce it or weren’t familiar with it, Dr. Becker felt it was a varietal which would grow well in Texas. “And Bunny said if it was well-made, people would enjoy it. Red wine drinkers also like it; it’s nicknamed the ‘red wine drinker’s white wine’.”
He also added, “Peppered pork loin, roasted or grilled chicken, seafood, Asian cuisine, and spicy flavors are foods Viognier pairs well with.”
Pronounced “vee-ohn-yay”, it is the most popular white wine varietal for Becker Vineyards. A fragrant wine, it often has aromas of white peaches, apricots, citrus notes, and warm vanilla. On the palate, it can have ripe stone fruits, honeysuckle, tropical fruits, and Meyer lemon.
At the Texas Hill Country Food & Wine Fest 1997, renown vintner Robert Mondavi was a guest. The Beckers were pouring their first vintage, the Becker Vineyards Estate Viognier 1996. Mondavi was so impressed, he stayed behind to bid on and purchase a double magnum of it at the wine auction.
Becker Vineyards also purchases Viognier grapes from Jet Wilmeth’s Diamante Doble Vineyard at Tokio, TX, Bingham Vineyards and Farmhouse Vineyards both at Meadow, TX, and ferments the juice into wine. Aging then takes place in both stainless steel tanks and French white oak barrels. The winery is located 11 miles east of Fredericksburg and three miles east of Stonewall off US Hwy 290.
Due to Governor Abbott’s mandate on winery tasting rooms because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Becker Vineyards is open for curbside service where guests can make bottle purchases to take home or to their guest lodging quarters, but the grounds and tasting rooms are closed for onsite wine consumption and wine tastings. The Viognier Reserve 2017 is available at both the Winery Tasting Room and the Tasting Room on Main Street in Fredericksburg or online www.beckervineyards.com. The non-reserve Viognier is not and is at retailers (grocery and liquor stores, boutique wine shops, and restaurants).