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  • Writer's pictureLoralyn Mears, PhD

Wine Down and Chill with an Ugly Grape

This article was originally published April 26, 2019 at

Are you “so over it” when it comes to wine blogs featuring bottles that are ridiculously priced and available in only one or two zip codes?

Then check back each Friday for our weekly edition of  “Wine Down for the Weekend.” We make dining- or dating-in as much fun as it is to skim over this column. Wink!

Read on for an affordable wine suggestion paired with an insta-dinner that needs only five ingredients. And of course, we also suggest something to watch. We’re here to help you sit back, wine down and chill.


Today’s theme anchors around the concept of stretching your mind. It’s time to think a little more expansively. Can ugly be pretty? Absolutely! Everything is in the eye, heart, and mind of the beholder. If Viogniers are as ugly as it gets, then this is really gonna be good! Keep reading to hear more about how you can wine down and chill.


Disclaimer – I happen to really like redheads. In fact, I used to be one! Here we go…

Every industry has its red-headed orphan. Their problem child. Or black sheep. In the wine industry, Viognier is all these things, which is part of what makes it extra special as a wine down and chill selection. It is, indeed, the ugly grape:

  • First, it’s damn near impossible to spell or pronounce unless you’re French (and we did a nice homage to that country and culture last week).

  • Second, its name is believed to originate from the French city, Vienne, where the grape was grown. However, it was pronounced differently by the Romans, “via Gehennae”. Translated, this means “road to Hell.” Isn’t that a trip?!

  • Third, the Condrieu appellation in the northern Rhône Valley in France is home to possibly the worlds’ most challenging area to grow wines given its treacherous and rocky hills with steep cliffs.

  • Fourth, it’s notoriously fickle as a grape. Viognier needs a lot of sunshine, chilly nights and an extended growing period. Then, with any luck, it might yield its characteristically heavenly bouquet of honeysuckle and apricots.

Nothing ugly about Pine Ridge

Pine Ridge CBV winery did a little experimenting a few years ago. I’m a former scientist and I did a lot of experimenting but none of my lab work was as fun as that sounds! They started with the plain and ordinary Chenin Blanc grape, which is essentially the workhorse of the industry given its versatility and range in the production of dry to sparkling wines.

Then they got really creative and combined it with Viognier. As a result, they concocted a divine wine. The 2017 vintage was rated 90 by Wine Enthusiast, 92 by Beverage Spectator and hailed by the New York Times as one of the best wines priced at around $12. One other thing to note: the winery actually posts photos of its wine with ice-cubes in it. Ahhh. A winery after my own heart: as you know from a previous column, icy cold is how I like it!

The aroma and taste reflect the best of both grapes with the apple, pear, passion fruit and ginger of the former paired with the peach and citrus of the latter. All that yet it’s still crisp and refreshing with a nice finish that reminds you of being in a café in the morning with the scent of orange juice and chai tea all around you. Add the 2016 or 2017 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier to your wine down and chill rotation.


Admittedly, there is the ugli fruit, aka the Jamaican tangelo which is a hybrid of a tangerine and grapefruit, but when is food truly ugly? Short of massacring a filet mignon steak into an inexplicably requested state of well-doneness so that the cow dies in vain, food is not ugly.

It nurtures us: nutrition is a literal derivative of the word. Food fuels our bellies and our souls by bringing us together. Today’s white chili choice is not ugly unless you’re one of those people freaked when there is a “fungus among us.”


  • One, grill up some chicken or portabella mushrooms.

  • Two, toss in a can, juice and all, of white navy beans.

  • Three, mix in a can of cream of mushroom soup. See the theme emerging here?!

  • Four, fry up some fresh garlic and onions with sea salt and oil until they are caramelized brown and tasty.

  • Five, cook it on low heat until everything is warm and yummy.

  • Pour yourself a glass, add some ice, kick back and prepare to wine down and chill.


Finally, we’re just about ready to wine down and chill. The Ugly Truth has been around for a decade but the fluff-your-feathers dating bravado burnished by its leading male character, Gerard Butler, is just as relevant today. Together with Katherine Heigl and Eric Winter, the three of them end up in a predictable love triangle. But, of course, there are twists. And humor. We all need to spend more time laughing! So, flick on Netflix tonight when this movie makes its appearance on the digital service, queue it up, sit back, and enjoy.


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