We’ve had a bit of a false spring here in the Bay Area.  Well, until recently that is.  Brr!  Today it’s dark and rainy, and this week has been chilly.  But, when the weather heats up, or it’s just warm enough to enjoy something other than a red wine, I reach for white wines with a slant.  As a card carrying member of the ABC Club (Anything But overoaked buttery Chardonnay), one of my favorite alternative whites is Pinot Gris.  As my friend (wineaux in training) put it, “it’s got all the flavor of that Sauvignon Blanc but not all the acid!”  As she has been imbibing on the NZ Savvy, this is the ultimate swing away from the typically high acid and grassy wines of NZ.

Oregon is well known for it’s Pinot Noir.  In fact, I plan to go a bit crazy in August when I’m visiting for the Wine Bloggers Conference this summer.  That said, they do make more than Pinot Noir, and one of the other famous wines is Pinot Gris.

Pinot Gris  is believed to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape.  The name gris means grey in French, and grape can range from gray-blue to white, but it all produces lovely white juice.  Yes, this is the same grape that is used to make Pinot Grigio but my oh my is Pinot Gris different!

The good people from the Oregon Pinot Gris marketing association sent me some samples, and so far, I’ve enjoyed three.  As soon as the weather warms up, I aim to enjoy the rest!

First up:

2008 Oak Knoll Pinot Gris which was filled with buttery lemon curd,  nectarines and preserved lemons.  There was a hint of tropical mango and pineapple, followed by sandlewood.  While this wine was fermented in stainless steel, I found a touch of sandlewood and wood flavors, which aren’t my favorite.  Still, well worth trying at the low low price of $12.  TRY

Next, we have the 2009 Arlie Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley.  This is a pre-release sample, but it was my favorite of the three that I tried in the first tasting batch.  This won had  tons of fresh peach and apple flavors, with a touch of minerality to finish.  The nose had some terrific floral aromas, though not as strong as a viognier.  The viscosity of the wine coats your mouth and the flavors linger, while the acid cuts through the richness.  Fermented in stainless steel, this gives this wine a crispness that oak aged Pinot Gris doensn’t have.   I was a bit sad to see the last of this bottle in my glass!  RUN OUT AND BUY A CASE with excellent QPR at $14

And rounding up this trio I tasted the 2010 David Hill Pinot Gris.  This was a bit higher in acid, with more citruis fruit, but also lovely.  I tasted asian pear, Granny Smith apple, and meyer lemon.  This wine is also stainless steel fermented, which lends a nice crispness.  Here here for stainless steel!  TRY another great QPR wine at $16

Did I mention that these wines are all naturally low in alcohol?  Averaging about 13%, it’s a refreshing change from some higher ABV whites.

The next time you are in the mood for some white wine, try an Oregon Pinot Gris!



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