By Steve Sinkler
For Cannon Beach Gazette
Sunny days are here again and it’s a perfect time for a glass of chilled white wine. For some strange reason, pinot gris, Oregon’s signature white wine is the Rodney Dangerfield of wines: It doesn’t get any respect. This blue-gray child of pinot noir, can be found in most Willamette Valley tasting rooms, yet there aren’t any big wine festivals or celebrations in its honor. Maybe it’s because pinot gris flavor structure (apple and lemon with a bright acidity) seems simple when compared to the more complex styles of chardonnay or riesling. Maybe it’s because a bottle of pinot gris sells for about $20, while a bottle of pinot noir or chardonnay sells for double or triple that price. Whatever the reason, pinot gris deserves better as it’s a delicious, food-friendly white wine.
Here are a couple of my favorite Oregon pinot gris. But first, when we say “Oregon pinot gris,” the story starts with Eugene-based King Estate. Pinot gris is King Estate’s flagship wine and can be found in grocery stores across America. However, the winemaker who made King Estate’s famous pinot gris left years ago to open his own winery. Winemaker Ray Walsh can now be found at Capitello wines, located in downtown Eugene. Capitello Pinot Gris delivers complex flavors of apple and citrus with a softer style that is more reminiscent of chardonnay. Ray makes his delicious pinot gris using the lees aging techniques he perfected while at King Estate. While this wine pairs nicely with cheese plates, seafood and salads, its restrained acidity makes Capitello Pinot Gris a perfect wine to enjoy without food too. To me, Capitello makes the best “classic” Oregon pinot gris.
If looking for a premium-priced pinot gris, my pick is Alexana, which is one of the few Oregon pinot gris fetching a price above $30. Made with estate fruit from their very first plantings, Alexana also uses lees stirring and aging techniques to create this delicious wine. Made in Newberg, Alexana Pinot Gris has an elegant mouth feel with a slight acidity that makes it a perfect companion to razor clams or Dungeness crab. If Oregon had a grand cru designation, Alexana Pinot Gris would certainly deserve it.
How about a Oregon pinot gris unlike anything you’ve ever tried before? Carlton-based Omero, uses classic chardonnay techniques such as oak fermentation, oak aging and malolactic fermentation to make a wonderfully complex, salmon colored pinot gris that will have you re-thinking everything you thought you knew about pinot gris.
Of course, our very own Puffin Pinot Gris, is my personal favorite. Earlier this year, our 2016 Puffin Pinot Gris earned a Double Gold medal and was named Best of Class at the Savor Northwest Wine Awards. Puffin Pinot Gris is packed with flavors of apple and starfruit with a hint of residual sugar that balances nicely with its medium acidity to create a pleasing finish. I recommend serving this well chilled. I enjoy Puffin Pinot Gris with a wide range of foods, but particularly like it with grilled veggies. This wine is made in Eugene by the incredibly talented Ray Walsh (who else?).
A few other personal favorites include pinot gris from Elk Cove, Sokol Blosser, Benton Lane and Pudding River. Each is slightly different. Each is delicious.
Please drink responsibly. Do not drink and drive.
Note-A special “thank you” to everyone who has asked about my Somm 3 exam. I still haven’t received my results, but will let you know when I do. I appreciate your support and encouragement.