Popular Pinot Gris
In Oregon, one of the world's top three sources for the variety (the others being Northeastern Italy and Alsace in France), the King Estate Winery reports that the state's plantings of Pinot Gris have increased 367 percent in the last 10 years, while SALES of wine made from the grape are up a startling 1,000 percent. The variety has become Oregon's premier white grape, surpassing even Chardonnay in annual sales, Wines Northwest magazine reports.
What's making Pinot Gris so popular? Crisp and flavorful, often adding interesting mineral aromas to its characteristic melon and citrus flavors, its best examples offer an attractive textural quality that somehow manages to be both rich, full and round AND crisply acidic and snappy. This neatly fills the space between the sometimes flabby fat of Chardonnay and the occasionally mean leanness of Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Gris is easy to enjoy, and it makes a first-rate match with food, especially seafood and fish. Oregon wineries trumpet its affinity for the local salmon; Italian eateries offer Pinot Grigio with just about every dish on the bill of fare. And - so far - it remains relatively affordable, with many fine labels selling in the $10 range.
Although my love of Northeastern Italian wine and food and my respect for the quality whites of Alsace generally inspire me to look to Europe first when I'm choosing a Pinot Gris, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate Oregon. We found a good one the other night on the list of a hot new seafood eatery in Louisville:
2000 Pepi Willamette Valley Pinot Grigio ($11 retail; a bit overpriced at $27 in a local restaurant)
FOOD MATCH: Spectacular with a sampler plate of oysters on the half-shell, and just about as good with cedar-plank broiled salmon and a sea-bass and prosciutto "saltimbocca."
WEB LINKS: Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates has a news release about Pepi's Oregon Pinot Grigio program at http://www.kj.com/aboutus/pepihitsoregon.html. The winery's Website is at http://www.pepi.com/, and the wine may be ordered online (where local laws permit) at http://store.kj.com:8121/item.jsp?item=5000083.
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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2001