How is Pinot Gris like Starbucks?
Whether you call it Pinot Gris, as the French do, or go with the Italian Pinot Grigio, you're much more likely to call for this popular white wine today than you were even a decade ago.
The past decade has seen Pinot Gris plantings in California increase almost 300 percent, catching up fast on Sauvignon Blanc for second place after Chardonnay. It's hot, too, in Oregon, in Alsace, in Italy.
Pinot Gris (and Grigio) is easy to find on the wine list or in the wine shop. But, much like the world expansion of Starbucks, what was once a reliable artisanal product with a sense of place has turned into a mass-market commodity.
There's some very good Pinot Gris out there, but there's a lot more neutral, insipid stuff that serves primarily as an effective alcohol-delivery system.
It's a real pleasure, then, to run into the occasional Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio or blend that reminds us of the way it ought to be.
Au Bon Climat, which despite the French name is an All-American winery based in Santa Barbara County on California's Central Coast, is one of my New World favorites. Owner Jim Clendenen makes the kind of wines I like, with elegance, structure and balance, consistently avoiding the overdone "blockbuster" style.
I had occasion to take a taste of his 2009 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend when Jim passed through here recently for a distributor's portfolio tasting. I liked it so much, as soon as it was available locally I grabbed a bottle to take home for more relaxed enjoyment.
A blend of about two-thirds Pinot Gris, one-third Pinot Blanc, it's rich, aromatic and textured, with a good acidic backbone and rational 13.5 percent alcohol. I bought it specifically to pair with locavore pastured pork, but it would work and play well at the table with a variety of richer white meats, poultry or seafood. My tasting notes are below.
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Today's Tasting Report
Au Bon Climat 2009 Santa Barbara County Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc
This blend of 66 percent Pinot Gris with 34 percent Pinot Blanc is a clear light gold in color. Aromatic and complex, white fruit and a hint of musk, elusive whiffs of almond. Mouth-filling and textured, mouth-watering acidity gets your attention, but a pleasant richness keeps it comfortable. White-fruit flavors are complex and elusive, in the neighborhood of pears and melon on the aroma wheel, with lip-smacking acidity to provide a cleansing, food-friendly finish. (Sept. 13, 2010)
FOOD MATCH: Its richness, texture and aromatics make it a compatible pairing with heartier "white-meat" fare. It was fine with a locally pastured pork chop, pan-seared and oven-finished with fresh sage and cracked black pepper. It would also go well with roast chicken or turkey or lobster or shrimp dishes.
VALUE: Even my local price near $20 is fair for a white of this quality, but shop around if you're not stuck in a captive market, as Wine-Searcher.com shows it from many sources from $14.55 to the upper teens.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Look for sources and check prices for Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc on Wine-Searcher.com.
You can buy it from the winery Website for $14.99 plus shipping, where the law allows.
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