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Wine Advisor Express:
Popular Pinot Gris

Will Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio threaten the dominance of Chardonnay as the "default" white grape for those who want a glass of white wine? It may be a while before Pinot Gris/Grigio sales catch Chardonnay worldwide. But this Franco-Italian grape has certainly leapt from relative obscurity to trendy popularity in a surprisingly short time.

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)
Although Pepi Winery (one of the Kendall-Jackson Estates wineries) is located in Oakville, Calif., it makes this wine in Oregon's Willamette Valley, epicenter of the U.S. Pinot Gris earthquake. It's a very clear and rather pale straw color, with a delicious ripe honeydew melon aroma and rather rich and full flavor that gains balance and structure from crisply citric acidity. At 13.5 percent alcohol, rather high for a white, it gains a little weight that you won't usually find in its Italian siblings. (Nov. 13, 2001)

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 The winery's Website is at, and the wine may be ordered online (where local laws permit) at

Wine Toon Calendar 2002:
A year of wine and laughter

Here's a way to please yourself and friends with a wine-related holiday "stocking stuffer" and support at the same time: You can't go wrong with our new Wine Toon Calendar! This monthly wall calendar, exclusive from, contains a chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, AND more than 100 highlighted Wine Web Links, two every week!

Buy one for your wine cellar and another for your office ... and they make great gifts! Offer them in your wine store, your catalog, or your wine club (contact us by E-mail for information about wholesale prices for re-selling).

While supplies last, order the Wine Toon Calendar at It's only $11.99 (plus $2 shipping and handling for U.S. shipments, $4 for all other countries). Buy one for yourself, and more for your wine-loving friends, and you'll be all set for holiday giving.

And don't forget: Your purchase helps support and The 30 Second Wine Advisor!

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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