Exceptional Pinot Gris
In spite of its noble name and heritage, Pinot Gris doesn't get much respect these days.
Pinot Gris, after all, is not only a member of the same family as the noble Pinot Noir of Burgundy but, some experts say, may be its ancestor; DNA studies, in any case, make it clear that all the colors of Pinot, from "Noir" (black) to "Blanc" (white), with "Gris" (gray) and others in-between, are closely related kin.
But to some extent, the increasing popularity of Pinot Gris (and its Italian counterpart Pinot Grigio, the same grape with a vowel on the end of its name) has debased the coin, building a consumer image of the variety as a simple, inexpensive and inoffensive "glass of white wine."
You've heard me preach against this stereotype before when it comes to the hilly eastern reaches of Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the Collio and Colli Orientale regions where favorable climate and soil come together to foster the growth of high-quality Pinot Grigio grapes that can make very fine wines. Ditto for some of the more favored vineyards of sub-Alpine Trentino-Alto Adige. Alsace, too, produces plenty of stereotype-breaking Pinot Gris with noteworthy body and aromatic character.
Today let's turn to Oregon, which - much like Friuli - is capable of turning out both lackluster Pinot Gris and some memorable specimens. Today's wine from Adelsheim Vineyard, which opened in 1971 as one of the first wineries in Oregon's Willamette Valley, falls clearly into the latter category. Full-bodied and ripe, almost unctuous in texture and loaded with luscious melon and peach aromas and flavors, it's a Pinot Gris that can stand up proudly against the best of the variety from Alsace or Italy.
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Adelsheim 2003 Oregon Pinot Gris ($16)
This clear, straw-color wine shows the characteristic melonlike aromas of Pinot Gris, honeydew and musky canteloupe, with a pleasantly aromatic side note of peaches that kicks its fruit quotient up a notch. Rather full-bodied, gentle softness is only partially offset by a crisp, citric snap, with melon and peach flavors and a faint peach-pit bitterness lingering in a long finish. Unusually complex for a Pinot Gris, and a versatile food wine. (Sept. 16, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Oregonians like to match the local Pinot Gris with the region's fresh wild salmon. I find it makes a great match with shellfish, too, even a flavorful cross-cultural dish like my Asian choice, Cantonese shrimp with lobster sauce; and it should be just fine with pork or poultry.
VALUE: Although its quality against the competition justifies a mid-teens price, shop around, as the $16 I paid at local retail is at the high end of the range of prices shown on Wine-Searcher.com for the 2003 Oregon Pinot Gris, which start as low as $12.
WHEN TO DRINK: The body and structure of this wine suggest that it should hold up well under cool storage, but its ripe and fruity aromatics justify enjoying it soon. Drink over the next year or so, but don't panic if you have some left.
WEB LINK: You'll find plenty of information about Adelsheim, the winery and its wines, here:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The winery Website makes it easy to locate Adelsheim wines, with online ordering (shipping available in the U.S. where the law allows) and a wine club; there's also a "Find Our Wines" listing of distributors with E-mail and phone contacts in many U.S. states and Canadian provinces. See
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Friday, Sept. 17, 2004