A humble white wine most famous in Italy and France’s Alsace region has become a major player in the Pacific Northwest.
Pinot grigio is a mutation of pinot noir and a sibling to pinot blanc. For many years, it has been Oregon’s No. 1 white wine, usurping chardonnay in 2000. In Washington, pinot gris is well established, weighing in at nearly 10,000 tons harvested last fall, making it the state’s No. 3 white wine behind chardonnay and riesling, and the state’s No. 6 grape overall.
It’s a good fit in the Northwest because its fruit-forward flavors and bright acidity make it a good match with our regional cuisine, particularly with fresh seafood. This is such a natural pairing, it’s helped coin the phrase, “Pinot gris and things from the sea.”
(As we get into the warmer summer months, pinot grigio is a good wine to have on hand, keep a couple of bottles chilling in your fridge to enjoy with salmon, chicken, pasta, crab, oysters or corn on the cob.)
It would be a mistake to overlook examples from Idaho, particularly from Sawtooth Winery in Nampa. And the examples from British Columbia are superb, though they are generally not distributed south of the border. In fact, in this year’s Cascadia International Wine Competition, a pinot gris from British Columbia won best in show out of more than 1,000 entries.
Here are a few of the other gold medal winners from this year’s Cascadia. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.
Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2017 denHoed Vineyard Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, $11: The Conway family in Spokane continues its legacy of high quality and great value wines. This stunner has aromas of Granny Smith apple, fresh ripe pineapple and white flowers, with a delightful palate of green apples, lime and a touch of butterscotch.
Lady Hill Winery 2017 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $18: This pinot gris is a display of balance; bright citrus aromas and flavors, with a full mouth feel, showing off a full body, yet retaining the perfect amount of acid to keep it bright and fresh.
Deer Creek Vineyards 2017 Pinot Gris, Rogue Valley, $25: This pinot gris shows off proud aromas of Meyer lemon and green apple, and delivers flavors of grapefruit, lime and apple, with delightful acid that tingles on the mid-palate.
Owen Roe 2017 Pinot Gris, Eola-Amity Hills, $21: Subtle and smooth, this pinot gris teases the palate with delicate flavors of lemon, green apple and lime zest. It has a light flavor intensity yet a strong finish, which entices you to keep reaching for another sip.
Mt. Boucherie Winery 2017 Pinot Gris, Similkameen Valley, $18: Pear and melon aromas parade past the nose in this pinot gris from the Similkameen Valley in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. The 2017 pinot gris from Mt. Boucherie, known for its work with white wines, displays more melon, pear and apple flavors on the palate, finishing with a rounded pinch of apple-peel acidity.
Tightrope Winery 2017 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, $21: Tightrope, an Okanagan Valley winery based in Penticton, promises and delivers a journey of balance with its 2017 pinot gris. Its nose promises minerality, pear, apple and citrus aromas, which are joined on the palate by lemon and lime, plus a dash of spice and a hint of peach in a rounded finish with a final dusting of minerality.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.