$20 Pinot Grigio

Grigio or Gris, does it really make a difference it’s just Pinot Grigio after all.

To a certain extent there is a general sentiment that Pinot Gris(gio) of a certain price has two responsibilities; and those at a lesser price need share in only the primary responsibility and that is to be refreshing. With the exception of Alsace Pinot Gris, which can often be refreshing but are just built within a different paradigm in mind,  and will be examined in the near future. Call your wine what you will, make it fruity or earthy, do what you may, but just remember the salient point here.

Refresh me!

You know who’s refreshing me? My friends in Italy are going to be decidedly upset with me but it’s the folks up in Oregon, that’s who. They not only dominated this small tasting in four of the top five positions, but the two top wines both hail from the Dundee Hills. That is crushing it.

And the second responsibility of Pinot Grigio? Well that’s the second responsibility of all wine, which is to be delicious, and that’s where things get to be a bit subjective. Some of these wines were in fact filled with delicious fruit, but others reached deeper and got their hooks into me with their minerality and subtle, savory complexity. The bottom line though, is that many of these wines,and certainly the top half dozen do much more than one might expect from a Pinot Grigio or Gris. Perhaps it’s time to begin to re-examine our vinous prejudices and take a more honest look at what’s in the bottle, as opposed to on the label.

Which brings me a final point here. I used to suggest to people that bottles labeled Pinot Grigio were emulating the well known, light and zesty Italian style of producing this wine while bottles with Pinot Gris on the label were following the Alsatian example. I do not believe this to be true any longer. I believe regions such as Oregon have adopted a convenient nomenclature with each winery choosing for themselves the most appropriate stylistic path. Don’t worry what the labels say folks, just buy a couple and you’ll find one that you like. Simple as that and a classic herb roasted and lemon scented chicken to pair with your gris(gio) should make for a fabulous dinner.

Very pretty lessy/floral aromas greet the nose followed by jammy peach fruits and even a bit of red berry fruit with subtle hints of cream and licorice. rather medium full bodied and frankly rich in the mouth, this has terrific acidity supporting lush apple, peach and citrus flavors. The acidity lingers on the long, vivid finish which shows some lovely underlying mineral notes and wonderfully fresh stone fruit notes. This is big, fresh and juicy, it’s fruity without being a fruit bomb and shows enough detail and complexity to keep many palates interested, and then it explodes on the finish with remarkable intensity and zip. Great Pinot Gris. 93pts
Rather organic smelling on the nose with hints of old wood framing a core of spicy golden raspberry and something tropical and mango-like smeared over a sletty base note. Silken on entry, this show subtlety and a sophisticated textural polish that rounds off the edges without adding too much meat to cover the bones. Very much acid driven in the mouth, this is not really defined by a tartness though the bright flash of acidity is present on the palate and through the long, green apple and green apricot tinged finish. A very Burgundian P G if one might be allowed to say such a thing. 90pts
Intense floral and soft bitter almond notes frame the pear skin, crisp apple,  and melon rind fruit of the nose. Soft and juicy up front, then the acidity appears on the backend refreshing the palate and the flavors of citrus tinged apple fruits that are layered of a gentle minerality and a lovely nutty nuance. The finish is long and rather vibrant with a fine minerality appearing after the fruit leaves the palate. This is a little small scaled but rather classic Pinot Grigio. 88pts
Tight, focused and citrussy on the nose with fine aromas of white flowers, lime, lime leaf and talc. Almost a touch sweet on entry, this is clear, bright and focused in the mouth, very medium/light bodied with fine clarity on the palate delivering mineral  based slightly creamy green apple and citrus based flavors. This is very easy to drink and endlessly refreshing with a long, bright, clear succulent finish. It;’s not the biggest or most complex Pinot out there but it is delicious. 88pts
A little funky on the nose with a nutty, earthy edge to the aromas of river stones, dried herb and dried apple cores. This is supple and a little creamy in the mouth but not too creamy to lose focus. It’s really got as wonderfully seductive texture and offers citrus and green apple flavors with hints of pineapple and passionfruit on the backend. The finish is really driven by the structure, all acid and minerality which will prove to be the divisive point to this wine but it is really wonderful fresh and bright on the palate. I could sip this or have it with with food. 88pts
Quite pungent on the nose with a layering of herb stem, citrus pith and yeasty floral notes over a base of melon and pear fruit tinged with a hint of almond. Round and creamy up front, and delivering plenty of soft, fresh pear and apple flavors with supportive acidity popping out on the moderately long finish adding a nice refreshing note to the finale. An interesting wine that starts out rather plush and creamy and ends more tense and edgy. 88pts
Bright and fruity on the nose with aromas of key lime pie followed by sweet, almost mandarin orange, peach and almond notes with a touch of a minty top note. Fruity and vivid in the mouth this is the crowd pleaser. There a lot of acidity here but it’s well balanced by rather rich and intense fruit that shows the fruitiness of the nose along with that minty edge which adds definition on the palate. This is fruity, fairly complex, and very direct on the palate with excellent persistence to the fruit. It may be a bit too fruity for some but most people will love this. 87pts
Tight on the nose and more floral and mineral than fruity though at its core there is something jammy and pithy that reminds me of bitter orange marmalade. Bright and vivid on entry, the palate reflects the nose in that this is very mineral driven and not a particularly fruity wine. Small scaled and very precise in the mouth this is focused like a laser through the long, minerally finish that shows some baking apple fruit. 87pts
Earthy, minty and floral on the nose with a bit of butcher’s wax and some dried citrus and apricot aromas adding fruity complexity. Bright on entry and so well balanced that this is almost weightless in the mouth. the flavors are subtle if complex with hints of starchy beans and carob wrapped up in cool, soft, silky fruit that leads to a nutty and somewhat spicy backend with lime and lemon oil notes that drive through the modest finish. This is very cool and composed, though I'd like to see more length. 87pts
Spicy on the nose with a touch of wood helping to frame the core of heirloom apple fruit and stony minerality. Relatively big and fruity in the mouth, this offers a lovely sweet/bitter counterpoint in the mouth with fine depth to the slightly creamy flavors of green apples and pears that dominate the palate along with a vein of jammy berry fruit, almost strawberry. Bright acids drive the moderately long apricotty finish. 86pts
Earthy and umami on the nose with scent of pine nuts and prosciutto fat lurking within the core of rather sweet apple and pear fruit. There’s decent acid here and yet this comes off as a bit shapeless in the mouth. Showing classic pear and stone fruit flavors, this lacks much complexity and while it is rich and pleasant it really doesn’t offer much in the way of depth of vibrancy. Pleasant enough though. 85pts
Dusty and a bit peachy on the nose with mostly earthy aromas. Bright juicy and simple in the mouth with plenty of lemon and apple flavors,a  little heat from the alcohol and a modest hit of spice on the back end make this pleasant but the finish is hot and nd a bit disjointed with the acidity sticking out. 83pts

Top $20 Pinot Grigio Tasted 9/2013

Alexana Pinot Gris Revana Vineyard (2011)
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Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris (2011)
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St. Magdelena Pinot Grigio Alto Adige It (2012)
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Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris Willamette Valley (2011)
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Sokol Blosser Willamette Valley Pinot Gris Case Of (2011)
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La Crema Monterey Pinot Gris (2012)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 755

    I started drinking Pinot Gris several years ago when I realized that I had been drinking many of them in the past but under the name Rulander and Grauer Burgunder (Germany). I liked the German version, so why not try the domestic ones. Nice discovery.

    Oct 03, 2013 at 4:28 PM

  • Snooth User: North of 50
    1104747 22

    Fantastic grape in the Northwest, whatever presentation (if well made). Try out some Canadian versions as it seems to be one varietal that expresses very well in the Cold North! Gray Monk or 'See Ya Later Ranch' for slightly more Alsatian style, not sweet, but bigger mouth feel, slightly oilier, a tinge of rose or Kettle Valley and Burrowing Owl for a leaner, crisper style. Seared scallops with a Champagne/blood orange beurre blanc......

    Oct 04, 2013 at 10:53 AM

  • Snooth User: SM
    1097030 218

    I believe as wine drinkers we have to keep challenging & growing our palate and not stay inside our safety zone too much otherwise we lose out to what all the options are.

    Yes Northern Italy and Alsace are supposedly the "home" of Pinot Gris/Grigio but you can find good interpretations of it anywhere. I am glad that Zuiko talked about Grauburgunder from Germany as there are some good bottles to found there; though it can be hit & miss sometimes.

    Reading North of-50 comments about Canadian versions is very interesting as there one of the wineries Pinot Gris is called Gray Monk, which could link back to Szürkebarát which is the Hungarian name for the varietal.

    Hungary does have some rather amazing versions of this especially from around the Balaton Lake regions which have fantastic terrior coupled together with a unique lake climate.

    So yes do enjoy Pinot Gris from Alsace, Alto Adige, Oregon, Washington; but also do yourself a favor and be bold and brave so that you can experience the full spectrum of the wonderful world of Pinot Gris/Grigio.


    Solomon Mengeu

    Oct 04, 2013 at 11:48 PM

  • Have any of you tried the Pinot Gris from The Four Graces? It's a Willamette Valley vineyard that also has a lovely Pinot Noir. Can't wait to try some of these suggesons as well!

    Oct 07, 2013 at 12:27 AM

  • Snooth User: BuzzMaster
    531136 14

    Yes, in fact I had the Four Graces just tonight. Nicely balanced and an especially clean finish. Wife and I both enjoyed. In our opinion above average based on a number of tastings this week in the Dundee area. We will try some of the others on this list too.

    Oct 08, 2013 at 10:39 PM

  • Snooth User: Saffredi
    729598 151

    I have to admit that I have never had the opportunity to taste any P.G. from the U.S., though I did try them from Australia. That was quite disappointing!
    For me the best dry P.G. come from Italy: Alto Adige (Tiefenbrunner Castel Turmhof P.G. 2011) and (the best I ever had) Friuli Venezia Giulia (Vie di Romans Dessimis, esp. the 2009 vintage!).

    Oct 27, 2013 at 9:23 AM

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