Reconsidering Pinot Gris

Why you should give it another shot


Eventually, someone will ask. What's the wine that got you into wine? Then come the phenomenal answers. Ancient Brunellos discovered on semesters abroad and Burgundies shared with lovers who don't speak the language. You know, mind-blowing wines, the ones built like time machines and man, what luck to meet them right there at the top of the road. 

But there are other versions of this story. Maybe your gateway wine was Carlo Rossi. Or Mark West. Or an Oregon Pinot Gris, bought for $10 and served in paper cups.

Pinot Gris is better known around these parts as Pinot Grigio, which is better known to plenty of people as "what my ________ (mother, sister-in-law, grandfather who adds seltzer to his wine) drinks." Much of the mass-produced Italian stuff is light-weight and super-bland, a white and nothing more, that being, often, the secret to its traction. It's inoffensive and vaguely boozey. Unfortunately, encounters with insipid versions, as with Chardonnay and Riesling, often cause people looking for better flavors and better stories to move along and never look back. If you've also wandered off, please come in. There's plenty here to make the case for Pinot Gris.

Even though it's been made in Oregon since the 1960s, the Pinot Gris here is still far from being monolithic. Any given bottle may make a completely different argument as to the best expression of the grape in this region. The lack of consistent, recognizable characteristics may be one thing keeping it from Pinot Grigio's status as a popular house white in the U.S. That's a great thing, as it makes the exploration that much more rewarding. Veer left, and you'll find more body and Alsatian-style spice; veer right, and you'll get residual sugar or the tropics, cut with cream. Even the divergent paths, however, still lead to a wine that can unite people new to this world with those who make their lives here. May there be no lovelier task.

Five Oregonians to Try:

Montinore Estate Pinot Gris
Ponzi Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris
Adelsheim Pinot Gris

A to Z Pinot Gris

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