As one of the fastest growing wine segments in the U.S., Pinot Gris is favored by many as a light, easy to drink, and uncomplicated wine. My last tasting featured three Pinot Gris’ one from Italy, California, and a spectacular wine from Oregon (King Estates, Acrobat: Pinot Gris)!
We learn things when we taste vertically, meaning the same varietals from different regions, such as how winemaker decisions can really affect the contents in the bottle. Same grape, different process yields wildly different wines. I guess that’s why there is a winery on every street corner in California. Nonetheless, there is much to be learned from these grapes beginning with the grape itself. What do we know about Pinot Gris?
Thought to be a mutant clone of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigo has been around since the Middle Ages making its way throughout Europe by the 14th Century. The name Pinot Gris is derived from two words: pinot, meaning pinecone (i.e., the shape of the cluster) and Gris, French for grey. Unlike traditional white varietals that produce yellow to green fruit clusters and red varietals producing blue to red to black berry clusters, Pinot Gris produces light pink clusters whose juice, if pressed without skin contact, yields a clear to straw hued juice. Extended skin contact will impart a rose color to the wine. Generally made into light, innocuous white wines, Pinot Gris has lots of potential and depth of character. Last week, after we finished with our three Gris’ we opened a bottle or Pinot Gris Port-styled wine from Colorado. Here are my notes:
Graystone Vineyards, Pinot Gris, Lipizzan White Port (Cliffton, CO). (18% alc. Source: winery, Cost: $23, size: 375ml).
This past fall our wine tasting friends, Kurt and Lu, visited their son in Colorado and together experienced several wineries in the Grand Junction area. This particular winery features only dessert styled wines: a white port (Pinot Gris, called Lipizzan White Port), Port II and Port III. The attractive bottle, features a Lipizzan horse on the label and a “double hand-waxed dip” top. I began by trying to remove the stubbornly affixed “double hand-waxed” cap and ultimately was successful after a prolonged knife battle. (Note to winery: this is a pretty addition but is potentially dangerous – I’d consider an alternative closure). On to the notes:First, I must confess I love the idea of a winery specializing on one product line, in this case crafting dessert wines. I began my tasting in a good mood (remember we just finished tasting three traditionally styled Pinot Gris wines) and was greeted to a pleasantly tinted orange-red-tawny, but not quite crystal clear, white port. Hefty wafts of chocolate, hazelnut and caramel characterize the aromatics of this interesting port-styled wine. My palate was awakened to HUGE chocolate-covered cherries, hints of caramel, and a little zing of orangey goodness. Tasty. Nice. Makes me want to take a road trip to the Grand Valley of western Colorado.