Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.
I should also state that it's not that I don't like it, or that I think it's bad. I just think it's kind of boring compared to what else Oregon can and is producing. I understand, commerically the need to have a white wine. What I don't necessarily understand is why Pinot Gris.
Let me explain myself. I continue to be impressed with Oregon Chardonnay, incredibly so. I don't know that I've had a "meh" one to date. The varietal does so well in Oregon in terms of acidity and complexity. Rather than round and ripe, Oregon Chardonnay is proving to have great minerality and bright fruit profiles. Oregon Riesling is dynamite. Rieslings from Chehalem, Trisaetum and Anam Cara stand out as brilliant food wines, again with great acids and depth of flavors.
Given how wonderfully these two wines do I'm not sure why nearly every Oregon winery is producing a Pinot Gris, as opposed to say a Riesling or Chardonnay. I largely find Oregon Pinot Gris underwhelming and forgettable. I just don't find them that much fun to drink, and that's what wine should be about. I will admit that I haven't tried all of them. I know that the Pinot Gris produced by Eyrie Vineyards has a reputation for excellence, but I haven't tried that wine in a very long time. Jason Lett even once took me to task on the Twitter for being dismissive about Oregon Pinot Gris as "blaming the victim." His implication was that it wasn't the Gris that was the wrong fit for the Willamette, it was perhaps the way the wine was being grown, or made that was to blame.
I also know that there's a history of the varietal in the Willamette Valley, and that winemakers and growers from Alsace have played a role in the wine flourishing in Oregon. I respect that, but that doesn't change my opinion about most of the Pinot Gris I've tried. Yawn.
Hell, I prefer Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc to Pinot Gris. I find it's got a zing and a zest that largely Gris doesn't deliver on. Today's Friday Find however has me eating a bit of crow. The 2011 Carabella Pinot Gris from the Chehalem Mountains AVA is downright fantastic. I can't believe I said that.
The wine has a goodly amount of zip to it, in both it's aromatics and fruit forward profile. Lemon, grapefruit and honeysuckle aromatics as well as flavors of early season pear and wet stone. There's a bit of neutral oak used in the production but it hasn't dulled the fun acidity nor has it rounded the wine out in a way that makes it feel flabby at all.
The rumor on this wine is that a gentleman visited the tasting room and was really impressed by the Gris. It turned out that he owns a night club in the French region of Alsace and has been importing and serving this wine there, an Oregon Pinot Gris in Alsace to rave reviews. I don't know if the story is true, but it's a good one all the same. For $18 this one is certainly worth your time and money and frankly it's a wine that in my eyes might show just how much fun Oregon Pinot Gris can be. Hell, it's good enough for Alsatian night club goers.