No Gray Area for Gris

Pinot Gris occupies an interesting position in the Oregon wine industry. It is by far, the second most grown grape in the state after Pinot Noir, yet it rarely receives the praise it deserves. For the statistically minded, in 2011, 2,460 acres of Pinot Gris were harvested in Oregon, yielding fruit that translated to 6,046 tons or 387,000 cases. 

By nature and design, Pinot Gris is a wine made to be consumed young. But that may be all the more important given that the words “early” and “enjoyment” succinctly describe its role. Enjoyment is something we hope any wine will elicit. Early, however, means this is a wine that delivers satisfaction in the moment without stirring up a lot of fuss.

And the better that no-fuss wine is, the greater the pleasure, particularly when it comes at a moderate price. Retail cost of the wines in this tasting ranged from $12 to $25 per bottle.

We found that, with a few exceptions, the submitted wines were well made and characterized by bright, fresh fruit flavors interlaced across a crisp, clean structural framework. The following 14 picks showed the most expression, harmony of balance and depth of flavor interest compared to their counterparts.

Anne Amie 2011 Huntington Hill Pinot Gris • $25 (100 cases)
Give the juice some skin contact time and a lovely pink shade develops. Drop some tea leaves, spice, strawberry and pineapple into that pretty picture and its enticing taste is captured.

Carabella Estate 2011 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Gris • $18 (500 cases)
Round, mouth-filling flavors of ripe pear mingle with notes of sweet herb and tangy spice. The fruitiness is nicely balanced by citrus and fresh, lively acidity. Tasty from start to finish. 

Elk Cove 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris • $15 (2,000 cases)
Tropical fruit, pear, melon and honey are all taste impressions classically associated with Pinot Gris. Add a hint of grassiness and bell pepper to those layers of flavor to grasp this wine’s scope. 

Firesteed 2011 Oregon Pinot Gris • $12 (5,800 cases)
Lowest priced among these selections, this is a lean, crisp wine featuring freshly mown grass on the nose and a zingy minerality that accents citrus and melon flavors. 

Left Coast 2012 The Orchards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris • $18 (1,180 cases)
A former apple and pear orchard wouldn’t seem a likely place to extract banana, coconut and passion fruit flavor components, but this wine has them all and displays them in a well-balanced way. 

Lemelson 2012 Tikka’s Run Willamette Valley Pinot Gris • $19 (788 cases)
A rich aroma of roses and butter introduces stone fruit and pineapple flavors with piquant hints of pepper and minerality. A complex and polished wine. 

Lumos 2012 Temperance Hill Julia Willamette Valley Pinot Gris • $20 (218 cases)
Expansive in aroma and expressive in taste, this palate-pleasing wine suggests gooseberries, pears, pineapple and place, with crisp minerality overlaying the flavors. Plus a long, lingering finish. 

Mt. Hood 2012 Columbia Gorge Estate Pinot Gris • $19 (140 cases)
Small production, big taste impression. Expansive floral aroma, rich taste in a viscous robe infused with a Meyer lemon-like citrus and the aromatic, spicy sweetness of cardamom. 

Ponzi 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris • $17 (13,000 cases)
Intriguing spice on the nose leads to just a teasing hint of sparkle surrounding tropical fruit and citrus flavors. Beautiful balance makes this an appealing wine throughout. 

Pyrenees 2011 Umpqua Valley Pinot Gris • $20 (233 cases)
Engaging aromas of lychee and lime lead to a burst of citrus and tropical fruit in the mid mouth. Like most Pinot Gris, this is a light, easy drinking wine that can be enjoyed alone or with simple fare.

Schmidt Family 2011 Southern Oregon Pinot Gris • $22 (216 cases)
Soft, appealing mouthfeel with apple, honey and grapefruit flavors. Fresh acidity balances richness. Tangy notes of citrus and spice linger in the finish. 

Sunswept Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris • $17 (42 cases)
A delightfully delicate floral aroma accompanies crisp, lively flavors of pear, strawberry and honey. The light pink orange color indicates skin contact and brings a touch of elegance to the appearance. 

Silvan Ridge 2011 Oregon Pinot Gris • $15 (3,000 cases)
Delicious was one sweeping word used to describe the mandarin, lychee and honeysuckle flavor impressions playing on the palate of this creamy, softly textured, taste-tempting wine. 

Walnut City WineWorks 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris • $15 (550 cases)
Bright, light and lively, the fresh, clean character of this dry yet fruity wine carries hints of green apple and aromatic herbs. Its evident youthfulness adds to the drink-me-now appeal. 

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