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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week
Published September 5, 2014

A Bevy of Pinot Gris for Oysters and Mussels
Part 2 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)
By Chuck Hill
 

Each year that Jon Rowley has conducted his Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, Pinot Gris wines have become more and more common in the finals and in the final winner’s circle.  Why?  Jon’s competition structure favors wines that are balanced but not too assertive.  Judges are asked to seek wines that complement the oyster, but not overpower it.  My annual judging gives a little more latitude to wines that have zippy flavors and rich character on the palate.  Here is a fine group of wines from which you can choose to accompany your shellfish or other light meals in the cooling fall weather.  

Adelsheim Vineyard
2013 Auxerrois, Ribbon Springs Vineyard
Ribbon Ridge AVA
$25.00

So this Pinot Gris column starts off with something else?  What’s up?  Auxerrois is a little-known variety found mostly in Alsace [also British Columbia] that is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais blanc (the same parents as Chardonnay).  This wine, as made by Adelsheim Vineyard, offers a profile similar to Pinot Gris, only with more complexity and style.  This example from the Willamette Valley offers aromas and flavors of kiwi, pear, bitter lemon and tropical notes – great with oysters and mussels. 

Adelsheim Vineyard
2013 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA
$19.00

One of Oregon’s pioneer grape growers and winemakers, Adelsheim Vineyard has spread the word about the state’s fine wines by providing excellent examples for all the world to enjoy.  Among the 10 vineyard sites that comprise this blend, one is Adelsheim’s estate Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard, which includes one of the oldest Pinot Gris plantings in the New World.  Look for apple and pear with hints of white flowers and white peach. 

King Estate
2013 Pinot Gris, Signature
Oregon
$17.00

This wine is King Estate’s flagship Pinot Gris, crafted from grapes grown at the estate organic vineyard and grapes from other sustainably grown vineyards in Oregon.  The wine was fermented and aged sur lie in stainless steel.  My tasters enjoyed aromas of pear and mineral with notes of orchard blossom, and the crisp palate showing flavors of citrus and pear with a finish of mineral and a hint of papaya.  Also look for King Estate’s excellent second label Acrobat Pinot Gris at a price point of about $14.00. 

 

 

Mercer Estates
2013 Pinot Gris
Yakima Valley AVA
$15.00

Mercer Estates winemaker Jessica Munnell crafted this bright and flavorful Pinot Gris from grapes grown at Brooks and Sunnyside vineyards in the Yakima Valley.  (Both vineyards are part of the partnership between the Hogue and Mercer families.)  Aromas of white peach, honeysuckle and pear lead to a fresh palate of pear and mineral flavors – a very nice complement to oysters. 

 

 

 

Maryhill Winery
2012 Pinot Gris
Columbia Valley AVA
$16.00

Visitors are enjoying a long, warm summer in the Pacific Northwest, and many wine lovers have taken advantage of the weather to spend some time in the beautiful Columbia Gorge.  The attraction of Maryhill’s fine wines, spectacular views, live music and bocce courts is undeniable.  Its Pinot Gris is a fine pairing with oysters and mussels, and also with other lighter dishes, meats and pastas.  Look for aromas and flavors of pear, honeydew melon, citrus zest and notes of floral perfume.  

Archery Summit
2012 Vireton Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA
$24.00

Archery Summit is best known for its Pinot Noir wines that are among the best made in the Dundee Hills of Oregon. The Vireton Pinot Gris is fermented in stainless steel using Alsatian style yeasts and bottled with a screw cap closure to preserve freshness.  The wine opens to aromas of orchard blossom, ripe peach and pineapple with a palate of stone fruits, apple and confectionary spice – very tasty with mussels. 

Gecko Cellars
2013 Pinot Grigio
Columbia Valley  AVA
$15.00

Brad Sherman produces Gecko Cellars wines at his Woodiniville, Washington winery which is also home to his Michael Florentino Cellars label.  Grapes for the Gecko Cellars Pinot Grigio are whole cluster pressed yielding a fresh and subtle wine that pairs well with all types of lighter cuisine.  The wine offers aromas and flavors of apple and earthy pear with notes of baking spice and orange blossom. 

Castillo de Feliciana
2013 Vino Verano Pinot Gris, "Summer Wine"
Columbia Valley AVA
$19.00

Castillo de Feliciana is known for great hospitality at their winery in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, just south of Walla Walla.  Summer hospitality includes movies, music and dancing under the stars (on selected weekends).  Visitors rave about their tasting room and wines, including their “Summer Wine” (Vino Verano) that offers spicy pear, melon and herbs with notes of rose petal and creamy apple on the finish. 

Left Coast Cellars
2013 Pinot Gris, The Orchards
Willamette Valley
$18.00

Wine tourists looking for more than a bare bones tasting experience should chart a course to Left Coast Cellars west of Salem on Highway 99W.  Meticulously tended gardens, vineyards and landscaping show the dedication of the owner and staff, and the tasting room and café bring the show to your palate.  This well-balanced Pinot Gris offers pear and mineral with highlights of tart apple and peach – great with seafood. 

Brooks Winery
2013 Pinot Gris, Brooks Estate
Eola-Amity Hills AVA
$20.00

Brooks Winery is just opening their new winery at their hilltop location east of Amity, Oregon in the Eola Hills.  This is another great visit for wine lovers who will find a wide selection of wines to taste from Pinot Gris to Pinot Noir and lots of wines in between.  This rare wine (Brooks hasn’t bottled a Pinot Gris in 14 years) offers ripe Asian pear, melon and tart apple/citrus notes on the finish. 

RoxyAnn
2013 Pinot Gris
Rogue Valley AVA
$16.50

This wine came from grapes grown at the RoxyAnn estate vineyard in East Medford, Oregon in the warm Rogue Valley AVA.  Winemaker John Quinones blended 8% Viognier in this Pinot Gris and aged it sur lie for 4 months prior to bottling.  In addition to zesty pear and mineral on the nose and palate, the wine offers vanilla cream and lemon notes on the finish.  Serve with steamed mussels for a great Northwest wine/food experience. 

Panther Creek Cellars
2013 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA
$20.00

Panther Creek is known mostly for its extensive offering of Pinot Noirs – mostly single-vineyard bottlings from some of Oregon’s finest estates.  This Pinot Gris is the winery’s sole white wine, and is a blend of grapes from three Willamette Valley vineyards: Olsen, Wildewood and Kraemer.  Look for bright, clean aromas and flavors featuring apple and pear dancing with tropical fruit notes and a vein of earthy mineral. 

Erath
2013 Pinot Gris
Oregon
$14.00

Erath winery has been working with Pinot Gris for more than two decades in the northern Willamette Valley of Oregon.  The wine is produced in the current Oregon style of “no wood, no malolactic” to preserve the bright fruit character and complexity on both nose and palate.  A hint of residual sugar balances the wine, which offers aromas and flavors of banana and guava with a firm base of melon and citrus – a fine accompaniment to both oysters and mussels. 

 

Duck Pond Cellars
2013 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA
$14.00

Grapes for this Pinot Gris came from Duck Pond Cellars estate vineyards in the South Salem Hills: St. Jory Vineyard, Delaney Vineyard and Hylo Vineyard.  From grape to wine in the glass, this bottling demonstrates the ability of Pinot Gris to be a versatile food wine.  Tropical fruit, mineral and lemon mingle with notes of lime zest and nectarine on both the nose and palate and pair well with seafood or lighter meats and fowl. 

 

 

Seven of Hearts
2013 Pinot Gris
Oregon
$18.00

Byron Dooley’s Seven of Hearts winery produces a wide range of varietal wines, offering a selection to match almost any cuisine.  His light and fruity Pinot Gris is a nice pairing with half-shell oysters, providing a fruit-and-mineral background to the shellfish.  Aromas and flavors of pear and melon mingle with notes of wet stone, lime zest and Granny Smith apple. 

Wine by Joe
2012 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley AVA
$14.00

Joe Dobbes’ describes his Wine by Joe brand as,  “Delicious, but never pretentious.  A high-quality bottle at a non-nonsense price, meant to be shared with people who make you happy.”  His Pinot Gris offers aromas of fresh apple and pear with a soft, fruity palate that is a fine complement to seafood, lighter meats and appetizers. 

Brandborg Winery
2013 Pinot Gris
Umpqua Valley AVA
$16.00

Terry and Sue Brandborg were excited in 2013 when the TTB approved an American Viticultural Area for their Elkton location within the Umpqua Valley AVA in southern Oregon.  Their Pinot Gris offers rich aromas and flavors of green apple, nectarine, pear and earthy mineral with balancing acidity on the palate to pair with oysters or mussels. 

Wines from other areas

San Angelo
2013 Pinot Grigio
Toscana, Italy
$20.00

Castillo Banfi produces this bright and balanced Pinot Grigio in the somewhat unlikely location of Tuscany in Italy.  Italian Pinot Grigio is more often grown in cooler, more northern locations.  In the glass, the wine offers aromas of citrus, herbs and mineral, inviting a sip, which reveals pear and lemony-grapefruit flavors.  It is a superb seafood wine and a grand accompaniment to half-shell oysters. 

La Crema
2013 Pinot Gris
Monterey
$20.00

The cool coastal climate of Monterey seems a natural place to grow Pinot Gris.  Persistent ocean winds are funneled down a 90-mile long valley between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan Mountains.  Fog penetrates the northern part of the valley, where Pinot Gris is planted.  This crisp and refreshing Pinot Gris shows aromas of lemon zest and Asian pear with notes of mineral and stone fruits.  The palate adds flavors of melon and kumquat on a long and generous finish. 

Etude
2013 Pinot Gris
Carneros
$28.00

Etude Wines of Napa, California specializes in Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, but produces a handful of other varietal wines including Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.  The Pinot Gris is superbly crafted and offers aromas of pear and peach with earthy mineral and notes of orange blossom.  On the palate, flavors of pear and melon yield to crisp grapefruit on the finish. 

Lindeman’s
2013 Pinot Grigio, Bin 85
SE Australia
$8.00

Dr. Harry Lindeman planted his first vines in Australia’s Hunter Valley in 1843.  More than 170 years later the company now makes wine from grapes grown in New South Wales (Hunter Valley), Victoria (Mildura) and South Australia (Coonawarra).  Lindeman’s offers a wide varietal of wines in different styles including this bright and crisp Pinot Grigio featuring aromas and flavors of spicy pear, Granny Smith apple and notes of citrus and mineral. 

Bota Box
2012 Pinot Grigio
California
$21.00/3L

Most wine lovers know the main advantage of box wines... price; but many haven’t considered the impact that bottled wines have on the environment.  Bota Box wine containers have been improved to be 100% recyclable and offer a much smaller carbon footprint than bottled wines.  AND the wine is good, too!  This fresh and friendly Pinot Grigio offers floral and stone fruit aromas leading to a palate of white peach, pear and citrus flavors – great for a seafood party or for everyday sipping.

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Copyright
©  September, 2014  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 09/10/2014