The new grape was discovered by a winemaker at a neighboring vineyard.
PINOT NOIR is a notorious grape. It is maddeningly difficult to work with and hauntingly difficult to craft.
Pinot noir also is infamous for being genetically unstable. Worldwide, there are two, and possibly three, white grape varieties that are known as mutations of pinot noir. Pinot gris (known as pinot grigio in Italy) is one, pinot blanc another. Both are varieties that occurred and were discovered in pinot noir vineyards. There’s considerable speculation that even chardonnay is a mutation of pinot noir (both are indigenous to the Burgundy region of France).
Where there is pinot noir, there will be mutations, and that includes the vineyards of Oregon wine country.
Try this one
Domaine Trouvère 2015 Indigene, Dundee Hills, $28: Aromas of lemon zest and hints of vanilla give way to intriguing flavors of Golden Delicious apple, kiwi and a trace of minerality in the finish. The superb acid gives this unique wine all the structure necessary for crab ravioli or pasta with a rich white sauce. (Available only in the tasting room.)
Don Lange, owner/winemaker of Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards in the Dundee Hills, has been making Oregon wine for more than a quarter-century. He’s fought the battles over the years, convincing pinot noir lovers that Oregon deserves a place on the world’s wine stage. He was among the first to make Oregon pinot gris, which brought its own challenges, especially with chardonnay lovers.
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One day in the 1990s, Lange was walking a block of pinot gris a few miles from his winery, in a vineyard called Winter’s Hill. He noticed a mutation taking place, in which half the cluster had ripe, red grapes, and half were green. He thought the green grapes tasted good, so he isolated the canes containing the mutation, took cuttings and propagated it in his own vineyard. He eventually had enough baby vines to plant an acre of the unknown grape into the lower reaches of his estate. By 2008, he had enough fruit to harvest a commercial crop (enough to fill about three barrels or make 75 cases of wine).
He calls the grape pinot Pierre, named after Peter Gladhart, owner of Winter’s Hill. He calls the wine “Indigene” after the word “indigenous” and bottles it under his Domaine Trouvére label. By law, he can’t name the grape variety because the mystery mutation is not recognized by the federal government. And it’s too tasty to simple label it “white table wine,” which was his other choice.
Lange remains curious about this grape he discovered and has nurtured. The fact is, it is indigenous to the Dundee Hills. It exists nowhere else in the world. Right now, it’s little more than a really interesting wine that is destined to start conversations at any meal where it is opened.