A Seattle Times reader tasting panel sampled seven varieties of pinot gris and enjoyed them all. Most local pinot gris are affordable, and they pair nicely with Northwest cuisine, particularly seafood.
ONE OF THE least-understood grapes anywhere might just be pinot gris. It’s also one of the perfect wines for the Pacific Northwest.
Known as pinot gris in the Alsace region of France and pinot grigio in Italy, it is a mutation of pinot noir. Though the resulting wine is white, the grapes actually come off the vine as reddish. In the Northwest, we end up with a wine that often shows off bright acidity and complex orchard and tropical-fruit flavors.
In September, The Seattle Times reader wine-tasting panel got together for its quarterly tasting, this time at The Tasting Room at Pike Place Market. The Tasting Room is owned by Paul Beveridge of Wilridge Winery in Seattle, and it features wines from about a half-dozen producers.
During the tasting, we sampled pinot gris from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Universally, the examples we tried were delicious, though in different ways.
Seven to savor
The Seattle Times reader wine-tasting panel tasted these seven examples of pinot gris from three Northwest states. The consensus was that the group enjoyed all seven. These are listed in the order they were tasted.
Camaraderie Cellars 2014 pinot gris, Yakima Valley, $17: This crowd-pleasing white is filled with aromas and flavors of melon, peach and pear, all backed with ample acidity.
Rainstorm 2014 pinot gris, Oregon, $14: This example shows off bright acidity with ample notes of citrus and lime zestiness.
Sawtooth Winery 2014 pinot gris, Snake River Valley, $20: A gorgeous white bursting with aromas and flavors of orchard fruit, including Golden Delicious apple and honeydew melon.
Wilridge Winery 2013 pinot grigio, Naches Heights, $18: A delightful example of a complex pinot gris with aromas and flavors of mineral and bright orchard fruit.
Ross Andrew Winery 2014 Celilo Vineyard pinot gris, Columbia Gorge, $20: Aromas of purple lavender and ripe pear lead to rich flavors of juicy orchard fruit.
Cardwell Hill Winery 2014 pinot gris, Willamette Valley, $15: A stunning wine that is voluptuous without being unctuous. Absolutely fascinating.
Naches Heights Vineyards 2014 pinot gris, Yakima Valley, $14: Perhaps the most interesting wine of the tasting, this reveals more sweet herbs than fruit, and it is backed with remarkable acidity.
Oregon’s No. 1 white-wine grape is pinot gris. And while Washington has planted about half as much acreage of the variety as Oregon, the Columbia Valley’s ability to grow about twice as much tonnage means Washington actually makes a bit more pinot gris than its neighbor to the south.
Regardless of which state it comes from, pinot gris is a wine that pairs perfectly with fresh Northwest cuisine, particularly seafood such as crab, scallops, salmon, halibut or a bowl of steamers. It also works well with roasted vegetables, roast turkey, lemon chicken or barbecued pork.
Most examples of Northwest pinot gris are quite affordable, often in the $15-and-under range.
Haven’t tried a pinot gris lately? Now is a great time to pick up a bottle.