Across the Pacific Northwest, Pinot Gris has earned its place as an important and abundant white wine.
Traditionally from the Alsace region of France and the northern area of Italy (where it’s called Pinot Grigio), Pinot Gris is a bright, crisp, fruit-driven wine that often pairs beautifully with food. This makes it a perfect white wine for the Northwest, thanks to its compatibility with fresh shellfish, seafood, chicken, pork, vegetables and turkey.
In Washington, winemakers crush about 9,000 tons a year, making it the No. 3 grape after Riesling and Chardonnay. In Oregon, it’s the top white grape by far. More than three times as much Pinot Gris is being made than Chardonnay.
Here are several delicious Pinot Gris we’ve tried recently. Enjoy these for the rest of the summer and into the fall.
Pike Road Wines 2015 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $15: This new label from Oregon’s Elk Cove Vineyards benefits from a broad base of fruit sources throughout the Willamette Valley, including 30-year-old plantings at its estate vineyard that rank among the state’s oldest.
Clean aromas of melon and lychee include talcum powder, toasted almond and grassiness. It’s a pleasant sipper with flavors of white peach and apricot, a rich midpalate, and a brisk finish with lime juice and pulp. (13.5 percent alcohol)
Sawtooth Winery 2015 Estate Pinot Gris, Snake River Valley, $12: Fruit-forward aromas of pear butter, Golden Delicious apple, gooseberry and lime peel are mirrored on the palate. The pleasing mouth feel offers roundness of Spanish almond before the cleansing blast of citrusy acidity and Bosc pear skin creates a dry finish. (13 percent alcohol)
Primarius Winery 2015 Pinot Gris, Oregon, $13: Aromas unveil fresh-cut apple, dried apricot, lime and minerality. There’s a bit of creaminess on the entry of honeydew melon and Golden Delicious apple as the flavors turn crisp with Bosc pear and jicama. Lime juice with a touch of pith adds ample acidity to the dry finish. (13.8 percent alcohol)
Jones of Washington 2015 Pinot Gris, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $14: This leans toward orchard fruit with enticing aromas and yummy flavors of pear, white peach and Granny Smith apple. Its delicious balance and dry angle, just 0.3 percent residual sugar, makes it an ideal foil for summer salads, seafood and rotisserie chicken. (13.8 percent alcohol)
Armonéa 2013 Summit Vineyard Pinot Gris, Dundee Hills, $20: There’s a fresh and floral presentation of Asian pear, Pink Lady apple and white lavender with jasmine, starfruit and grape Pixy Stix aromas. It takes a clean, bright and crisp angle to the palate, leading with starfruit and lemony flavors as it carries into a rich midpalate of melon. There’s a good core of acidity throughout. (13.2 percent alcohol)
King Estate Winery 2014 Domaine Pinot Gris, Oregon, $30: This releases starfruit and Uncola aromas and leads to tremendously bright flavors of Granny Smith apple, Key Lime juice and kiwi fruit. (13 percent alcohol)
Westport Winery 2014 Fleur de Lis, Columbia Gorge, $26: Aromas of lime, Asian pear and starfruit lead to flavors of lime, pear and more starfruit on the palate, plus juicy acidity, 0.6 percent residual sugar and minerality in its finish. It’s versatile enough for sipping alone or with seafood or lighter chicken dishes. (12 percent alcohol)
Airlie Winery 2015 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $18: This food-friendly offering made by Elizabeth Clark for owner Mary Olson provides lime, lemon and spice aromatics, which are repeated on the palate. It finishes with abundant acidity and citrusy minerality. (12.3 percent alcohol)
Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2015 Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, $11: Here’s a classic Washington-style Pinot Gris with fruit flavors and aromas leaning more toward crabapple and pear with a touch of honey. Toward the finish, a slice of fresh papaya emerges, then resolves back into green apple and crisp, juicy acidity. (12 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.