oregon's other pinot

Monday, June 11, 2012

I’m just back from delivering the keynote at the 2nd annual Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium. This one-day event, hosted by Greg Lint and Jeff Herinckx at Oak Knoll Winery, and organized by Jo and Jose Diaz, was even better the second time around.

About 50 winery owners and winemakers were present, representing producers from wineries both large and small. A focus on enology, highlighted by fast-paced, well-researched talks by Joe Dobbes, Jesse Lange and Jeff Kandarian, showcased not only the diversity of winemaking approaches, but also the camaraderie among producers, who willingly shared the nitty gritty of their winemaking techniques.

A tasting of more than four dozen Oregon Pinot Gris was certainly the largest assemblage of those wines that I’ve ever experienced. Jeff Kandarian brought a 2003 Pinot Gris from King Estate, the oldest bottle on the table, and yet still buoyant and fresh. There were a handful of 2009s, a couple of sweet wines, and one or two that seemed oxidized, but the vast majority, from vintages 2010 and 2011, were wonderfully fresh and refreshing.

In my remarks I spoke to the opportunities, both for individual wineries and collectively, to make a strong impression on the broader marketplace with these exceptional wines. I will leave it to the organizers to share the specifics, and as follow-up initiatives arise I will cover them on this blog.

In general, having tasted and reviewed Oregon Pinot Gris for more than 20 years, I see it coming into focus, in a most engaging way. While still allowing for individual expression as well as vintage variation, the modern versions of this varietal wine put an emphasis on lively, bright fruit, compelling aromatics, higher (and natural) acids, lower alcohol (with occasionally a hint of residual sugar), and the intentional use of CO2 to give the wines added snap and sparkle.

In sum, these are absolutely delightful, affordable, clean and versatile wines that will accompany almost any summer picnic, seafood, shellfish, salad or pasta preparation you can imagine. For more information, please visit here.

This new organization is acting as the central clearing house for PG-related information and initiatives. The original member wineries will open the doors for a few new members later this year, but the information on the website is free for all. Among the members are some of my very favorite small producers. Jo Diaz has posted her own detailed tasting notes also, alongside notes from the individual winemakers.

If there is one compelling take-away from all this, it should be that whatever you may read in “The Press” about how difficult or poor Oregon's 2010 and 2011 vintages were, please feel free to ignore such pessimistic prognostications and decide for yourself. Among its many other virtues, Pinot Gris has the ability to shatter such myths-in-the-making with just one sip.

1 comment:

Jo Diaz said...

Great story, Paul. Biased as I am with this one, I couldn't have said it any better... I will also be blogging about it, as will Enobytes. It was a great day, and you offered the inspiration to keep moving forward with better understanding of what we're all doing. Bravo!

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