let’s all agree not to diss a gris!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Last week I was a speaker at the third annual Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium. Hosted by Greg Lint and Jeff Herinckx at Oak Knoll winery, and organized by Jo and Jose Diaz, this brings together a group of winemakers united in their appreciation for Oregon Pinot Gris. As a group, they are committed to the goal of making the best Pinot Gris in America, and evangelizing the wines to consumers and the trade. My goal each year is to coach them on the do’s and don’ts that will enable them to best market these wines collectively and individually.

Along with the prepared remarks, there are always lively discussions generated. This year it was David Adelsheim who poked a stick into the hornet’s nest with his assertion that no white wine category in the world other than Chardonnay could ever sell for more than $20 a bottle. Of course, there are some individual wines that do, but his point was well taken. And it went straight to the heart of the forum.

When I followed up by asking the group of several dozen winemakers who was selling all the Pinot Gris they could produce, the majority of hands shot up. “So why are you here?” I said, only half joking. Actually, I knew quite well why they were there. They wanted to get more for the wines. More attention, more acclaim, and more money. They wanted to turn a profit, not just squeak by. They wanted to break through what Adelsheim called “the glass ceiling” for white wine prices. His assertion? Other than premium Chardonnay, there is no white wine category in the world that regularly pops through that price ceiling.

The first thought that went through my mind was “what about Sancerre?” – pure Sauvignon Blanc, rarely priced under $20. Perhaps just the exception that proves the rule. I don’t disagree that this is a problem, but I truly believe that it is not insurmountable. And there are many good ideas floating around about how to make it so. This coming weekend, Jo Diaz will be posting up some of them here.

For now, I simply want to urge consumers to explore the best of these wines. They generally show far more complexity and flavor interest than comparably-priced ($12 - $16) domestic Chardonnays. Yet they are not so far removed from that style that it will require a leap of faith to enjoy them if Chardonnay is currently your go-to white wine.

The Symposium always wraps up with a tasting of dozens of current releases. This year I counted around 35 different wines, from some two dozen wineries, mostly from the 2012 vintage. I’ve listed below some of my favorite producers. I am confident you will find their Pinot Gris to be world class wines.

The Eyrie Vineyards
David Hill
Sokol Blosser
Spindrift Cellars
Lumos ‘Julia’
Chehalem ‘Three Vineyards’
Chateau Bianca
Seven Hills
Eight Bells
Coeur de Terre
Oak Knoll
Hawks View
Terrapin Cellars

Pick of the Week: Rainstorm 2012 Pinot Gris; $14
Spicy and intense, this excellent Pinot Gris from Pacific Rim (now Vinmotion) is loaded with green apple, cut pear, and a taste of orange peel. It shows surprising length and power for a Euro-styled wine with modest (12.5%) alcohol.

1 comment:

Jo Diaz said...

I've started the feedback on my own blog today, Paul: http://bit.ly/1757Z1H

And, what would we do without You?

How do I love thee, Paul Gregutt? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace... when it comes to Oregon Pinot Gris
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light... and with Oregon Pinot Gris.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith, whenever it involves Oregon Pinot Gris.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, when Pinot Gris is not involved, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death, and my last glass of Oregon Pinot Gris...

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