Vindicated: Befriending Pinot Grigio

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Good morning! I’ll bet you weren’t aware today is National Pinot Grigio Day… yup. For a country that once outlawed booze, we sure have a lot of alcohol-centric holidays now. Making up for all those lost years, I suppose.

Anyway, just to be clear: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape. Pinot Grigio is the Italian name and Pinot Gris the French name. American-made wines tend to be labeled Pinot Gris. I may use them interchangeably in this post, but I mean the same thing.

As you may remember from days of yore, I’ve whined about how Pinot Grigio is probably my least favorite wine grape: for one, it’s white (sorry white wines, you’re just a different category altogether) and two, the acidity is usually quite high for my taste, the flavors simple, and the overall effect un-astounding and mildly unpleasant. I’ll drink it with seafood if it’s the only thing lying around, especially to cut a rich dish, but it’s with great reluctance.

Pinot Gris

“Pinot Gris, why is it so hard to love you?”
Photo by Andrew Fogg.

But it’s such a popular wine, and I love wine (even ones that aren’t my all-time favorites), so why haven’t I been able to come to terms with it? It’s like the TV show, Friends… it’s just not funny to me (Coupling, though, is a different story).

Today I’m taking this holiday as an opportunity to learn and grow (#selfimprovementgoals) in my appreciation AND my enjoyment of Pinot Gris – they can’t all be that bad. Perhaps you’re in the same boat of blasé indifference to Pinot Gris: if so, there is hope! Let me throw you a lifeline to not just mediocre, but exceptional Pinot Gris!

Here are two Pinot Gris I love and ❤ heartily ❤ recommend; one from Washington, the other from Oregon. Both are shining stars in their own right, and have awards to prove it.

The first is an estate-bottled Pinot Gris from Washington state, from one of my favorite wineries ever, Skagit Crest Vineyard & Winery. See my other reviews of their Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc — and now I’m completing the Pinot trilogy, ha! 🙂

Skagit Crest’s Pinot Gris is electrifying in its overall effect. If you’re a Pinot Gris doubter/hater/meh-er, you’ll be shocked at what Pinot Gris can be and do with this wine. I sampled it a few months ago at the La Conner tasting room and WOW! It has fantastic, luscious flavors and strikes that perfect balance of body/acid/alcohol/tannin/sweetness that Skagit Crest is famous for.

Here are the details of this wine:                              Skagit Crest Vineyard & Winery Pinot Gris Puget Sound

  • $17/bottle (where to purchase)
  • 12.5% ABV/light-medium body
  • Pale straw color
  • From the tasting notes: “Grassy herbal aromas with flavors of melons, peaches and apricots and hints of citrus fruit. Mellow lasting honeydew finish.”
  • Trophy case: Double Gold Medal – 2022 Platinum Judging
    Gold Medal – 2022 Bellingham Wine Competition

(*Note to self: Buy some more Skagit Crest Pinot Gris next time in La Conner!)

To represent the great wine-producing state of Oregon, I selected the Portlandia Pinot Gris, and not just because I’m a sucker for the TV show, Portlandia. Portlandia Vintners was founded in 2008 to create delicious Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (and now some others including Cabernet Sauvignon) at prices that don’t make you weep with agony (here, here!). It’s been a while, but I have also had the Portlandia Pinot Noir and it was very good wine at a very good price. I’ll blog about it some other time.

I tried the Portlandia Pinot Gris at a party to take a break from red and was gobsmacked at the deliciousness of this wine. In fact, I kept going back for repeated small pours to be sure this wine was as good as it came across, since I just couldn’t believe it (and sho’nuff, ’twas).

Word to the wise: if you love Oregon Pinot Noir, give Oregon Pinot Gris a shot, you will be very pleasantly surprised.

Portlandia Pinot Gris

Drink this Pinot Gris, but don’t drive a penny-farthing at the same time, or you will be tipsy

Here are the details:

  • $17/bottle through
  • 13.5% ABV, light-medium body
  • Pale straw color
  • 96% Pinot Gris with a touch of Riesling (3%) and a smidge of Viognier (1%) – perhaps to enhance body, texture, or aromatics?
  • Grapes are from the Columbia and Willamette Valley AVAs
  • After a long cool fermentation, wine rested on its lees in 100% stainless steel
  • From the winemaker: “A dry, crisp Pinot Gris. Bright aromas of Meyer lemon and pear are followed by mouthwatering flavors of apricot and nectarine. Smooth and refreshing, the zippy acidity and rich minerality carry through to a lively, lingering finish.”
  • From Tasting Panel: “Alluring scents of honeysuckle and candied pineapple. The well-balanced profile is focused, fruity, and floral. Nectarine and lemon blossom hit their mark with fine acidity and a lean undertone of salinity.”
  • Trophy case: 92 points (Tasting Panel), 91 points (Wine Enthusiast)

Celebrate National Pinot Grigio Day today with a glass of one of these lovely wines! They are especially breezy, pleasant, and uplifting right now in the spring, and make great companions with seafood dishes and cheese boards. I think I can safely say I’m friends with Pinot Gris now (#personalgrowth). 🙂

Are there any shining examples of Pinot Gris you love? Please let me know below, I’d love to add more options to my PG repertoire!

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Orzo-Mint Salad with Prosciutto, Figs, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

Fig: the name doesn’t quite befit this beautiful fruit, does it? Use black California Mission figs in a refreshing summer salad. © Mateev

Figs! When fig season is upon us, I freak out and buy as many as possible (short of troubling my digestive system), because we don’t really know how long it will last and how long they will be in the store (kind of like life, so seize the day and enjoy!).

Figs are so good for you! Did you know that figs are a great source of fiber and are highly alkaline? Alkaline means they reduce the acidity in your body, making it a hostile environment for cancer.

Here are some fun fig facts, for my fellow figophiles.

This pasta salad is yummy-licious! A friend of mine told me she made an orzo pasta with pecans, figs and mint a few years ago. I loved her idea but I upped the ante by rounding it out with some ham and cheese.

This pasta would be great with a white wine, maybe a Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, or Pinot Grigio. See? There’s my wine reference!

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market are the grocery stores I know of that carry the fresh California Black Mission figs regularly.

In fact, during the summer, you should be able to buy this meal completely at Trader Joe’s.

You will need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used lavender)
Salt and pepper
One 16 oz. package Orzo pasta (a full package is a lot, use half if you like)
One box fresh black California Mission figs, sliced into bite sizes (dry is not acceptable)
One package prosciutto, chopped (optional)
One 5 oz. log goat cheese, crumbled
One package unsalted dry roasted pecan pieces
Fresh mint leaves (to taste)

Prepare the orzo according to package instructions. Drain, run some cold water over the pasta to cool it off. Once the pot is cooled off, put the cooled pasta back in the pot and drizzle and toss with oil & vinegar. Add the figs, goat cheese, pecans, prosciutto (if any) and mint leaves. Mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

If orzo pasta ain’t yo thang, substitute with cooked rice, couscous, or quinoa.

Say Oui (Wee!) to Pinot Gris

Gorgeous Pinot Gris grapes. Photo by Andrew Fogg.

Chateau Faire Le Pont Milbrandt Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009

I should just come out and say it: Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio is perhaps my least favorite wine. It’s like a limp handshake; it’s perplexing and doesn’t really do anything for you. Boring, disappointing, and uninspiring are all words that come to mind when I think of Pinot Gris. Why, you ask? Well, we’re all entitled to our preferences, and while I’ve gone into tastings with an open mind I still
don’t quite get Pinot Gris. It’s so light you can sometimes barely taste the flavors, or else it tastes like grass clippings, and not the pleasant variety. This is why I would tend to opt for just about any other white.

First of all, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio… the only difference is in the name. Pinot Gris is the French term and Pinot Grigio the Italian. It is a white grape that is a mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape. Don’t worry, they are not trying to confuse you on purpose.

So, as a Pinot Gris agnostic, imagine my surprise when I try a Pinot Gris I actually like! Sacre bleu, such a thing really exists?

It does!

Chateau Faire Le Pont, one of my favorite Wenatchee wineries, makes a knockout Pinot Gris. It has a body and focus with depth and persuasion — more like a French kiss than a limp handshake! Oooh la la, now we’re talkin’!

From the tasting notes: “Floral with just a hint of sweetness, our 2009 Pinot Gris exhibits intense peach, melon, apple, honey and almond flavors that sail on and on throughout the long, lingering finish.” Doesn’t this just transport you to the French Riviera? Note the rich fruit flavors, hint of sweetness, and mouth feel; these qualities give the wine more depth, dimension, and deliciousness than a typical Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris’ ancestral turf is the Alsace region of France, where the grape has been cultivated to exhibit more fruity and floral flavors than the dryer, more minerally Italian Pinot Grigio grapes. No reminders of cow cud with this wine!

Now if only I could drink this while actually lounging aboard a sailboat on the
Mediterranean, I think Pinot Gris could become my favorite wine ever! In the mean time, I can sip it on my deck in the sunshine, close my eyes, and drift away.

So Cheap It Feels Like Cheating

Pinot Grigio for when your wallet’s hurting (but your taste buds are hankering)

The other day my friend commented about a shopping experience at a certain grocery wholesaler: “The food was so cheap it felt like I was stealing!” She could not get over how low the prices were on everyday food items.

Don’t you love that feeling? The moment you are stunned by an item’s price and then ride the wave of compulsion to buy it because it’s so cheap you almost feel sorry for it. It deserves your dollars by sheer virtue of its ridiculously low price. Oh yes, the psychology of spending money, always a fascinating topic.

Ah, Venice! Maybe X marks the spot of an ancient rat-infested wine cellar?

Gaetano D’Aquino White Wine of Venezie is – gasp! – $4 a bottle at Trader Joe’s and very tasty. It may be cheap, but it doesn’t taste like it (I love that in a wine!). Spending less than $4 a bottle, though, means you’re either buying a large quantity of wine on sale or you’re buying bad wine. Nota bene: The Rambling Vine does not like two-buck Chuck. It’s a taste issue. But you make up your own mind, it’s a free country.

This wine is super light with citrus flavors, and has a slight tart, mineral finish. It’s perfect chilled, and an ideal wine to have on hand during the summer. Pleasant, agreeable, should pair with any number of things.

Be reassured… you’re not cheating. It may be cheap, but you’re not cheating on taste and quality. Ciao!