Two Winners from Oregon’s Willamette

by artfuldiner on October 23, 2013

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Breaking News, Wine

2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris – Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris? Well, they are, in fact, the very same grape variety. This is a white wine grape with a grayish/brownish pink skin (hence the name gris). This varietal originated France, is mostly cultivated in the Alsatian region, and is known there as Pinot Gris… On the other hand, just across the border in Italy it is known as Pinot Grigio. Interestingly enough, while this grape is French in origin, it is the Italians who have succeeded in catapulting this varietal to worldwide fame.

Even though Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the exact same grape, they can be, depending upon the climate and soil in which they are grown, vastly different in style. The immensely popular Italian style Pinot Grigio wines, for example, are lighter-bodied, vibrantly crisp, and rife with refreshing mineral elements and slightly floral aromas. A Pinot Gris from Alsace, on the other hand, tends to be rather full-bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous of texture.

Representatives of Pinot Gris from Oregon are prone to blend the Alsatian and Italian styles into their own unique synthesis. To wit: 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris. This wine artfully combines a rich, medium-bodied earthy minerality, à la Alsace, with the vibrant freshness of an Italian Pinot Grigio. The result is a wine that no only stands on its own quite nicely for casual quaffing, but also marries

exceedingly well with a variety of foods. An extremely attractive wine at an extremely attractive price: $15.00.


2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir – As I know I’ve mentioned on several occasions, other than the Burgundy region of France, the state of Oregon, due to its unique combination of soil and climate, produces some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world… And I’m certainly not alone in this assessment. Just last year (2012) in their December 15 issue, the Wine Spectator devoted an extensive article to Oregon’s emergence as a world class contender in the Pinot Noir sweepstakes. In a separate tasting report, the Spectator also reported that of the approximately 380 Pinots reviewed, more than half of them, from nearly 100 wineries, earned outstanding scores of 90 points or higher on their 100-point scale.

The 2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir is a superb example of the winemaker’s art. This is a smooth-as-silk, elegantly complex wine that is perfectly balanced and loaded with hints of spice, fruit, and ever-so-subtle candied notes. This is a wine that goes down easy, is drinking beautifully right now, and has the backbone to keep improving for at least another half-decade. It is everything a Pinot Noir should be.

The only possible drawback for some folks might be the price tag: approximately $30.00 per bottle. In the ultimate scheme of things, however, this is quite reasonable for a Pinot Noir, which, because of the grape’s decidedly finicky nature, is notoriously difficult (and expensive) to cultivate. I’ve seen several Oregon Pinot Noirs, for example, selling in the $100.00 – $150.00 range… and top-of-the-line French Pinot Noirs (red Burgundies) often go for thousands of dollars per bottle. Given this wine’s superior quality – and the hefty tabs being exacted elsewhere – the $30.00 price tag strikes me as something of a bargain.

Bon Appétit!


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