Saturday, July 2, 2011

Too Hot for Red Wine

It has actually been hot enough in Oregon for the past few days to make red wine sound unappetizing. A terrifying prospect, I know, but I am glad that the weather led me here. With a shoulder peeling from a sunburn (it is something to relish after four years spent in Washington state), I found myself stuck between white wine and a hard place. The thing is that I don’t love white wine. I am not a fan of Chardonnay, have never fully acquainted myself with Sauvignon Blanc and I don’t feel like drinking Riesling unless there is no candy around the house… which basically leaves me with Pinot Grigio. Luckily, the first wine I ever loved was a Pinot Grigio. I seem to remember that it was sparkling, luminescent in the glass and entirely lovely to gaze at.
I didn’t see my favorite Pinot Grigios on the shelf (Zenato and Kris, both Italian wines), so I turned to the trusty Columbia Crest’s Horse Heaven Hills winemakers. Rated 89 points by the Wine Spectator, this Vintage 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Gris* was only $10.99 and turned out to be a great value! In the glass this Pinot Gris was equally lovely to behold. A family friend recently sent me some historical booklets on wine and other spirits from around the 1930s and in one of them titled Simple Facts about Wines, Spirits, Ales, and Stouts the tasting guide suggests that wine should be a pleasure to the eyes as well as the palate. The author suggested that one should “look first for brilliancy —a characteristic known to tasters as ‘candlebright.’” This Pinot Gris definitely fit that rather medieval term. It was so light and clear that it looked as if it had been aged only in stainless steel barrels (white wines have a straw color if they have been aged in oak). According to the Columbia Crest website, this guess wasn’t far off as 92% of this wine was aged in stainless for two years while 8% of the wine was aged in American oak barrels, giving the wine a beautiful light yellow color and a hint of oaky smell and taste. This Pinot Gris was very fruit forward. Though I had a difficult time isolating the specific fruit notes in the wine, it reminded me of green apples and citrus fruit. After the initial fruity flavors, there was a hint of oak that lingered on the tongue and the wine finished with juicy, bright flavors. Hardly a dry white, this Pinot Gris was reminiscent of some Rieslings I’ve tried due to the sweetness and the juicy finish. The summer of 2009 in Eastern Washington, where this wine was grown, was particularly hot and was followed by a cool fall season, allowing the Pinot Gris grapes to hang on the vine longer, thereby maturing into fuller flavored grapes, lending Pinot Gris from this region a more fruit forward flavor.

*The difference between the terms Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris is a regional one, Pinot Grigio being the term used for this white wine grape in Italy. Pinot Gris/Grigio grapes are actually a “variant-clone” of Pinot Noir. The grape is light grey/blue to pinkish brown and is traditionally a very sweet grape. More West Coast wine makers are moving toward making Pinot Gris and in 2000, Pinot Gris production in Oregon actually surpassed that of Chardonnay, something that comes as great news for me!

You can now follow my blog with Bloglovin!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kelsey,

    You post some interesting blogs! Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are two different animals however they are both classed as alernative whites. Pinot Gris is originally a French grape and is very rich, full and quite spicy on the palate compared to Pinot Grigio which is a lighter, mineral complex and generally has overtones of pear. Pinot Grigio is generally more favored.

    As for your red predicament, in warm weather leave the bottle of red in the fridge for half an hour. This takes the 'warmth' from the red and removes the soupy, undefined and generally alcoholic taste from it being too warm.

    Great blog posts! Stay in touch.