- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WillaKenzie Estate, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2007, $18

Oregon pinot noir gets all the hype these days, but pinot gris may actually well be the state’s more reliable

wine. A richly fruited and perfumed white, it displays a bright but full-fleshed profile, making it simultaneously refreshing and substantial, so very versatile at the dinner table.

Genetically the same as dark-skinned pinot noir (and greenish pinot blanc), ripe pinot gris grapes vary in color between gray and pink. Their juice, however, flows clear, and the wine tends to be somewhat golden. In Italy, where the variety goes under the name “grigio,” it usually is picked early, so the resulting wines taste racy. Elsewhere in the winemaking world, vintners usually wait a bit longer, and their wines feel richer on the palate.

Although the best Oregon pinot noirs rank with top examples of that varietal made anywhere, many others taste overly sweet and sappy. By contrast, most Oregon wines made with pinot gris prove consistently good. They typically taste of pears and apples, with a hint of honey and nuts to provide nuance. WillaKenzie Estate’s 2007 is an exemplary rendition. Rich but focused, it’s a natural partner for salmon or other full-flavored seafood, and should provide delicious drinking all summer long.

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