So … here’s the question. Do you think California Pinot Grigio’s are generally as good as their Italian counterparts?
I took the time to look back and review my tasting notes of PGs to see if they might give me a clue as to my own thinking. Remembering that I focus on inexpensive wines on this blog, it seems my experience suggests that the Californians still have some catching up to do. That isn’t to say California wineries don’t make good Pinot Grigios. In the value priced selections, however, I have evidently preferred the Italians.
Of course, that’s just one man’s limited experience. If you have some suggestions for me as to Pinot Grigios I should sample, I’d be more than happy to hear about them.
Winemaker: Top Hat
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Notes: The wine was an extremely pale straw color with good acidity and 13.9% alcohol. On the nose I encountered scents of citrus with warm spice notes. It was very light-bodied, almost thin. On the palate I tasted citrus, grass and touches of warm spice. It was an okay PG, but I think there are less expensive options that are equal to this Top Hat and much more interesting selections in the same price range.
I have to be honest: when I first started drinking wine, I didn’t particularly care for Pinot Grigio. I think that may well have been because – as my wine-tasting palate was unaccustomed to finding the flavors in a wine – it was easier to detect the bigger, bolder, badder flavors in a Chardonnay, for example. Now that I’ve had some years of sipping experience and exploration, I find myself enjoying many different varieties and styles of wine for what they bring to the table – whether a big mouthful of craziness or a more restrained expression of flavor. Thus, I’ve made my peace with Pinot Grigio and the lighter whites. In fact, I think I drink more PG than Chardonnay these days!
Notes: At 13.9% alcohol, this Artisan PG can truly be considered dry. It was characteristically light-bodied with nice bright acidity and a lovely lemon yellow in the glass. Flavors I detected were tart citrus, toasty oak and some hints of spice. It was a simple wine but enjoyable. I can imagine it would make a nice choice to accompany a light meal – an entree salad?
According to Mezzacorona, their Pinot Grigio vines are grown in estate-owned vineyards in an alpine valley carved into the Dolomite Mountains by the Adige River which has it’s beginnings in the Italian Alps. In addition, the grapes are cultivated in a traditional pergola style and completely hand-harvested. Sounds romantic in an old world kind of way, doesn’t it? Evidently, their location in the Dolomites affords them a variety of microclimates which allows them to choose plant several grape varieties in vineyards best suited to each.
Notes: The bouquet of the Mezzacorona held faint whiffs of citrus and peach with hints of summer flowers. Color was a typical light straw. It was light-bodied, and acidity was good. In this PG I tasted primarily nectarine with additional warm spice notes. As it drew to a close it brought lemongrass to the fore with touches of mineral on the finish. I found it a perfectly good Pinot Grigio. I think it should be a nice accompaniment for light entree dishes and young cheese courses.
Pinot Gris – what is it? Simply put, Pinot Gris is the French name for Pinot Grigio. Enough said! In addition, this wine’s label indicates it comes from 100% Vinifera rootstock. Why is that important? Well, most grape vines grown in the U.S. and much of Europe for wine production are grafted onto rootstock from another species of grape (such as Vitis Riparia, Vitis Rupestris, and Vitis Berlandieri). These rootstock species are less susceptible to pests such as Phylloxera and thus help ensure successful harvests. In this case, however, Chateau Ste. Michelle has gone pure OG by using Vitis Vinifera rootstock.
Winemaker: Chateau Ste. Michelle
Varietal: Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Appellation: Columbia Valley, Washington
Notes: The color of this Washington selection was extremely pale yellow. The bouquet had scents of citrus, pear and almond with light floral notes and a hint of spice. Acidity was good. Weight on the tongue was medium, and alcohol was at 13%. Flavors I found included bitter orange and pear with a faint note of cantaloupe. The finish brought grass and toast. I found it a fairly complex and interesting glass of wine. This is one I’d be happy to serve to guests at a cocktail party or with light hors d’ouvres.
Gris/Grigio means gray. You can see why this varietal acquired it’s name. Photo by Andrew Fogg.
The name of this wine, Promessa, means promise in Italian. Promise, according to Merriam-Webster, is reason to expect something; especially: ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence. What a lovely, uplifting name for a wine! It conveys a feeling of hope and anticipation to those who choose to pop the cork and experience the vino.
Notes: The color of this Gabbiano was a pale straw. On the bouquet I smelled citrus and peach. A light-bodied wine, it had a touch of the typical varietal viscosity. Acidity was good, and alcohol was at 12.5%. On the palate I tasted fairly straightforward flavors of citrus and grass with touches of peach. I found it a pleasant Pinot Grigio and think it would be good with seafood dishes and light cheeses such as chevre, fresh mozzarella, etc.
Pinot Grigio in the middle of winter when the temperatures are in the teens (Fahrenheit) outside? Well, why not? Although I’m really not one to stand on convention, I will admit that there was another more personal – and more vain – reason for drinking a light white now. I have an appointment to have my picture taken by a professional photographer, and I want the brightest smile I can muster. Ha!
Notes: This Cavit PG was a pale yellow with scents of lemon, grass and pear on the nose. It was characteristically light-bodied with good acidity and 12% alcohol. Flavors I found mirrored the bouquet – lemon, grass and pear. The finish was long and lemony. I think this is a good sipping white and would go very well with a light white fish.
Another label from The Wine Group that has been proliferating on the shelves of my local stores is It’s A Head Snapper. I have to say that this label is a true example of just how global the wine business has become. The folks at It’s A Head Snapper source their wines from all over the world. Appropriately, then, they went to Italy to get this Pinot Grigio and bring it to my grocery store.
Winemaker: It’s A Head Snapper
Wine: Pinot Grigio delle Venezie
Appellation: Venezie IGT, Italy
Notes: The color of this wine was so light, I’d call it a hint of yellow. Like it’s hue, the bouquet was very faint with gentle citrus and floral notes. It was characteristically light-bodied with high acidity that created a slight feeling of effervescence on the tongue. At 12.5% alcohol this PG is just a little off dry, but the acidity helps balance that out. On the palate I tasted almond, bitter orange, grass, and citrus peel. It was definitely enjoyable – even fun to drink. I think, perhaps, it was a bit overpriced at twenty dollars. Something tells me it must be available for less at other retailers. In which case, I’d buy it again.
Back in mid December when we’d gotten our holiday tree and were ready to devote an evening to decorating, I perused my small stock of wine for something light and easy to accompany our efforts. Goodness knows tree decorating can sometimes (read: often) be a challenge for me. Making sure the lights are working. If they aren’t, finding spare bulbs. Then getting the strands on the tree in an evenly dispersed yet naturalistic and harmoniously relaxed way. And that’s all before the decorations come out to play because lights always go on first in our house. No pressure. No pressure at all. Ha! Yes, tree decorating in my house is a tradition that takes time, consideration, and patience. Much like the enjoyment of wine, it is an experience to be savored not rushed. And no matter the result, it’s really all about doing it together.
Winemaker: Villa Sonia
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Appellation: Venezia DOC – Piave, Italy
Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s
Notes: The color of this wine was a light Tuscan yellow. On the nose I caught scents of apple, citrus and spice. Acidity was high, and it was light on the tongue. Flavors I detected included pear, some apple, spice notes, a tart citrus and citrus zest on the finish. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t sip this by itself. Seems like it’s high acidity and citrus notes beg for a food pairing. Don’t have anything in mind, but maybe you will if you decide to give this one a go.
That’s right, I’m talking about cheap, cheap wine. Tisdale is a label that competes at around the same price point as the Whole Foods Three Wishes wines and Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw. Made by E&J Gallo, Tisdale has a full line of California Table Wine that includes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sweet Red (a blend), and White Zinfandel. It’s sold at grocery stores and drug stores in my area at very low prices – sometimes available on sale for just over $3.00.
Notes: The color of this low-budget PG was very pale yellow with a slight green tinge. The bouquet was faint with scents of peach and lemon oil. What do I mean by lemon oil? I mean that lemony, bitter – almost chemical – smell that results when you squeeze lemon peel and express a liquid. Isn’t that lemon oil? Anyway, the acidity was OK, and alcohol was at 11.5%. It was light-bodied with some of the expected varietal viscosity. Flavors I detected were faint as well, including sweet melon and peach. As it wound down, this Tisdale also brought peach pit to the palate. It was all right, but to me the overall experience was a bit lackluster.
Where do all these different wine brands come from? Has there been a proliferation of new wineries in California recently? It seems every time I walk into a store, I find another new label. Then again, perhaps I’m not that good at remembering what I’ve seen on the shelves before. lol You know that movie “Fifty First Dates” with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler? The one where Drew Barrymore’s character has had an accident and keeps losing her short term memory? Every day she wakes up and has no memory of the last 24 hours. So when Adam Sandler decides he wants to pursue Drew romantically … you get it, right? Well, maybe I’m having “Fifty First Sips.” Good thing I’m posting my wine experiences on this blog. That way I can check and see if I’ve had a wine previously. In this case, however, I’m certain I haven’t had a Mission Bell Pinot Grigio before … or a Mission Bell wine of any kind, for that matter. So this really was my first sip.
Winemaker: Mission Bell
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Notes: The color of this Mission Bell selection was a light straw. The bouquet brought me scents of apple, lime and honey. Acidity was fine but perhaps a tad on the low side for a Pinot Grigio. It was light-bodied with a tad of the typical PG viscosity. On the palate it was pretty sweet – perhaps even sweeter than it’s 12.5% alcohol might suggest. Flavors included pear, some citrus, apple notes and a touch of a green herbal. It was OK, but for me it came across as a little on the heavy side due to the perceived sweetness and lower acidity. What can I say? That’s what I got – first sip to the last. (I didn’t count, but probably not quite fifty).