Oregon pinot gris often gets overshadowed by the exceptional pinot noir for which the state is renowned. Yet pinot gris has an intriguing history that’s resulted in a unique and characterful wine. Among white wine types, pinot gris from Oregon may be the most overlooked wine of exceptional quality you can find at a reasonable price.
How Pinot Gris Came to Oregon
Pinot gris comes from a very different region of France than pinot noir. The two have some overlap but are generally grown in different conditions. This didn’t deter David Lett, who first planted the grape in Oregon in 1965. This didn’t lead to immediate success. Even 15 years later, he was only producing 25 cases a year. He admitted he traded most of it at that point to fishermen, getting salmon and other fish in return.
Flavors of Oregon Pinot Gris
We imagine he kept a few bottles back to enjoy with that trade. Oregon pinot gris is one of the most exceptional pairings for seafood available. The key to this is the Willamette Valley’s combination of microclimate and rare soils. Among white wine types, it’s rare to find something that combines green apple and pear tastes with more tropical features such as papaya and pineapple. Elements of citrus also play into the flavor profile, with lemon and lime a prominent feature.
Beyond the flavor profile alone, this Oregon treasure has a beautiful acidity. Pinot gris from Oregon complements foods with healthy fats – seafood, shellfish, stew, white sauces. The more you alternate taking a bite of food and having a sip of pinot gris, the more flavor and mouthfeel each brings out in the other.
Lett was ahead of his time. Oregon now sees 13,000 tons of pinot gris harvested each year. That’s a far cry from just 25 cases. It’s one more success story of a transplant now calling Oregon home!
Pinot gris from Oregon was perhaps best understood by Eric Asimov of the New York Times. He once praised Oregon pinot gris as one of the most overlooked and undervalued wines available. He described it among white wine types as follows: “You would be hard-pressed to find other American white wines with as much character in this price range.” It’s hard to come to any other conclusion.