The sommelier suggests… Oregon Pinot Gris by Ron Acierto

Ron Acierto

Ron Acierto is wine & beverage director at the Tributary Hotel’s o?kta restaurant in McMinnville, Oregon. He is an Imbibe 75 Person to Watch for 2024, as voted by Imbibe magazine in the US.

I have long had an affinity for this lovely wine. In my native Philippines, the national beverage is beer. Growing up, I never dreamed that wine would be part of my career path. Most Filipino households never even had bottles of liquor or beer at home, and drinking alcohol was something you did only on special occasions.

My first encounter with wine occurred when I worked in food and wine at a family friend’s retirement home in Indiana, USA and I built on this with more exposure to fine wines through various food service jobs. After moving to Oregon wine country in 2005, I immersed myself in learning all about the wines of Willamette Valley, while working first at Cherry Hill winery in the Eola-Amity Hills, and then in management at some of Portland’s finest restaurants.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are considered the king and queen of Willamette Valley wine grapes, but I also became curious about Pinot Gris, which is planted throughout Oregon. When working in restaurants in Portland, I noticed that Pinot Gris wasn’t usually highlighted on wine lists. The perception was that it was less interesting as a variety, perhaps because it was so widely available, and at a lower price point than other whites. Yet, over the last decade, I’ve gained more respect for this wine and grown to love its many expressions.

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I’ve offered Pinot Gris as a glass pour at o?kta restaurant in downtown McMinnville since it opened in July 2022. The Eyrie Estate Pinot Gris 2021 is delicious with our o?kta carrot snack with farro waffle tart shell, served with miso. It was also an excellent match for a dish on last year’s menu: wild sea bream, radishes, watercress and shiitake mushrooms. And it seems to be gaining more traction in general, with wine merchants introducing drinkers to more producers and styles of the grape.

Most consumers don’t know that Pinot Gris is the result of a genetic mutation that occurred in Pinot Noir. Their DNA profiles are remarkably similar; the colouration of the leaves and grape skin are the main differences. Many of the wine producers with whom I’ve opened bottles of Pinot Gris over the years have learned to coax the best expressions from this grape. Starting in the 1960s, David Lett planted Pinot Gris at Eyrie Vineyards in the Dundee Hills AVA. Its wines have always been rich in texture and flavour, balanced between fruit and acidity, and a versatile pairing.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris wines have demonstrated great ageability. Jason Lett, the late David’s son, recently poured a 1982 bottling, and I still remember its texture and richness, the lingering aroma of caramelised white fruit – tasted blind, I would probably have guessed Chardonnay, though the acidity and freshness were still distinguishable. I wish that more local producers would vinify their Pinot Gris to age in the same way that the great grand cru Pinot Gris wines of Alsace do.

Pinot Gris vinified with skin contact shows another aspect to the grape – look out for wines from Antiquum Farm and Big Table Farm. Aromas of these wines range from fresh flowers to candied fruits. At o?kta, we pair this style with the flavours of umami, sashimi-style seafood and chef larder-fermented root vegetables. It brings out the best in the food and highlights the wine’s acidity and lingering mouthfeel.

In general, I pair young Pinot Gris with shellfish and summer salads with white stone fruits. Meanwhile, wines with age would pair beautifully with spring and summer grilled vegetables. Pinot Gris will also hold up with your backyard barbecues, as well as charcoal-roasted chicken.

Discovering Pinot Gris: Acierto’s top picks

Jason Lett at Oregon’s Eyrie…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/the-sommelier-suggests-oregon-pinot-gris-by-ron-acierto-527458/