It is no secret that Oregon's Willamette Valley makes world-class Pinot Noir, but early on, their white-wine production, which centered on Chardonnay, was less successful. While there have been strides forward with that variety, it is Pinot Gris that stands out in the world of Oregon whites. The grape is a closely related mutation of Pinot Noir, ranging in skin color from a bluish gray to a brownish pink. It is one of the top varieties in the Alsace region of France, and is widely planted in Italy, where it is known as Pinot Grigio. Fairly late ripening, Pinot Gris is well-suited to the climate of Willamette, where it produces a richly textured white wine that is the perfect accompaniment to cool spring weather. Here are the panel's favorites.
2006 Adelsheim Pinot Gris, $16.99
This wine has spritzy aromas of peaches and cream with a silky core that smells something like sweet divinity laced with lavender. Bursting with bold peach fruit flavors that show a tropical bent featuring pineapple, papaya and mango, the result is an exotic take on the grape that is as rich as it is satisfying—delightfully delicious.
2006 Lange Pinot Gris, $14.99
A wine that evolves nicely in the glass, somewhat closed in at first, it starts with subtle white peach aromas that give way to pear and tangerine, along with intriguing touches of anise and toffee. This wine displays impeccable balance on the palate, dominated by smooth peach fruit flavors that are punctuated by just the right touch of citrus-laced acidity. There's a nice complexity to this wine that shows subtle nuances of mineral, pepper, herb, mandarin orange and citrus zest.
2006 Ponzi Pinot Gris, $15.99
Lush and lovely aromas of ripe peach, apple and sweet Meyer lemons are backed by a nice hit of honeysuckle and mineral. It's crisp and clean in the mouth with bright stone fruit flavors playing against honeyed melon. The finish is completely refreshing, marked by lush fruit and zingy acidity. This is the perfect choice for the transition to spring.
This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Kevin Settles, Bardenay