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Elke Mary Elke Donnelley Creek Pinot Gris 2013
In 1997, Elke began to save some of their favorite Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay grapes for their own wines. They produce limited quantities of each wine, using traditional, handcrafted winemaking at the winery in Anderson Valley. This type of winemaking allows Elke's wines to be "wines of a place," meaning that they will speak to you of where the grapes were grown, and the conditions under which they grew.
Encompassing the grape-growing regions located north of San Francisco, the North Coast AVA includes six counties: Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. Napa and Sonoma get all of the attention, but there are a few other counties producing great wine in Northern California. Two notable examples are Mendocino and Lake County, the northernmost winegrowing regions in the state. These AVAs are very different, both from their neighbors to the south and from one another.
Mendocino benefits from the cooling fog of the Pacific Ocean and is able to successfully grow cool-climate varieties like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. There is a significant focus here on organic viticulture. Inland Lake County, on the other hand, is considerably warmer, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc are the dominant varieties. Both regions are excellent sources of high-quality but affordable California wines in a wide range of styles.
One grape variety with two very distinct personas, Pinot Gris in France is rich, round, and aromatic, while Pinot Grigio in Italy is simple, crisp, and refreshing. In Italy, Pinot Grigio is grown in the mountainous regions of Trentino, Friuli, and Alto Adige in the northeast. In France it reaches its apex in Alsace. Pinots both “Gris” and “Grigio” are produced successfully in Oregon's Willamette Valley as well as parts of California, and are widely planted throughout central and eastern Europe.
In the Glass
Pinot Gris is naturally low in acidity, so full ripeness is necessary to achieve and showcase its signature flavors and aromas of stone fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, pear, and almond skin. Alsatian styles are aromatic, richly textured and often relatively high in alcohol. As Pinot Grigio in Italy, the style is much more subdued, light, simple, and easy to drink.
Alsace is renowned for its potent food–pork, foie gras, and charcuterie. With its viscous nature, Pinot Gris fits in harmoniously with these heavy hitters. Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, with its lean, crisp, citrusy freshness, works better with simple salads, a wide range of seafood, and subtle chicken dishes.
Outside of France and Italy, the decision by the producer whether to label as “Gris” or “Grigio” serves as a strong indicator as to the style of wine in the bottle—the former will typically be a richer, more serious rendition while the latter will be bright, fresh, and fun.