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Henry Estate Pinot Gris 1999
Three substantial mountain ranges intersect to create a region of great diversity, not only in soil and topography but also climate and as a result, grape varieties.
Where the Klamath Mountains, Coast Range and Cascades converge, is the rather small AVA, the Umpqua Valley, which boasts over 150 soils in a total growing area of merely 1,500 acres. The soils range from sedimentary, metamorphic or volcanic where valley floors are deep alluvium and heavy clay and hillsides are typically silt or clay.
In the Umpqua Valley AVA, vineyards in the north are cooler and wetter; cool climate grapes such as Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Riesling do well. In the warmer and dryer south mainly Syrah and Tempranillo thrive. But growers here are not afraid to investigate new grape varieties; the region is home to over forty types.
There are two sub-AVAs within the boundaries of the Umpqua Valley: Red Hill-Douglas Country, established in 2004 and Elkton, established in 2013.
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.