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Solena Estate Pinot Gris 2011
A very food-friendly wine that will pair well with a large range of food.
After successful careers in the Oregon wine industry, the husband and wife team of Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu purchased an 80-acre estate to commemorate their marriage in 2000. In May 2002, they launched Soléna by bottling their first vintage of Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir and, shortly thereafter, opening a tasting room in Carlton.
Soléna Estate began as a way to explore winemaking with other varietals grown in neighboring appellations while the family's young Domaine Danielle Laurent vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District matured. In May 2007, Danielle and Laurent added the spectacular 100-acre Hyland Vineyard in the McMinnville AVA to their estate vineyard holdings. Today, Laurent and Danielle are producing Pinot Noir from their estate vineyards as well as Pinot Gris, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Late Harvest Riesling from select sites throughout Oregon and Washington.
Home to some of America’s most celebrated Pinot Noir, Oregon maintains a tight focus on small production, high quality wine even while the state’s industry enjoys steady growth. As a world-renowned wine region, Oregon has more than 700 wineries and is home to well over 70 grape varieties. With a mostly Mediterranean climate, its cooler and wetter regions lie in the west, close to the Pacific Coast.
By far the most reputed region is the Willamette Valley, which is further subdivided into six smaller appellations: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton.
The Valley’s obvious success story is with Pinot Noir, which here takes on a personality that could be described in general terms as somewhere in between the wines of California and Burgundy—and is often more affordable than either one. The best Willamette Pinot noir has a rare combination of red and black fruit, elegant balance, high acidity and rustic earth. While completely enjoyable in their youth, some of the better, single vineyard or appellation-specific Pinot noirs can often benefit from some cellar time.
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.