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Torii Mor Pinot Gris 2010
Since its beginnings in Burgundy, Pinot Noir has long been considered one of the most "terroir" expressive varieties of grape. This strong tie to the earth was something Dr. Olson wanted to convey when he decided on a name for his new venture. Borrowing from the Japanese, "Torii" refers to the ornate gates often seen at the entrances of gardens. "Mor," meaning earth, was then chosen as homage to Dr. Olson's Scandinavian heritage. By joining these two distinct languages, the name Torii Mor and a romantic image of a beautiful gate to the earth was created.
Late in 2004, Jacques Tardy joined Torii Mor as head winemaker. With his Burgundian heritage and five generations of winemakers in his family history, Jacques brought the experience and style for which Torii Mor is now recognized. With a keen focus on structure and balance, the elegance of Jacques' wines has branded Torii Mor as one of the top-ranked producers of Pinot Noir in the United States.
Home to some of America’s most celebrated Pinot Noir, Oregon benefits from a marginal climate where grapes must struggle to achieve full ripeness—a challenge that results in high-quality fruit. By far the most important region is the Willamette Valley, which is further subdivided into six smaller AVAs. Surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, the Willamette Valley is characterized by warm to hot dry summers and cool, rainy winters during which cloud cover is a near-constant. Along with the warmer AVAs to the south, including Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley, it benefits from cool Pacific breezes during the growing season. Further inland, Columbia Valley to the north and Snake River Valley to the east experience cooler, wetter conditions. Post-prohibition viticulture is a relatively new addition to the state, which had been previously deemed unsuitable for the planting of Vitis vinifera grape varieties. That all changed in the mid-1960s, when Pinot Noir was first grown successfully along with other Alsatian varieties. Over the next two decades or so, Oregon continued its ascent to become to Pinot Noir powerhouse we know it as today.
The obvious success story of Oregon is 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 combination of elegant balance, high acidity, and rustic earth plus bright red fruit places it solidly in the middle of the spectrum for this versatile variety. Other successful varieties here include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
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.