This past week I had Doug Cohen, National Sales Manger for Solena Winery in Oregon, with me on my Tuesday rounds in the Rock Hill / Fort Mill area of South Carolina. We had the whole line up open, 3 different Pinot Noirs and the Oregon Pinot Gris, for my customers to taste.
At our first stop, The Village Wine Cellar at Lake Wylie, we started with the Pinot Gris. It was a striking wine because of how different it tasted from so many of the other Oregon Pinot Gris in the market. The wine had a nice creamy texture with depth of flavors including nice herbal and dry floral notes followed up by some vanilla. It was reminiscent of a California Viognier but more complex like a Chardonnay but not nearly as heavy. Doug explained that the style is due to the inclusion of 25% Pinot Gris from the Del Rio Vineyards in Rogue Valley Oregon. This vineyard is well known for its Viognier and dry creamy whites. No wonder!
Jeff, owner of The Wine Cellar, commented on how much more he liked the wine than some of the fruit bomb Pinot Gris coming out of Oregon now. That reminded me, which I shared with Doug and Jeff, of my last trip to Oregon Pinot Camp (a trade only event in Willamette Valley) and the blind tasting of Pinot Gris. Fruity wines with lots of melon and grapefruit all around. The whole room was convinced that the fruitiest wine of the lot had to be Elk Cove, the founder of the now more predominate style of Oregon Pinot Gris. When the wines were revealed Elk Cove was one of the least tropical citrus fruit wines in the group. The other wineries had copied Elk Cove's popular style and then taken it over the top! Shocked looks all around the room. No wonder Elk Cove remains the king of fruity Oregon Pinot Gris. They did it first and they continue to do it best. No wonder Jeff was tired of tasting everyone else's Oregon Pinot Gris. Which brings me back to Solena...this is how I remember Oregon Pinot Gris tasting back in the early 90s when we started selling them; but not as oaky. The wines back then were really like baby Chardonnays with all the cream, lees, and oak. Solena has brought back the creamy texture, rich flavors, and a little bit of herb and spice on the finish with a beautiful floral nose but left the oak behind.
All day long our retail customers loved the wine and were excited to put a rich food friendly Pinot Gris back on the shelf. The Pinot Noirs were very good too and we sold some but the Pinot Gris stole the show.