Picture: Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times (right) and Greg Lint, President of Oak Knoll Winery (left) at the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium
The 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium took place at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, near Portland, on June 9, 2011. It consisted of two parts: Lectures and round table discussion in the morning and an Oregon Pinot Gris tasting in the afternoon.
The Wines of Oregon
About two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards are in the Willamette Valley. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. But Oregon is not only about Willamette Valley. Oregon’s vineyards span the whole State, rising up and falling over the rolling hills and gentle valleys of more than 12,000 acres (4,858 hectares) of wine grapes. Other major wine regions are the Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. Some regions straddle the border between Oregon and the States of Washington and Idaho.
Wine has been produced in Oregon since the Oregon Territory was settled in the 1840s, when Italian and Swiss immigrants planted wine grapes and started bottling wine. Oregon's wine industry was suppressed during Prohibition. It was not until 1961, when Richard Sommer set up shop in southern Oregon, that the modern Oregon wine industry was borne. Other pioneers include David Lett, David Adelsheim, Dick Ponzi and Bill Sokol-Blosser. Then the French also came with Domaine Drouhin bringing European sophistication to Oregon.
Picture: The Wine Regions of Oregon
In the past 40 years, Oregon has become one of the country’s top three wine States, with 450 wineries producing an average of 3,500 cases. Most of it is Pinot Noir (8000 acres), Oregon’s signature grape variety, followed by Pinot Gris (1300), Chardonnay (800), Merlot (500) and Riesling (500). Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than its southern neighbor California. The majority of wineries in Oregon operate their own vineyards, although some purchase grapes on the market.
Pinot Gris in the World
There are about 25,000 hectares of Pinot Gris in the world, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of total wine production. With about 12,000 hectares, Italy is the front-runner, with Germany (4,000 h), California (3,000 h), Alsace (2,000 h) and Hungary (1.500 h) following. Oregon, with about 500 hectares, belongs to the group of smaller producers, along with New Zealand (700 h) and Australia (300 h).
Pinot Gris comes from the Bourgogne in France. The Pinot Gris has grayish-blue fruit. This explains the name: Pinot Gris (in France), or Pinot Grigio (in Italy) or Grauburgunder (in Germany) - Gris, Grigio and Gris mean “grey”.
Pinot Gris is a heat-sensitive grape that does not fare well in hotter climates as it needs colder temperatures to ripen fully and produce distinct flavors. It prefers a cooler climate with long, temperate summer days.
Pictures: During the Morning Sessions
In Italy, plantings can be found in the Lombardy region and in Alto Adige, Italy's northern most wine region, as well as in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Some 9 million cases are produced in Italy today, of which 90% is exported. Italian Pinot Grigio tends to be light-bodied, often lean; light in color; neutral, sometimes spritzy flavors, crisp and acidic. Almost all Italian Pinot Grigio wines are dry.
A German merchant by the named Johann Seger Ruland (re)discovered grapes growing wild in the fields of the Pfalz region in Germany in the 1700s. The wine he produced with these grapes became known as Rulaender; the Rulaender was later discovered to be Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). Many wine producers in Germany sell their Grauburgunder still as Rulaender. German Grauburgunder/Rulaender tends to be medium- to full-bodied; typically dry but sometimes with noticeable residual sugar, but always well balanced with good acidity.
French Pinot Gris from Alsace can be rich and almost oily in texture. Like the German Grauburgunder, Alsatian Pinot Gris can be made in a dry or sweet-style.
Pinot Gris in Oregon
Pinot Gris has been grown in Oregon as long as Pinot Noir. David Lett, founder of Oregon's first winery, The Eyrie in McMinnville, planted a tiny amount alongside his first plantings of Pinot Noir more than 40 years ago. Other pioneers were Dick Ponzi and David Adelsheim. But it was not until the King Estate was founded in the 1990s that the Oregon Pinot Gris got national attention. The Estate, which grows only organically, is in the southernmost end of the Willamette Valley near Eugene.
Almost all Oregon Pinot Gris vines are found on slopes, southeast to southwest facing at elevations from 250 to 700 feet. Mid-slope positioning generally keeps vines above frost levels, and below less fertile soils near the ridge. Southern exposure rewards grapes with extra hours of sunlight.
The 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery
This was a very well organized ¾ day event at the Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro. It was sponsored by Oak Knoll Winery and organized by PR veteran Jo Diaz. The event was very inspiring and entertaining. The star was Paul Gregutt, from the Seattle Times.
Evidently, there are different styles of Pinot Gris in the world. Living in Germany and on the US East Coast, I am not as familiar with Oregon Pinot Gris as most other participants were. So, I was curious how the wines would taste. Alsatian or Italian style? Dry or with a bit of remaining sugar? Aged in oak to add flavors and tannins?
Pictures: Afternoon Tasting of the Pinot Gris Wines; Paul Gregutt and Christian G.E.Schiller (top)
What I found at the tasting were very few, if any, Italian style Pinot Grigio wines. In terms of residual sugar, the wines I tasted were overwhelmingly dry. Finally, I found very little oak in the wines. Overall, the wines were medium-bodied, crisp, with lively flavors, often with aromas of pear, apple, and melon.
Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium Program
7:30 - 8:30 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast
8:30 - 8:35 a.m. WELCOME ~ Greg Lint and Jeff Herinckx
8:35 - 8:45 a.m. INDIVIDUAL INTRODUCTIONS
SESSION I KEYNOTE SPEAKER ~ Paul Gregutt
8:45 - 9:30 a.m. "The Potential for Pinot Gris From Oregon, Regarding Its Terroir"
BREAK ~ 9:30 - 9:45 a.m.
SESSION II VITICULTURE ~ Al MacDonald, Chemeketa Community College Vineyard Management Programs
9:45 - 10:30 a.m "Understanding the Terroir of Oregon Pinot Gris"
SESSION III ENOLOGY
• Robert Brittan, Robert Brittan Vineyards
• Jason Bull, Zimri Cellars, winemaker at David Hill Vineyards
• Jeff Herinckx, Oak Knoll Winery
10:30 - 11:15 a.m. "Crafting Signature Pinot Gris"
BREAK ~ 11:15 - 11:30 a.m.
SESSION IV MARKETING
11:30 - 12:30 p.m.
Ryan Lumaco, Odom-Southern Distributors of Oregon "Having Your Pinot Gris Stand Out From The Oregon Crowd"
Eugenia Keegan, Vineyard Consultant "Having Your Pinot Gris Stand Out From The National Crowd"
12:30 ~ 1:30 p.m. LUNCHEON w/MEDIA
1:30 - 3:00 p.m. BEST OF THE OREGON PINOT GRIS TASTING With MEDIA
Pictures: Luncheon; Christian G.E.Schiller, Nicolas Quille, head winemaker of Pacific Rim, Jennifer Henry from Henry Estate Winery in Umpqua in Oregon
Winery and Grape Growers:
Abiqua Wind Vineyard
Ankeny Vineyard Winery
Cardwell Hill Cellars
Christoper Bridge Cellars
King Estate Winery
Lange Estate Winery
Left Coast Cellars
Methven Family Vineyards
Montinore Estates Winery
NW Wine Company, L.L.C.
Oak Knoll Winery
Pacific Rim Winemakers
Phelps Creek Vineyards
Plum Hill Vineyards
Pudding River Wine Cellars
Sokol Blosser Winery
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Yamhill Valley Vineyards
Chemeketa Community College
Eugenia Keegan Consulting
Ombiasy Public Relations
Odom-Southern Distributors of OR
Paul Gregutt ~ www.paulgregutt.com, Wine Enthusiast
Barbara Trigg ~ Appellation America
Ryan Reichert ~ Northwest Whites
Dr. Christian G.E.Schiller ~ Schiller Wine
Jim Gullo ~ Oregon Wine, b/t/w
Mark Hinton ~ Enobytes, Oregon Live
Pamela Heiligenthal ~ Enobytes
Jo Diaz ~ Wine-Blog ~ Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz
Gary Werner ~ Vineyard and Winery Management
schiller-wine: Related Postings
One of Oregon's Pioneering Winemakers - Myron Redford - with his Amity Vineyard Wines in Washington DC
Wine tasting: Soter Wines from Oregon at Out-of-Sight Wines in Vienna, US
Wine Tasting: The Pinot Noirs of Patricia Green, Oregon, US
The Excellent Wines of Ken Wright Cellars, Oregon
The Jay Somers Wines of Bill Holloran, Oregon
Meeting Bill Holloran from Oregon and Tasting His Holloran and Stafford Hill Wines
5. Deutscher Grauburgunder Preis – 5. German Pinot Gris Award
The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC