Category Archives: Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio

Ziobaffa 2014 Pinot Grigio “Filmakers Edition”

Puglia IGT, 12% ABV
Certified Organic. Sustainable.
Bottled by Castellani
imported by Sage Beverages, Carlsbad, CA
$3.99 at the San Diego (Downtown), CA, store on 3 June

20170624_120413An organic, sustainable Pinot Grigio that’s years behind current vintage, comes in a funky bottle with a strange cork wrapped in plastic at Grocery Outlet for $4? What could go wrong?

To be short, this wine is inferior to $2.99 “2 buck Chuck” Pinot Grigio that I bought to use as cooking wine last week in almost every way. It drinks as over the hill and not coming back. It offers some oak and pear on the nose, pours a slightly golden, straw color and there’s a medium mouthfeel with green mango and sourness and that flavor carries through the finish, completely distracting from any positive characteristics the wine may have once offered. This is the first date that shows up bitter and incompletely recovered from his or her last relationship when your first conversation on the phone was promising.

This is a strong no go for me.


Two 2014 Pinot Grigios from Volpe Pasini

for both wines:
Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, far northeastern Italy; 12.5% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 April. Still there.

As these wines came from the same producer and region of Italy, in the same year, with the same % alcohol, at the same price, I wondered whether they were actually the same wine in different packaging.  I am now pleasantly satisfied that they are not.

The Gri Vo’ (photo, right) has the duller label, but who knows, maybe it’s just understatement?  But no, the wine actually is the more dull of the two.  It’s still quite good, showing a hint of apricot that carries through the whole taste of more typical flavors of yellow melon, bright yellow grapefruit, and lime, with a sort of musty (from wood?) minerality and slight bitterness of grape skin.  This is a good wine for the price.

On the first day, I preferred the “Zuc di Volpe” bottling (photo, left).  It is more nervy and subtle, showing integrated floral, lemony, and minerally flavors in close succession, reined in by a slight touch of wood.

The next day, the apricot flavor in the Gri Vo’ integrated with other flavors to resemble tropical yellow fruit with a weight that surprises me in Pinot Grigio.  Still quite tasty.

In contrast to the Gri Vo’, the next day, the Zuc di Volpe bottling was still interestingly, subtly complex, but was rather dull compared to what it had been.  Gone were the bright acid and minerally structure.  Depending on whether you plan to drink it over more than one night, you might prefer the Gri Vo’.  In contrast to other blending experiments I’ve done, I could not find a blend of these two that really improved on either wine alone.

Both of these wines show their age just a little.  Drink them up soon, and there is certainly no reason to wait in this spring heat.

2012 Matahiwi Estate “Holly” Pinot Gris

Wairarapa, New Zealand; 14% ABV
Purchased at Palo Alto for $5.99 on January 5, 2017

img_9822A trio of new wines from Matahiwi Estate showed up at the Palo Alto store, the “Estate” level Chardonnay and the “Holly” level Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. This winery makes three tiers of wine with the “Estate” wines being the middle tier and the “Holly” wines their top efforts. The back label said this wine was barrel-fermented and made in the style of Pinot Gris from Alsace. Before going any further I must admit Alsatian wines as a whole and Pinot Gris as a varietal are fairly new to me. That being said, this wine has me eager to try more. I really liked it.

The wine pours a golden, straw color with clear edges. On the nose I got ripe golden apple, some flinty mineral notes, some spice (presumably from the oak), and beeswax. On the palate this wine was definitely more weighted than the typical Chardonnays or Sauv Blancs I drink more regularly. There’s fresh, ripe apple, stone fruit, citrus, some minerally acidity and well integrated barrel spice. To be really enjoyed though, the wine needs to warm from refrigerator temperature. Served too cold, it tasted just like spiced apple juice. But, once it warms up to about 45-50 degrees, it really opens up into a well-integrated and complex wine.

Day two yielded a similar experience with the wine hitting its stride a bit sooner, after about 15 minutes in the glass, but with no loss in intensity or flavor. There’s still some life left in this one. Thumbs up for me and a repeat buy. This would be fantastic with butternut squash soup.

Castel Pietra 2014 Pinot Grigio from Mezzacorona

Vigneti delle Dolimiti IGT, Trentino – Alto Adige, (northern) Italy; 12% ABV
$6 for 1.5L (magnum) at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 Nov

mezzacorona_2015_pinotgrigioI dimly recalled liking other white wines with the Dolomiti designation, so despite not really wanting a whole magnum of this wine, I finally got one toward the end of the recent fall sale.  It’s a fairly basic wine but a solid value in Italian Pinot Grigio.

At first, I found the wine a bit crisp and slightly bitter.  In addition to PG’s typical lightly dried straw, the wine tasted of less ripe lemon and skin of less ripe yellow grape, with assertive minerally structure.  After the second pour or so, some riper fruit of yellow pear and yellow grapefruit emerged to support the acid, but it was still fairly submerged by the crisp, minerally acid.

On the second night, after a couple more pours, this fruit emerged further to make the wine more balanced between fruit, acid, and minerality, and really quite enjoyable, especially as it warmed some from fridge temp.

On the third night, the wine is quite tasty and pleasant, adding a sort of orange-y flavor.  It’s not a particularly exciting wine, but it is well made and a good value for an every-day crisp white.

Upside 2014 “Free Rein” white blend

50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Gris according to the producer web site; 14.1% ABV
Central Coast, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 2 June

Upside_2014_FreeReinWhiteI bought this wine because I liked the label, period.  The back label says nothing about the wine.  It’s not something that excited me very much, but it’s tasty enough for the price.

The wine tastes of very ripe Chardonnay: yellow apple and tropical fruit (pineapple, golden kiwi, maybe mango) that that is a little overripe or bruised.  If a little stronger, this “bruised” character, which seems close to the oak, would be offensive, but here it’s not too bad.  Balancing the ripe fruit is the pear, dry straw and lime / lemon acid of Pinot Gris that is thankfully a good bit less ripe than the Chardonnay.  It’s not the most elegant, but it’s full-flavored and quite agreeable with lobster raviolis from the GO.

The next day, the rest in the bottle tastes similarly, but is more smooth and integrated; still at least as tasty as it was the first day.

Philo Ridge 2012 Pinot Gris

Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA; 13.0% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 10 Feb; not much left

PhiloRidge_2012_PinotGrisThis wine’s presentation, with a nice label, in a tall, tapered (German-style) bottle, made it look quite promising.  But what made me finally get a bottle was a regular customer’s coming back for a case of it.  It’s pretty good, but not quite as good as I had hoped.

The crisp wine has lighter flavors of less ripe lemon, yellow and green melon, dry straw, and a slight yellow pear, with a smooth minerality.  I recommended it to a customer who wanted a wine to drink at a crab feed, and I think it was a good choice.

The next day, I liked the rest of the bottle in the fridge much better.  The lighter flavors had become more forward and integrated elegantly with the minerality.  It’s still not an amazing wine, but the second day did push it into Thumbs Up for me.

Ca’ Bella 2010 “Pi-Ano” Pinot Grigio – Fiano

52% Fiano, 48% Pinot Grigio; 14.0% ABV
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 13 Aug

CaBella_2010_Pi-AnoThe Ca’ Bella red was quite popular, but I had stayed away from the white until G. L. Pease recommended it in person.  white melon / white of the melon rind / austere white peach, ripe lemon, some of the Pinot Grigio pear and straw, lightly honeyed, finishing with slight bitterness.  Not the smoothest blend, but quite flavorful, containing ripe fruit plus balancing acid and bitterness, and pretty good for the price.

A few days later, the last half glass left in the fridge was much better integrated and really quite tasty!

Benessere 2013 Pinot Grigio

Napa Valley, CA; 14.2% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 July.  Also seen at Berkeley 23 July.

Benessere_2013_PinotGrigioAlthough I didn’t like the 2010 Sangiovese from Benessere, I did quite like their 2011 Black Glass Vineyard Zinfandel (note that the 2009 BGV Zin is around these days; haven’t tried it), so I had been intrigued by this Pinot Grigio for a while before finally buying and opening one last night.  If you like ripe, full-flavored whites, this one is delicious!

A lot of what I like about this wine is that, in contrast to a lot of generic Pinot Grigio, it really tastes like Pinot Grigio: yellow pear, straw / chrysanthemum tea, lemon with a hint of green lime, and (the non-spicy flavor of) ground ginger, balanced with decent acid.  While not obviously off-dry, it’s certainly not extra dry, either.  If you’re looking for a more restrained and austere white, or I guess if you’re a devoted red drinker, this is not for you.  But otherwise, I have trouble imagining anyone not liking this.

The last bit in the bottle (pictured) was still quite good the next day.

Comelli 2011 Pinot Grigio “Amplius”

Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, (northeastern) Italy; 13% ABV imported by Global Wine Co., San Rafael, CA $4 at the Oakland, CA, store on 7 July.  Seen at Berkeley 14 July.

Comelli_2011_PinotGrigioNot that I have tasted a huge amount of Pinot Grigio, but I find this one quite impressive.  From the start, the color is a darker, more saturated golden yellow than usually seen in PG.  On the palate, the texture is heavier, and the flavors more intense: honeyed straw, yellow apple / golden kiwi, maybe green fig, and what I think is supporting oak.  At first, the wine seemed a little too heavy, but a little while after opening, the lemony acid became stronger and more integrated.  IMO, this is a very tasty bargain. This, from the New York Times Wine Club site (member price $11.48/bottle), explains why this PG is so different than those with which I have been familiar, although I somewhat disagree with their flavor profile:

For their Amplius pinot grigio, Comelli employs a common Friulian technique not often seen outside Italy to extract as much flavor as possible. Some of the carefully handpicked grapes are first soaked, then fermented along with the crushed grape skins, similar to how traditional reds are made. This process yields silkiness, body and flavors that are instantly evident in the glass. Aromas of peach, honeydew melon, apple and tangerine lead in to a striking mineral/fruit balance that continues through the fresh finish.

The next day, the wine is more tart and bitter but still pretty good.

Fontana Gina 2013 Pinot Grigio

Veneto IGT, Italy; 12.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 4 May

FontanaGina_2013_PinotGrigioThis wine, with its solid yellow color through the bottle, immediately looked atypical for Pinot Grigio from the Veneto area, which is usually a more pale yellow with a tinge of green.  Indeed, as it turned out, it’s more in a Californian style, with softer, ripe fruit and less structure and tartness than a typical northern Italian white.  But, maybe because I’m a Californian, I love it.

It’s not as ripe and heavy as it might be if it were from Napa, but its more delicate body and sweetly ripe fruit could be from the Central Coast.  It showed typical Pinot Grigio flavors of lemon and pear, some atypical sweet yellow fruit that could be peach or mango, and a little freshly dried straw.  Although the fruit is ripe, it certainly has enough pleasantly balancing acid.

The next day, the rest of the bottle left in the fridge dominated by acid instead of by sweet fruit, but that acid was still ripe, juicy, and tasty.  The wood / straw was also a little stronger.  Although the overall character of the wine was a bit different, I thought it was still very tasty.