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columbia winery pinot gris If you’re tired of the same old Chardonnay, Pinot Gris is a great alternative for warm summer evenings. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are alternative names for the same grape. But they often differ significantly in style.

The Pinot Gris/Grigio grape loses acidity quickly when the weather gets warm, so the producers in the cool, hilly regions of Northeastern Italy, like to harvest this grape early. The result is a crisp, lean wine with subtle citrus and floral aromas and occasionally a hint of almond. Some can be pleasing but they are often insipid, lemon water more or less. The Alsatian French by contrast allow more sugar to develop with longer hang times resulting in a richer, heavier wine with tropical fruit, honey, and exotic spice notes. Sometimes it will see oak and the French style will age well. In Alsatian hands, these can be very serious wines.

The acreage devoted to Pinot Gris/Grigio in California, Oregon, and Washington is increasing. In Oregon it has become the dominant white grape for many wineries. American versions tend to fall in the middle of the style spectrum—not quite as lean as the Italian version and more fruit forward, but nothing like the fat Alsatian styles. Unfortunately, in the U.S. the name will tell you little about the style. Some call it Grigio, some call it Gris.

This offering from Washington State’s Columbia Winery, in Columbia Valley, is clean, crisp and lean, from a cool year. Pear, apple, and generic citrus dominate the nose; the palate is all grapefruit and minerality with a mouthwatering, lingering finish, tart but not sour. Very refreshing.

A good bargain. Serve it with light fish dishes or as a summer quaffer.

Score: 86/100

Price: $11

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