Pinot Gris: Oregon’s Second Wine

The southern Willamette south of Eugene has a special place in my heart.

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My first visit was in 1992 when I house-sat for friends on the mid-Oregon coast in Florence. I took a day trip inland and just for fun decided to drop down south and check out the wineries. My expectations were not high. At that point, I was still a bit of a California snob.

As I drove south from Eugene into what the Native Americans called the “Valley of Sickness”, an area of herbaceous fertility, my allergies went into overdrive. I started sneezing so hard I had to pull the car over. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a shoulder on that narrow two lane road, so I had to recover quickly.

The landscape was rougher than I normally associated with wine country – shaggy and overgrown like a rough highland cow. It was summer, and the air was thick with heat, pollen, bees and small birds darting between the trees.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

While I had spent time in the Northern Willamette Valley, enjoying the Pinot Noir, I was curious about the Pinot Gris that I’d tried from the cooler Southern Willamette Valley. While the Italian Pinot Grigio is usually lean and lemony, the Oregon Pinot Gris made from the same grape went a bit further, adding fruit notes of peach, tangerine and floral notes of honeysuckle and violet.