Oregon’s Best Wines: Pinot Gris

Cristom Vineyards 2015 Estate Pinot Gris

written by Lindsay McWilliams | photos by Andrea Johnson

As is the story with many Oregon winemakers, Eileen and Paul Gerrie came to this state in 1992 to grow world-class pinot noir fruit. While this Willamette Valley winery makes a consistently elegant pinot noir, it’s lately being recognized for  pinot gris. Though not the primary focus for Cristom Vineyards, the Gerries planted 5.2 acres of grapes for pinot gris from the very beginning.

“We are constantly trying to elevate the business to a higher level, and we’re really trying to step up the pinot gris,” said Tom Gerrie, president and assistant winemaker at Cristom Vineyards.

For the 2015 Estate Pinot Gris, the winemakers began experimenting with a combination of crushed and whole cluster fruit. Immediately pressing whole cluster fruit brings a  restrained, light and floral characteristic, while crushing the fruit before press brings out the texture and acidity of the wine. Combined, it creates a delicate balance with a creaminess and weightiness, enhanced by a second malolactic fermentation.

As one of three varietals that grows particularly well  in Oregon, pinot gris, Gerrie finds, is a gateway for new wine drinkers.

An aerial view over Cristom Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills near Salem.

Pinot gris is generally more affordable than its red counterpart. “It creates a real opportunity to lead people into Oregon wines in terms of price point,” Gerrie said. “It has a great place in a meal, a great food wine.”

The winemaker enjoys Cristom’s pinot gris with white fish in a light lemon butter sauce, or with mushroom risotto. But he encourages people to be playful and adventurous when it comes to pairing with pinot gris.

Blossoming from the growing wine hub around Salem, Cristom is upheld by a team of dedicated wine enthusiasts with more than 100 years of combined experience. Recently, the company is putting down its roots with a 100-year plan for a family-run estate winery to continue its legacy. Winemakers at Cristom prize their intimacy with this land specifically and hope to continue to grow in their knowledge of it with long-term intentions.

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