In case you haven’t noticed, wines are becoming more colorful
I sampled Montinore Estate L’Orange Pinot Gris 2018 and 2020 from Willamette, Ore., certified organic and biodynamic. A blurb noting they sold “verjus,” meaning unfermented juice of unripe grapes, had caught my attention, since it’s a delightful cooking ingredient for salad dressings and fish sauces. Their 750 ml bottle, $20, was excellent, a fine way to add acidity and body to white sauce for those who aren’t fans of lemon or lime. The 2018 Montinore Pinot Gris is an interesting wine with a diverse bouquet of peach, quince and mandarin orange aromas accented with floral and spice notes. The palate is Asian, repeating the quince and orange while adding kumquat and lychee. The fruit is supported by vibrant acidity and a hint of salinity through its long, clean finish, 91 McD around $30. Its color derives from its must extraction methods. Normally, white wines are made using free run or pressing for juice extraction. “Orange wine” employs a process mostly associated with red wine. Those named “orange” or “amber” wines are soaked or fermented for a much shorter time on their matte (seeds, stems and skins), adding color, tannin and enhanced varietal expression. A similar process is used for many “pink” wines. The 2020 is also delicious, showing citrus zest, peach and floral with nutmeg spice aromas. The palate was a bit of a surprise, exhibiting cherry and apricot flavors. Supporting bright acidity cleans up the palate, allowing the flavors to follow and linger, 90 McD. Considering the difficulty of this vintage in Oregon, they did an admirable job. The Estate Pinot Gris 2020, under $15, 91 McD, shows apple, pear, starfruit bouquet with a faint pineapple back note. Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio resembles Pinot Noir until veraison. That’s wino speak for the growth-cycle period when berries change color and become softer. After flowering and during early stages, all grapes have an herbaceous green color. During veraison, normally late July-early August in the Northern Hemisphere, white grapes become lighter, more transparent yellow, while many black grapes trend red. PG shows a mottled array from orange-pink to pale, dusty purple. The adjective gris is French for gray, referencing the dusty, light-gray sheen the grapes exhibit.
How about a few Sauvignon Blancs? Groth Napa SB 2020, 90 McD around $20, is a lovely wine. Made with 17% Sémillon, it showed peach and pear integrated acidity with a bit of brioche on its palate. The 2022 is more interesting, 92 McD. Pale golden, a swirl produces lemon, white peach and floral nose. More lemon and white peach on the palate with melon back notes. Suckling, rating it 90 points, claimed apples and slightly grassy. If you take my recommendation, let me know your opinions. Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2022 is a fine buy under $16, showing grapefruit, peach, lemon grass, lime zest, lychee with bright mineral acidity. Hint of oak notes, 90 McD. A new release, Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley SB Sonoma County 2022, is a blend of 73% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Musqué and 7% Sauvignon Gris, and quite complex, as you might guess. Opens to a tropical blend of passionfruit, peach, pineapple and jasmine. On the full-bodied, creamy palate are citrus and guava and barrel notes; the winemaker claimed oak and chestnut barrels. It delivered hints of acacia, and the use of chestnut barrels was new to me. Very fresh, with a long, complex, clean finish; 92 McD under $27. If you find Dry Creek Spencer’s Hill Vineyard Zin 2016 or ‘17 in the $40 range, especially the ‘16, glom it up; it’s 93 McD and drinking beautifully now. Founder David Stare was one of the first to plant SB in the raging Zin and Chardonnay days of the ‘70s. Today the company is run by his daughter, Kim Stare Wallace. Those looking for a $30 Cab, check out their Hillside & Benchland Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Consistent 89 to mostly 90 scores since 2012, except 87 in 2014. This is always a buy for me when I see any on shelves. The Dry Creek Vineyard Cab 2019 is a deal under $22; you can find a case of 12 for $240, 93 McD, gets 2 price points. Won double gold in San Fran Chronicle competition. If the vineyard were up the road a bit, the mainstream writers would have laid on mid-90s scores, because “everyone knows that Sonoma Cabs aren’t as good as Napa.” LOL.