Pinot Grigio is an all-around holiday meal palate pleaser

October 29, 2022

Left the house Monday with my Thanksgiving menu for a little preprandial shopping. Just a rough outline; one never knows what will be favorable. Rough budget for 10 diners, canapés, turkey with trimmings and dessert were the primary categories. After totting up the costs, had to modify to can o’ peas, spam and grits, and Skittles or M&Ms until I remembered the disguised fentanyl issues. The good news, I’m reviewing the best/least expensive wines that the more fortunate can serve with their groaning board.

Please remember the prices shown are approximate within a few bucks. Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio DOC 2020 made Wine Spectator top 100; NYT named it No. 1 PG from Collio, Friuli, one of the best-regarded cool regions of Italy. OK, McD, why an Italian PG? Of all the various varietal white wines, well-made PG may be the best choice for a several-course holiday meal for a large group with disparate taste buds. These work as an aperitif, with shellfish, smoked fish, white meat, risotto (stuffing), and roast fall veggies, and support many of the spices that are most prevalent during the winter holidays. Yellow with copper tints, Felluga PG opens to a big, complex bouquet of acacia, daisy, apricot and peach. On the tart, creamy palate, flavors repeat the stone fruit with pastry notes and crème brûlée. It is crisp yet full on the palate, supported with tart citrus and mineral back notes through a long, fruit-filled, palate-cleansing finish. I recommend those who are able should buy a case. I’ve seen them for sale $23/bottle, and they will make you smile through the holiday season. If you are a “buy American” and shopping price, look for Kendall Jackson Reserve PG 2017 or 2019 only, can be found under $15; avoid the ‘18 and ‘20. Much of the California 2020 vintage was a weather/fire disaster. Four Graces PG 2021 from Dundee Hills, Oregon, under $20, 90 McD, is delicious. Their Reserve Pinot Noir, both 2017 and ‘18, rate 91 McD under $37; they are bargain buys also. Bota Box PG continues to win in its category; I’ve not sampled any recently. Pinot Gris and PG are made of same varietal juice. The 2021 J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Gris really surprised me, 88 McD under $18; it reminded more of Sauvignon Blanc. Jasmine, lemongrass, orange, peach, pineapple aromas with lime, citrus and ripe apple flavors lifted by balancing mineral acidity. Also sampled a can of Josh Ostrovsky Babe Grigio, a carbonated PG touted as “the official wine of day drinking and falling asleep by 10 p.m. Sorry to say I fell asleep after one sip. 

Here are well-regarded names for PG fans. From Oregon, Joel Gott Pinot Gris is top of its price range. The 2018, 89 McD at $20, shows gooseberry, jasmine and peach aromas, creamy pineapple and tart apple flavors, light body. Avoid the ‘19 and ‘20 vintages; the new release 2021 is 92 McD. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio Valdadige, Italy, is 89 McD under $25. Read labels carefully; they make two cheaper, lower-rated products. Straw-colored, bone-dry, with hay, oak, butter, vanilla nose; pear, cheese, lime flavors. Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve is almost always on my list. Recent release 2018, 93 McD under $36, is one of their best efforts since the 2000. 

Let’s close the week with reds. Lemelson Thea's Selection Pinot Noir 2019, from Willamette, Ore., rates 93 McD around $30. Black cherry, plum, cinnamon, black tea with vague lavender accent. Juicy, medium body riding smooth tannins and proper minerally acidity; finishes long and clean with a cherry repeat and some dark-chocolate hints. Lately, the rage has been “rare red blends.” Marietta Cellars Christo 2019 is your ne plus ultra price opportunity to observe, 92 McD and only $24. RRBs are winemakers’ art, wine blended of red varietal juice. Most are rich, fruit-driven and jammy. Following is slightly edited by McD, “exhibiting ripe, rich fruit: cherry, plum, raspberry and blackberry and a plethora of spices, leather and chocolate. Reminds of Australian Shiraz, Sonoma Zinfandel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.” Upscale, well-known Justin Isosceles rates consistently 91-93 over past several vintages at $78-$80. Medium price: The Prisoner, $52, avoid 2018 and ‘21. Paraduxx Winery 90 McD, $44, best is 2017, 92 points. Stags’ Leap The Investor 2018, 92 McD at $52, would be my choice.

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