Summer is on the horizon and the white wine season is approaching. So why not trying to seriously explore California alternatives to Chardonnay? Take Pinot Gris for example. It is a mutant clone of Pinot Noir that originated in Burgundy in the middle ages. Nowadays, it is a major grape in Alsace producing full-bodied, rich white wines. It is also prominent in Italy's northeast regions of Veneto and Friuli where it is called Pinot Grigio. The Italian version is usually lighter and crispier than in Alsace.
Although Pinot Gris is a relatively newcomer to the Russian River Valley, it seems particularly well suited to the region's cool climate. Already, over 140 acres of Pinot Gris are planted in the area, which produces wines more in the Alsatian style than in the Italian Pinot Grigio style.
I recently had the opportunity to taste the 2005 J Pinot Gris Russian River Valley. The wine is produced by J Vineyards & Winery, a winery offering top-rated Sparkling Wine, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from the Russian River Valley. Showing a pale straw color, it had a fresh and citrusy nose. On the palate, it was lively, slightly creamy, with notes of apple, honey and caramel. Try it, it should work really well with a dish of Pacific Island Fish in Coconut Sauce.
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