Hawthorne Pinot Grigio, 2012

Maker: Hawthorne, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20160515_181721-2.jpg

Place of origin: Old Mission Penninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA (2013 vintage was made from a mix of estate grapes and grapes from the Rue de Vin vineyard)

ABV: 13.1%

Purchased for $15 (winery)

Appearance: Pale straw

Nose: Mild. Papaya, underripe peach, honeydew melon, butter.

Palate: Rich and buttery. Grilled peaches, mandarin oranges, heirloom apples,

Finish: Bitter, smoky finish. Burnt butter, but in a good way.

Parting words: I don’t think I’ve ever had a Michigan Pinot Gris/Grigio this buttery, certainly not one from Northern Michigan. As you know, dear readers, the butter comes from malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation that can happen in wines. It also has the effect of softening out the tartness of a wine. It is commonplace in red wines, but less common in white where it imparts that buttery flavor and aroma most of us associate with California Chardonnay. It is allowed to occur in many warm climate Pinot Grigios too. Traverse City is almost nobody’s idea of a warm climate location but 2012 was a hot year by Michigan standards. Although it can be controlled, malolactic fermentation is more likely to occur naturally in warm conditions so maybe the folks at Hawthorne just decided to allow nature to take its course.

However it happened, the result was good. As in many Chards, the bitter oak and butter complement each other and make it even more food friendly. I’m not sure I would want a steady diet of this style of Grigio, but it’s good for a change of pace. 2012 Hawthorne Pinot Grigio is recommended.

Two Lads Sparkling Pinot Grigio

Maker: Two Lads, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA2015-12-29-17.57.18.jpg.jpeg

Grape: 100% Pinot Grigio/Gris

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: NV

ABV: 12.5%

Price: $30 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room)

Note: Pop cap closure.

Appearance: Light gold with big fizz and persistant, quick bubbles.

Nose: Dry. Minerals, lychee, sage.

Palate: Effervescent. Mineral water, Meyer lemon, mandarin orange.

Finish: Dry and flinty. Slightly herbal and smoky.

Mixed: I tried this wine in a mimosa and a Death in the Afternoon (using herbsaint instead of absinthe). It was good in both and would probably work well in other champagne cocktails like a Kir Royale, but it’s so good on its own I’m not sure why anyone would want to use it in cocktails.

Parting words: I was blindly grabbing at bottles in a box behind some wine racks yesterday trying to find a sparkler to pull out for a review today. The first bottle I pulled out was a bottle of mid-range prosecco. Looks OK, I thought, but maybe I have something more interesting in there. I reached back again and pulled this out. “That’s it!” I actually said out loud.

I expected this to be tasty, but not quite this tasty. This wine is dry enough to remind me of brut Champagne, but retails enough sweetness and Pinot Grigio character to make it enjoyable to drink. Bone dry champagne never really turned me on, anyway. This is non-vintage but they also have produced vintages of this in years past. It pairs well with a wide variety of cusine, too.

Two Lads Sparkling Pinot Grigio is a winner. Drink it early in the evening while you can still tell how good it is and appreciate how pretty the conical bottle is. Highly recommended.

Forty-Five North Pinot Gris

Maker: Forty-Five North, Lake Leelanau, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-06-23-17.07.05.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Leelanau & Old Mission Peninsulas (50/50)

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 12.5%

Purchased for $19

Appearance: Bright light gold.

Nose: Bright and mildly fruity. Tart apple, canned pears, crushed mulberry.

Palate: Full bodied and tart. Fresh cut apple, mango, cantaloupe, pinch of lavender.

Finish: Mildly bitter. Limestone and lychee. Fades slowly.

Parting words: Forty-Five North is named after the 45th parallel which runs through Leland and Traverse City, Michigan (and Bordeaux, Piedmont, the Willamette Valley and Upstate New York as Michigan wine folks are fond of pointing out) and the vineyards of winery owners Steve & Lori Grossnickle on Leelanau Peninsula.

While Riesling has reached sublime heights in Northern Michigan, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris/Grigio continue to be underutilized. When they are produced in a good vintage like 2012, they can be very good. This is one of those.

It’s similar in style to other domestic Pinot Gris, falling between the extremes of Veneto crispness and Alsatian buttery fruit. It is food friendly and refreshing without being boring and it even showed up well against the barbecued pork chops I served alongside it last night. $19 is just about right for a Michigan wine of this quality. 2012 Forty-Five North Pinot Gris is recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Pinot Grigio

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-09-03-17.34.23.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV:12.5%

Price: $11 (website)

Appearance: Light gold with some necklacing.

Nose: Semi-dry. Underripe pears, Golden Delicious apples, lemon thyme.

Palate: Medium bodied and semi-dry. White peach, pink grapefruit.

Finish: Dry and herbal. Mineral water, sage, a bit of smoke.

Parting words: When I think Pinot Grigio, I think of boring, sorry, “crisp” wines from the Veneto that are pounded back on movie nights and in cheesy restaurants. When I think Pinot Gris (The French name for the same grape, “gray pinot”) I think of the wonderfully smoky and herbaceous made from this grape in Alsace. This wine is somewhere between those camps. When chilled according to bottle directions, it is in the crisp camp but as it warms up, some Alsatian character comes to the fore.

It’s cheap for a wine of this quality and does very well with food. This is a Grigio you can drink and not feel embarrassed or bored by. Chateau Grand Traverse 2012 Pinot Grigio.

Blanck Pinot Gris

Maker: Domaine Paul Blanck, Kientzheim, Alsace, FranceBlanck Pinot Grisf

Grape: Pinot Gris/Grigio

Place of origin: Alsace, France

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for: $22 (list price $32)

Appearance: Gold with thick legs.

Nose: Oak, ripe pear, thyme.

On the palate: Full bodied and medium dry. Oak, white cherries, plum, underripe peach, mineral water.

Finish: Mild apple, a whiff of smoke and it slowly fades.

Parting words: What a delicious wine! A nearby wineshop is closing its doors and friend of the blog Amy and I went on an expedidition recently and pooled our purchase so as to get a bigger discount. This is one of my bottles. As long time readers know, I love the white wines of Alsace and their North American cousins, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy something like this at a deep discount.

Blanck is an Alsatian négotiant producing a full line of wines. This one is from their vins de fruits series of varietal wines. They also produce lines of single vineyard, late harvest and borytized wines.

This is classic Alsatian Pinot Gris. It’s rich and aromatic and judicious use of oak provides that little bit of smoke Alsatian Gris is known for. It may have been more fruit forward a few years ago (six years in the bottle is pushing it), but even at this advanced age it’s delicious.

I would be reluctant to spend the full $32 but $25 or less would be an easy buy for me. I will be looking for more Blancks in the future. Blanck Pinot Gris is recommended.

Left Foot Charley Pinot Gris

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USALFC Pinot Gris

Place of origin: Tale Feathers Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for $18

Miscellaneous label info: Tale Feathers is “1.8 acres of sandy loam soils facing due west in the heart of Old Mission Peninsula.” Harvested 10/17/11, 7.8 tons, 23.3 Brix sugar at harvest, TA: 7g/1, Residual Sugar: 3g/1. So there.

Appearance: Pale gold with long broad legs.

Nose: Grapey and semi-sweet. Hardwood smoke, hard apple cider, pear.

On the palate: Full bodied and, again, semi-sweet. Golden Delicious apples, Bartlett pear, plum.

Finish: Medium dry. A touch of cedar and a little peach linger in the mouth.

Parting words: I’ve reviewed wines from Left Foot Charley before, so I’ll spare you a rehash of where this winery is and what they do. Like the other LFC wines I’ve had, this is a very good wine with great varietal and terroir-driven character. It has all the characteristics of fine Pinot Gris from Alsace or elsewhere, but it also has a light, bright (but not tart) character its French cousins often lack. It also lacks the voluptuous mouthfeel of Alsatian whites, but it’s plenty sexy as it is.

This wine does well with the usual white wine fare like poultry and seafood, but has enough depth and complexity to hold one’s attention on its own. It could probably have been fine with another six months to a year in the bottle too, but it’s best not to push things too much with a Gris. The price is reasonable for a vintage varietal that more than delivers on its promises. Left Foot Charley’s 2011 Pinot Gris is recommended.

Arcturos Pinot Gris

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USAArc Pinot Gris 2011

Grape: Pinot Gris/Pinto Grigio

Place of origin: Montague, Capella and Montaña Rusa vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Golden straw.

Nose: Peach, pear, Golden Delicious apples, paper white narcissus.

On the palate: Crisp and medium dry. More Golden Delicious, stone, apricot, smoke.

Finish: Fairly dry. White grapefruit, smoke, a lingering background sweetness.

Parting words: I’m a big fan of Alsatian Pinot Gris, and I’ve had some good Michigan ones too, so I was eager to get into this bottle. It did not disappoint. It has a great balance of varietal character with some citrus notes, but they are well in check by smoke and minerality. This is firmly in the Alsatian, not Italian, style of making wine with this grape. It’s very food friendly (buttery fish or light vegetarian fare work best) and is affordable for a wine of this quality. The 2011 Arcturos Pinot Gris is recommended.

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Gris

Maker: Pelee Island Winery

Place of origin: Pelee Island VQA, Ontario, Canda

Vintage: 2008

Style: Late Harvest

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Light gold with thick, sparse legs.

Nose: Dry and mild. Light smoke, heirloom apples.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Slightly smokey and oaky. A bit of fruit with lychee and dry apple cider.

Finish: Woody and smoky but well balanced.

Parting Words: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. The smoke (and spelling) of this wine invoke Alsace, but it’s  drier with less fruit than most Alsatian Pinot Gris I’ve had, belying its late harvest status.

After tasting a couple of Pelee Island’s high end wines on my last trip to their tasting room (in Kingsville, not on the island itself) I had low expectations for this one. But this Pinot Gris is top notch.

Highly recommended.

A to Z Pinot Gris

Maker: A to Z, Dundee, Oregon USA

Grape: Pinot Gris/Grigio

Region: Oregon

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Light golden straw.

Nose: Bosc pear, white grapefruit, musk melon, hint of smoke.

On the palate: Full-bodied, dry. Subdued Bosc pear, underripe peach, navel orange.

Finish: Dry, with a hint of oak tannin tapering off to a grapefruity bitterness.

Parting words: A to Z specializes in affordable Oregon varietals. Their line also includes a Pinot Noir, and a Riesling. This one has a good deal of Pinot Gris character. It is rather lacking in terroir-derived nuance, but one doesn’t expect much of that in a wine that lists an entire state on the label. This is a fine table wine that goes very well with chicken and pork. Recommended.

Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris

Maker: Trimbach¸Ribeauville, Alsace, France (Diageo)

Grape: Pinot Gris/Grigio

Region: Alsace

Vintage: 2005

ABV: 13%

Appearance:  Medium Gold with thick, persistent legs.

Nose: Pear, apple, tangerine, maybe a little wood.

On the palate: Full bodied. Like an annoying country music group: Big and rich. Pear, apple, and lavender. As it warms, citron, orange and the tangerine again.

Finish: Light, sweet, and citric. Lingers on the tongue and in the nose for what seems like an hour.

Parting Words: What can I say, this is an excellent wine. Pinot Gris is one of the specialties of Alsace and Trimbach knows how to put it together. Even at six years of age, this wine is vibrant, rich, and deep.  I wish I had more to say about this fantastic wine, but it has rendered me speechless. Highly recommended.