Top Wine Picks! A Little Love for Pinot Gris

Let’s talk British Columbian Pinot Gris, because apparently we don’t do that enough. (Allow me to geek out on some stats to illustrate why.)

If you were to look at the most recent B.C. Grape Acreage Report which provides a snapshot of all B.C. vineyards as of 2014, you’d note that Pinot Gris is in fact our most widely planted white variety at 1114 acres. Chardonnay is a close second at 996 acres, followed by Gewurztraminer at 735 and then Riesling at 511. Now, most would agree that Chardonnay and Riesling are probably our most-acclaimed varieties when it comes to critical consensus, and Pinot Gris often trails them both. I did a little unscientific experiment. Since the Okanagan Valley is home to over 84 per cent of total vineyard acreage in the province, I Googled the word “Okanagan” along with the name of each of those varieties. Okanagan Riesling garnered 93,400 results, with Okanagan Chardonnay resulting in a mighty 124,000, then Pinot Gris followed with a distant 61,200.

So what gives? Is it that the grape doesn’t excite as many people? Well, it’s hard to say – but I’d venture that its common use as a blending grape can bury it in search results, too. The cool thing about Pinot Gris is that it can be made in so many styles, from crisp, high-acid cool climate bottling to generous, fruit forward versions with layers of warmth and character. Today I thought to add another Google search result by casting a light on three B.C. Pinot Gris, from the Okanagan and beyond, worthy of a spot at your dinner table.

1) Bench 1775 2014 Pinot Gris

Lime leaf and lemongrass aromas whirl out of the glass, leading to key lime pie and apple notes with a few crumblings of graham wafer throughout. I originally thought there was perhaps a touch of old oak, but with technical notes clarifying it’s done in stainless steel – that graham wafer note would come from a touch of lees contact, offering extra depth and character. A hint off-dry; should be a good match for spicy dishes. ($21.85, 14% alcohol)

2) Fort Berens 2014 Pinot Gris

You know that smell of the first bit of rain on a sidewalk after a string of hot, sunny days? Well, swirl the wine in your glass, stick your nose in there and that’s what you’ll get, along with echoes of muddled lemon for a nice little lift. On the palate, it’s an endless stroll through sun-baked apple and pear orchards; Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Bartlett, Anjou, the whole nine yards. ($18.90, 12.5% alcohol)

3) Unsworth 2013 Pinot Gris

From Vancouver Island comes this homage to coastal island life. A little sea breeze and citrus on the nose lead to a palate that has crisp minerality, an abundance of stone fruit and juicy acidity, making a perfect pairing for fresh seafood and so much more. ($20.00, 12.3% alcohol)

Fort Berens - My Wine Canada Unsworth - My Wine Canada

Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at KurtisKolt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt

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