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Quick Sip: Waterstone 2008 Pinot Gris Napa Valley

Wine Reviews
Written by Fred Swan
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 02:21

Pinot Gris is a grape, descended from Pinot Noir, that is used to make white wines. The varietal is often called by other names, depending on where it’s made. In Germany, it is typically called Grauburgunder. That’s just a direct translation of Pinot Gris, as is Italy’s Pinot Grigio. In Switzerland, and sometimes France’s Loire Valley, it’s called Malvoisie. There is more Pinot Gris grown in Italy and Germany than in France. However, it is one of the three “noble grapes” of France’s Alsace and some of the very best versions come from that area.

To further confuse matters, the Alsatians like to call it Tokay. Of course, the wine best known as Tokay is a dessert wine made in Hungary that is not made from Pinot Gris. The Hungarians call Pinot Gris “Szurkebarat.” Please don’t ask me to pronounce that.

I don’t pull out Pinot Gris as often as I should. There are some good ones, both from Europe and the New World. It is the second most grown grape in Oregon. The wines are a nice alternative to Chardonnay. They have similar body and levels of acidity and both are considered a bit neutral in flavor. However, while Chardonnay can range from citrus to apple to stone and tropical fruit, Pinot Gris more consistently evokes stone fruit and white flowers. Two of my favorite domestic Pinot Gris makers are Sineann in Oregon and Joseph Swan Vineyards in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.

Anyway, a few minutes ago I found myself pawing through the big wine fridge looking for something new to try. I found a Waterstone 2008 Pinot Gris Napa Valley. I’ve not tried the wine before, or any Waterstone wine. There are so many wineries in Napa Valley, let alone California overall, it’s hard to taste from them all. Fortunately, Waterstone took the initiative to send me this bottle as a review sample a little while ago. Let’s see how it is.

It is a white wine in a clear bottle with a classy white and gold label. It’s sealed with real cork and a long black capsule with gold trim. The bottle lists the alcohol as 13.5%. [The tasting notes on the Waterstone website say 13.6%.] The back label doesn’t feature any annoying marketing speak or family stories. It does say, “This aromatic Pinot Gris features ripe peach and nectarine notes balanced by bright acidity.”

The wine is clear and yellowish-silver in my glass with medium-minus color saturation. It doesn’t leave any legs on the side of the glass.

The wine smells clean with a nose of medium intensity. As advertised, I’m definitely smelling pretty stone fruit. I get both nectarine flesh and unsliced peach. There’s just a slight hint of minerality but fresh fruit is really the focus.

In the mouth, the wine has less body but more acidity than a typical California Chardonnay would provide. The fruit is more tart than you would expect from the nose. It tastes floral and has some crisp white peach. The acidity makes me look for citrus, but I don’t really find it. It tastes more of mineral than it smelled, somewhere between steel and limestone. After the fruity, floral beginning, it dips a bit in the mid-palate and then makes a comeback with the acidity which lasts quite some time. I don’t get much oak on the nose or in the flavors, though the wine did see a bit of time in French barrels.

The Waterstone 2008 Pinot Gris Napa Valley is a good wine. It is less luxurious than the Sineann, but perhaps a bit more versatile with food. It will be very nice with a wide range of seafood dishes and is just light enough to be okay with raw oysters. It would be good with semi-soft and chalky cheeses, chicken, white pork dishes and veggies. I’d like it with fried risotto balls too.

The retail price on this wine is $18. If you can’t find it at your favorite wine shop, you can buy it directly from Waterstone. Drink Now.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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