Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tasting Pinot Blanc From Willamette Valley and Alsace

Pinot Blanc is a distant third or maybe fourth when wine lovers talk about Pinots. Leading the pack is Pinot Noir trailed closely by Pinot Grigio (at least in my handicapping of the race). Pinot Blanc comes struggling across the finish line far behind – perhaps even trailing Pinot Gris (which is actually the same grape as Pinot Grigio).

Pinot Blanc is a white grape variety popular in the Alsace region of France, northern Italy, Austria and Germany. The wine does remarkably well in Oregon too.

By chance I tasted two very different Pinot Blancs within 10 days, one that hit the mark and one that left me unimpressed.

I was in Houston for a meeting and our group went to T’Afia, the quirky restaurant of Chef Monica Pope. The menu features such dishes as Lamb’s Tongue Salad and Gingered Kobe Stirfry. The food was fantastic and the group mindset was white wine, no matter what. This might have had to do with the sweltering heat and humidity.

Rather than an obvious New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I opted for a 2010 Elk Cove Pinot Blanc from Willamette Valley. It was a great choice. The wine is a true crowd pleaser with a crisp apple palate and a touch of minerality. It’s a versatile food wine and a recommended
summer thirst-buster. It’s medium bodied with an off-dry finish.

Feeling good about my Pinot Blanc experience, I chilled down a bottle of Alsatian Pinot Blanc upon my return home. 

The 2009 Domain Frey Rayon de Lune Pinot Blanc from Alsace laid an egg. I love wines from Alsace and was ready to be impressed. Hoping for some creamy apple goodness, I instead found this to be a very austere wine.

Minerality dominates some very light fruit notes. The wine starts with welcome freshness, but ends with a slightly sour finish. This was not terrible, but didn’t live up to my expectations.

I remain on the hunt for great Pinot Blanc. It’s a great choice for those who thirst for variety in their white.

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