At the Second Annual Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium presented by Oak Knoll Winery, Paul Gregutt was asked to return as the keynote speaker. The reason for this is multilayered. First and foremost, Paul’s been writing about Northwest wines for over 25 years. He’s tasted Oregon Pinot Gris during that time, now understanding them better than most as to style and how they’re presented from a critical perspective.

Secondly, besides being a preeminent wine writer, being published in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Seattle Times (as well as many other publications), Paul Gregutt also has a background in marketing. He’s worked with a wide range of technology companies with the highest level of people… the CEOs and CFOs… to determine how to market their products, doing this for many years outside of the wine industry. That kind of expertise is very helpful, even when looking at the wine industry. Marketing concepts are – when it’s all said and done – marketing concepts.

Finally, Paul perfectly fits the criteria for a great keynote speaker.

My partner Jose Diaz has written about what makes for a great keynote speaker, based on our history of hiring them. Paul Gregutt fits this criteria as being accomplished, in our opinion. Seven Traits of a Good Keynote Speaker

Paul began his keynote stating that “Oregon is the original home of American Pinot Gris, first planted here more than 40 years ago. Oregon Pinot Gris is unique and distinctive – a versatile, aromatic, textural white wine, with bright fruit and exceptional balance. Expressive of both place and vintage, it belongs beside Oregon Pinot Noir as the state’s iconic white wine.”

Next, he asked the winemakers and grape growers to close their eyes and imagine a mental flavor map of Italian Pinot Grigios… and then to do the same with Pinot Gris from Alsace. “What does that taste like?” he asked. “Next, Oregon Pinot Gris…what does that taste like?” To him, the first two were easy with a really clear image. “For Oregon Pinot Gris, “It’s a rainbow of flavors. It’s not one thing, so it’s very difficult to generalize from a flavor standpoint.”

He threw this question to the group prior to the symposium, then used their comments as a basis for where he would be going as the keynote speaker:

  • What is your Oregon Pinot Gris Style?

Here are the winemaker’s answers:

Jeff Herinckx (Oak Knoll):  A lot of winemakers in Oregon try different yeasts, striving for different flavors in their Pinot Gris. In my opinion, regardless of yeast variations, it’s the acid in the Pinot Gris that defines those tropical fruit flavors. Oregon’s fruit isn’t as ripe as other regions, and that’s what is allowing us to be making the different style known as “Oregon Pinot Gris.”

Jeff Kandarian (King Estate): Oregon Pinot Gris style is defined as bright but balanced, fruit forward, and food friendly. Nine times out of 10, stainless steel fermented at cooler temps to retain fruity esters and that fruit forwardness.

Alfredo Apolloni (Apolloni): Light and fresh with tropical fruit and citrus, refreshingly bright wines with minerality, lower in alcohol but higher in flavor and in typical Oregon style there is a huge diversity of styles ranging from fresh and fruity to woody and weird.

Rob Clarke (Terrapin Cellars): The words/descriptors that come to my mind when I think about OR P.G. are vibrant, fresh, lively acidity balanced with distinguishable fruit flavors ranging from pear, tropical fruit and melon to citrus flavors of lemon and grapefruit to green apple and a hint of mineral in the background. Oregon Pinot gris should be a wine that can be enjoyed on its own as a refreshing aperitif and more importantly a great compliment to food.

Kevin Green/Stephen Webber (Montinore): On the positive side, OR PG exhibits bright acidity, often with an understated nose and mineral notes which make it a food-friendly, complimentary wine on the neutral/negative side, OR PG comes in a vast range of styles (some sweet/some not, some with ripe aromas and flavors/others with more reserved citrus characteristics) and (to some) the most annoying characteristic is a too-common bitter finish.

Aaron Lieberman (Iris): Oregon Pinot gris should be made in a style that emphasizes fruit flavors with a minimum of oak or reductive character that may come from excessive lees contact. On the other hand the high acidity which comes with cool climate viticulture needs to be balanced with a touch of RS and some palate weight (lees contact/stirring). Vineyard practices are extremely important in achieving stylistic goals. In this case balanced yield, correct canopy management and control of mildew and botrytis are critical components.

Trish Ridgeway (R. Stuart): It’s a double edged sword. If we use pre-existing style understandings or a generalization to talk about our wines, then Oregon is in a comparative position rather than a region shouting its own identity, self defining. Looking at other styles may certainly be useful in dialogue, but 30 years later, shouldn’t we leave that behind and proclaim what we believe we do best now – is it necessary to have a consensus on a styling to define us?

David Barringer (Naked Winery):  I found this a difficult task in terms of defining the wine characteristics. I don’t think our PGs are as easy to describe/group as e.g. our PN’s. It’s sort of like what does Oregon Beer taste like. I think of our PGs as not having an over-arching style but rather being more a reflection of the winemaker’s style.


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