Pinot Grigio gets a bad wrap. And I think I’m partially to blame. Having run an Italian restaurant with a very comprehensive wine list, I was compelled to offer a pinot grigio (or even two) on our list. But, man it was hard. Pinot grigio is, in all honesty, my least favorite wine on the planet. And this is coming from a wine lover that has an appreciation for all wines, no matter the level of concentration, or complexity. But that’s a very relative statement because even on a wine lover’s list, some wine needs to be last, right? My issue with pinot grigio is based on it’s tendancy to lack balance in acid and fruit, often focused too much on the former. Many other Italian varietals, such as vernaccia di San Giminiano, garganega and cortese di Gavi, all offer good quality AND more importantly, some character. Why did I need to offer our customers a pinot grigio?
But pinot grigio has improved dramatically since the mid-nineties and these days, there are more than a few pinots offering really good quality at compelling price-points. And now, there are numerous domestic offerings, providing equally high quality. So we decided to review some of these domestic offerings and see if they could offer up a quality pinot grigio experience.
I was hoping for some unique wines offering some of the traits that you should expect from quality pinot grigio, such as acidity and crispness, mild apple and pear, with a lingering, finish. We had six entries, and the wines were all tasted blind. Let’s see what we found.
Glen Ellen, Proprietor’s Reserve
This wine actually surprised me. As the wines were revealed I didn’t expect much from the Glen Ellen. But when I matched up my scores with the wines the Glen Ellen actually scored fairly well. None of these wines offered any real intensity, and the Glen Ellen was no exception there, but it did offer up a nice crisp yeasty nose, mild tropical notes, bell pepper and lemon grass. It actually has some interesting dry Riesling qualities. It’s a decent wine, and when you factor in the price, it represents a nice value.
Wine: Glen Ellen, Proprietor’s Reserve
Variety: 100% Pinot Grigio
Price: $9.99 for 1.5L
I found the Turning Leaf mildly perfumed as well, with pear notes, honey, and a nice acidity. But where the Glen Ellen offered some distinct qualities, the Turning leaf came off rather simple and focused. Again, you have a decent wine here, but at $8.00 a bottle, it’s not quite the value that the Glen Ellen is. I will say that if you like a crisper style of wine, you may prefer the Turning Leaf over the Glen Ellen.
Wine: Turning Leaf
Variety: 75% Pinot Grigio
The Luna was one of the disappointments of the bunch. I’ve had Luna’s wines before, and they usually offer richer interpretations of their respective Italian varietal equivalents. This wine offered a bit more body than the others, but it wasn’t pleasant. I found some mild bitterness in the wine and the fruit was masked. Maybe it was the age, maybe it was the lack of acidity, or maybe it was that this wine ventures a bit too far from the traditional interpretation of Pinot Grigio. Whatever the reason, I’ll pass.
Variety: 95% Pinot Grigio, 5 % Chardonnay
Forest Glen, Tehachapi Clone
The Forest Glen made a decent showing as well, but it finished about mid pack in this group. It offers up some perfumed notes, along with some honey, mineralization and mild acidity. But it had a very mild chemical note that came and went. I didn’t sense anything really wrong with the wine, but I preferred others in this group.
Wine: Forest Glen
Variety: Pinot Grigio
This may have been the biggest disappointment of the bunch. I’ve had Terra D’Oro’s wines before and I’ve enjoyed them. But this wine didn’t really offer anything for me to enjoy. It was very muted, both in the nose, and the palate. It had a yeasty quality, but very mild acidity. It lacked any structure and fell off further in the nose. It could have been a victim of age as well.
Wine: Terra D’Oro
Variety: Pinot Grigio
The Naked Grape
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our winner. I actually liked this wine, and of all the wines here, I’d buy this one for myself. It offers a nice balance of acidity, and fruit. On the palate, it offers bell pepper, mild honey and a grassy note. A little more intensity and you’d have a very nice wine.
Wine: The Naked Grape
Variety: Pinot Grigio
Find The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio with Snooth
So, overall, not bad, but I came away a bit disappointed. Having tasted so many Italian pinot grigios that are now flirting with outstanding quality, I found the majority of these wines uninspiring.
So if it were my money and I was in the mood for pinot grigio, I’d be checking out The Naked Grape. The wine offered up really nice acidity, indicative of what Italian pinot grigio offers. But the wine also offered up a good balance of fruit. In fact I would probably choose this wine over some average quality Italian pinots. And at this price point, it offers up a fairly good value.
Disclosure: These wines were received as samples.