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Cheers to a wine that's a bright spot in a dark time.
When searching for silver linings in these very troubling times, there’s one that keeps coming to the forefront: given how uncertain things are, I feel liberated in not having to couch my thoughts about a lot of things. For starters: for the most part, I hate Pinot Gris from the Okanagan (and pretty much everywhere outside of Alsace). It’s so often insipid, uninteresting and uninspiring. Let me go even further: when the grape comes up in private amongst many in the industry, they feel the same way, but no one can talk about it because the grape is a cash cow for the industry.
But a wonderful exception to the rule landed on my palate last night. I was making ramen and I grabbed a long necked bottle thinking it was riesling, and it wasn’t until I was already upstairs that I realized I had been tricked—it was Pinot Gris. Hooray.
But in times like this you persevere, right? I cracked the screw cap and immediately noticed the deep golden hue that didn’t jibe with the norm in the valley. The nose, an undeniably rich and heady mix of very ripe stone fruit. And on the mouth, there’s even more lushness: very ripe pears are dominant and the texture is almost oily, it’s so viscous. And man, it’s sweet. Taken individually any of these modifiers might point to a wine that’s out of sorts with itself and definitely out of sorts to the dominant wine trends for the grape (quaffable and compliant).
But that long bottle (while a pain in the ass for the fridge) gives you the clue that winemaker Taylor Whelan was going for the full Alsace here: it’s a bold wine, with 35 grams of residual sugar (that’s a lot) and over 14 percent alcohol. All is not perfect—if that sugar had some more acidity to back it up this would be a more complete wine and as a result it verges on cloying at times. But I love that Whelan is swinging for the fences with a grape that most winemakers just want to bloop singles with. And the sweetness actually went well with the spicy togarashi in the ramen.
So hats off to this idiosyncratic Pinot Gris—these days we can take all the small miracles we can get.