This exquisite American take on Pinot Gris is one of the most exciting white wines I’ve tasted this spring. It’s the variety better known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, which churns out oceans of it each year, mostly under the labels of big brands that have made Pinot Grigio so popular.

The grape, which comes from the same family as the red Pinot Noir, thrives as well in France’s Alsace and in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with each region producing a distinctive style.

In Oregon, Elk Cove Vineyards’ 2018 Estate Pinot Gris shows just how successful it can be in the Willamette Valley, where it makes for an attractive alternative to Chardonnay, Oregon’s dominant and increasingly important white variety.

Elk Cove is a family-owned winery founded by Pat and Joe Campbell in 1974 when there was just a handful of vineyards in Oregon (there are now 700 or so). While Pinot Noir is Elk Cove’s signature variety, the $19 Pinot Gris holds an important place in the winery’s lineup, with more than 16,000 cases produced each year, making it broadly available nationally.

As far as price and quality are concerned, the wine is a real bargain — you’ll even find it for a few dollars less in some stores. So, what is the difference between a typical Italian Pinot Grigio and a wine like Elk Cove’s Pinot Gris?

While many of the Italian examples are light and zesty wines for everyday drinking, Elk Cove’s Pinot Gris is defined by its gorgeous fruit, especially deep stone fruit tastes, subtle strawberry, and touches of orange rind, rosemary and vanilla. Those tastes come alive when it is served cool but not cold. As is customary, the wine is made without oak and alcohol is a moderate 13 percent.

This may be one of the ultimate summer sipping wines and will pair nicely with grilled or broiled fish, roast chicken, or asparagus risotto, to name just a few possibilities. It’s a wine I think you’ll go back to again and again.

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