I have always had a soft spot for Burgundy. Growing up in Lyon, we always drank Burgundies on special occasions. My first winery job as a teen was in Burgundy. It is this summer job, in the village of Mercurey in the heart of the Cote Chalonnaise, that gave me the desire to work in the wine industry. Consequently I went to school for winemaking in Dijon for two years during which I have spent countless “training days” in the cozy cellars of other blissful Burgundian schoolmates. When I close my eyes and think about what I would do if I could be whatever I want in the wine industry, making wine in Burgundy always comes at the top of the list (okay, I’ll admit Champagne is a close second). It is not only the memories or the nostalgia of younger years that attracts me to Burgundy – it is the wines themselves. Burgundies are elegant and restrained, they are not attempting to please but only trying to be who they are. There is something beautiful about Burgundians ability to allow the land to be the focus and their brand or name second. Burgundians are shy and are perfectly happy to settle as discrete styles of wines that speak softly. Burgundies are little like me, not effusive, not showy, introverted and yet aspiring to greatness.
It should then come to no surprise that I am thoroughly excited about making Pinot Noir in Oregon. First, because Oregon is the next best place to make Pinot Noir after Burgundy; and second, making Pinot Noir anywhere is better than not making it at all. Oregon has the “it” factor in the New World as far as suitability to Pinot Noir. The Willamette Valley in particular is able to produce what I think is the closest ersatz to Burgundy (I also would concede easily that New Zealand also has “it”). The Pinot Noirs from Oregon have the delicate fruit born from its cool climate origin and the character and typicity of a great Pinot Noir. Oregon Pinot has nothing in common with their California neighbors – Oregonians are speaking with subtlety and delicacy which is unfortunately not as marketable as the power, intensity and concentration of its southern neighbor. For the Pinot Noir lover, Oregon offers a lovely bridge between the New World and Burgundy. Not to mention Oregon offers an incredible value to the Burgundy lover.
In Oregon, for some unexplained reason, Pinot Gris has taken second place ahead of Chardonnay. I guess Pinot Gris makes a lot of sense in Oregon (Chardonnay does also by the way), because its pink skin demands cooler climates and careful handling similar to Pinot Noir in order to avoid too much phenolic extraction. Note that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape and Pinot Grigio (together referred to “PG” forward). Pinot Grigio is the Italian version and since the vast majority of PG wines made in Italy are rounder, rather neutral wines (this is a broad generality of course – there are many excellent and expressive PG in Italy), most consumers attach the name Pinot Grigio to easy sipping, refreshing PG. This is why many producers of PG (even in the USA) use the Pinot Grigio name to communicate they are selling a quaffable PG. I actually remember a winery that saw their sales quadruple after changing their labels from Pinot Gris to Pinot Grigio – a strong incentive if any! Pinot Gris is mostly used by Alsatians and Oregonians though they have two widely different styles since Alsatian Pinot Gris are often off dry and extremely aromatic while Oregonian Pinot Gris show restraint and are quasi bone dry. Confused yet? Perhaps all you have to know is that Oregon is carving itself a niche as a top producer of Pinot Gris in the new world with a dry steely style.
Our Rainstorm’s Pinots are just the wines you want to try if you are interested in discovering Oregon and its Pinots without breaking the bank. Rainstorm Pinot Noir will have a flair of Burgundy with more intensity and punch yet staying true to its Pinot Noir origin. Rainstorm Pinot Gris is a perfect example of why Oregon is becoming a reference for the variety. We also make a Pinot Noir Rosé if you want to complete your Oregon exploration.
List of accolades:
Award of Excellence for Oregon at TEXSOM
7 Best Buys/Best Value or Editor’s Choice Awards
12 scores of 88+ from the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits