California Pinot Grigio II

Pinot Grigio is making inroads in California


For quite a long time, California has pretty much been a two grape state when it came to white wines. Chardonnay, the most popular wine in the US, and Sauvignon Blanc, the great alternative to Chardonnay, were our go to grapes.

With the emergence of a whole world of alternatives to this powerful duo it was time for California to take stock and put forward their own contenders.

Pinot Grigio from Italy, also known as Pinot Gris as it’s called in France, has been one of the great success stories in white wine over the past decade or two. With the marketing savvy of a dominant player, Pinot Grigio quickly won over many American consumers with its bright, crisp fruit and unoaked style.

What to expect:

Pinot Grigio is one of the world's most popular wines. Also known under the French moniker Pinot Gris, and even the German Ruländer, among others, it's a chameleon of a grape producing a range of styles, from the light fruity Italian style that has gained popularity to a more mineral, flinty and rich wine favored by the French, particularly in Alsace, and emulated by many in the new world.
2008 Palmina Pinot Grigio
Very taut and nervous in the mouth with a lean, focused feel and wonderful balance. Beautiful and fresh citrus tinged pear fruit flows over the mid-palate yielding to a lingering mineral tinged finish.

2007 Navarro Pinot Gris
Redolent of pear, grape and smoky mineral scents this smells enticing. With it's rich, fresh slightly tropical citrus fruit tones on the palate and refined feel it easily fulfills the promise of the nose.

As consumers became more adventuresome many moved beyond the light, snappy style that Italy popularized and explored alternatives, like the richer, more aromatic versions from Alsace.

Producers in California are looking to win back some of the Pinot Grigio drinkers and have made Pinot Grigio the fastest growing white grape in the state. Just to put that in perspective only Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio increased their acreage last year.

With a plethora of styles and regions to draw from Pinot Grigio in California remains more of a grab bag than say those of either Italy of France but there are many great version on the market that warrant your attention.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Hal Wing
    82304 104

    Yet another well-written article! I want to add that the Pinot Gris being made in southern Oregon is excellent and worth seeking out for anyone visiting the area (unfortunately, Southern Oregon wines don't have the level of national distribution one might like). In a double-blind tasting, I mistook the 2006 Agate Ridge Pinot Gris for an Alsatian wine which, for me, represents the pinnacle of what can be made from this overlooked grape.

    Sep 17, 2009 at 7:19 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,999

    Good pointer to the Navarro Pinot Gris. Have enjoyed their chardonnays in the past. For the record, Chalone used to make a quite good pinot gris way back in the '80s...

    Sep 17, 2009 at 8:21 PM

  • Snooth User: gsbmartin
    241969 25

    I have had Pinot Grigio in the recent past, and found it very drinkable. I'll have to give Cali Pinot Grigio's another try!


    Sep 18, 2009 at 12:02 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Hi Hal wing. Sounds like a wine worth searching for.

    I can't recall ever seeing the Chalone Pinot Gris. Navarro is a bit of an unsung hero.

    Gsb, California is doing some very nice things with Pinot Gris, and Oregon too! They're worth taking a look at.

    Sep 18, 2009 at 7:39 AM

  • Snooth User: cjscar
    119927 4

    Ca has a long way to go if it wishes to compete with the Italian brands, no not on quality but on dollar value for the buyer. There are lots of very very good PGs out there from Italy for around $10 and even a tad less sometimes. All you have to do is dare to try them. There are some superb Ca brands out there, well worth the premium but for general value, well Italy still offers the best overall

    Sep 18, 2009 at 9:23 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    I can't really argue with that though the exchange rate is putting alot of upward pressure on the imports.

    The style of Italian Pinot Grigio, generally very lean and crisp, is different from their Californian counterparts, even if both are shooting for a similar style.

    California just produces a fruitier, slightly rounder style almost without exception.

    And then there are the Alsatian versions too. A great value from Alsace is featured in todays email!

    Sep 18, 2009 at 1:36 PM

  • Snooth User: sactogeek
    125730 4

    Greenwood Ridge (located in the Anderson Valley next door to Navarro) also produces a very nice Pinot Gris.

    Sep 18, 2009 at 3:19 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    I love the fruit Navarro gets so I'm excited to hear about Greenwood Ridge. It's now on my list of wineries to visit!

    Thanks for the tip.

    Sep 18, 2009 at 3:31 PM

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