Everyday: I’m more of a pinot blanc guy myself, largely because so much pinot gris/grigio is insipid, but when someone nails the latter grape, it’s a delight. The Left Coast “The Orchards” Willamette Pinot Gris 2009 ($15) is perfume-y on the nose and seriously refreshing on the palate, filled with stone-fruit flavors and a stony texture. There’s just enough heft to make this lovely white a nice autumn or even winter sipper, and to help it hold up to chicken tacos or enchiladas and fish on the Barbie. In fact, I can’t think of a better wine for grilled salmon, unless it’s the one below.
Occasion: The Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($58) doesn’t taste the same every year, but it always tastes delicious. A hearty, robust, complex wine, this hallmark Oregin pinot ages beautifully: The 2005 was superb with grilled tuna the other night, but I’ve also had stunning renditions from 1997 and 2000 in the last couple of years. There’s usually a wonderful dusty/earthy component, gorgeous cherry flavors (sometimes with some coffee in there) and a velvety, near-endless finish. I can see why Ken and Grace Evenstad, the gracious Minnesotans who own the winery, wait a good while before releasing the wine (the ’07 just came out).