Erica Landon started paying attention to wine while 8,500 feet up the side of Mt. Hood. She was working at the Cascade Dining Room in the Timberline Lodge, as famed for its altitude as for its collection of Oregon wines. It’s where she first tasted Willamette Valley pinot gris, a wine from Torii Mor. Oregon gris, she discovered, had character.
Landon now directs the wine program at Ten 01 in Portland’s Pearl District, which in less than three years has taken its place alongside the Timberline Lodge for having one of the best selections of Oregon wines in the country. The dozen or so pinot gris on her wine list run the breadth of what the state has to offer.
What drives the current interest in pinot gris?
Well, it definitely has a season; people love to drink it when there’s sunlight about. We sell tons of it by the glass; at Ten 01 it has surpassed chardonnay by far. People who may not want to try an albariño or a grüner veltliner have no problem ordering a glass of pinot gris. It’s like a gateway into the wine world.
What styles do you offer?
On our list we have such a broad range. We have some that are in a grigio–style, with really bright, fresh acid and minerality; we also serve pinot gris that are a bit more fruit forward and carry a little residual sweetness. Then there’s the kind that’s more food serious–they tend to be a little richer, more full–bodied, with a complexity and fullness on the palate that can drive to the heart of a dish.
That’s interesting; pinot gris isn’t exactly known for its complexity.
You’re right; pinot gris has a funny, double–edged sword quality. There are plenty of washed out, cash–crop versions of the grape. Some winemakers blow it out the door; they don’t want to give it a second thought. But if it’s taken seriously and made with the same amount of respect and care as pinot noir, it can really be this classic wine. Taking it seriously isn’t always economically feasible. Even for the best ones you can only charge about $16 [wholesale]. It’s hard to commit to those low crop levels when you don’t get the return.
So what makes for serious pinot gris?
Well, that’s interesting. My partner Ken Pahlow is starting up a winery [Walter Scott, debuting this year], and he wants to make “serious” pinot gris and pinot blancÑand so we’ve been having this discussion a lot lately, about what makes the white pinots
What do you like to drink with it?
This sort of wine works well with complex summer dishes; we have a salad on the menu right now with local arugula, duck confit, guanciale, pecorino and preserved lemon. The Hawks View Pinot Gris works perfectly with it. It has the richness to go up against the guanciale and the confit, but the acidity and freshness to pair with the lemon.
This story was featured in W&S August 2009.
This story appears in the print issue of August 2009.
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