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Toulouse Anderson Valley Pinot Gris 2010MC Pinot
Pinot Gris, you won the first round of Hide and Seek. Here I thought you were all original and unknown, like when my brother put on music by MC Lars, and it turned out to be this weird fusion of styles that jumbled up everything recognizable into a new kind of musical scrambled eggs that somehow made it new and better.

Pinot Gris/Grigio
But Pinot Gris isn’t MC Lars. Pinot Gris is just Pinot Grigio, not even MC Pinot Grigio. Yes, it’s Pinot Gris who makes that $5 Italian wine labeled Ecco Domani that lingers on the dusty bottom shelf at your supermarket. Pinot Gris, take off your mask. You won this round.

One Glass, Then Water
So should we flee from pee-no gree (actual pronunciation)? Probably not. Because realistically, Pinot Grigio can be great even though most of it is really terrible and leads to headaches that make people hate white wine – truly, a crime. So drink one glass of Pinot Grigio with dinner but no more. And drink lots of water.

Manorexic Wine
Because Pinot Gris isn’t Pinot Grigio – at least not in how it tastes. Pinot Grigio usually has that high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc but no real body backing it up. Manorexia comes to mind when drinking Pinot Grigio – not so much with Pinot Gris.

The Depths of Pinot
Because Pinot Gris has lots more going on – you can talk to Pinot Gris and not just about male modeling. Luscious, rich, tropical – these are the words you see describing Pinot Gris, which aren’t exactly the same words you hear on the catwalk. On the catwalk.

Shapeshifting Mutants
Out in California, way up in the north part where these giant redwoods grow (see photo – that’s me at 6’2.25″ barely noticeable in the bottom left), there’s a small group of producers playing around with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and probably some other mutant pinots that Professor X has at the mansion. Because apparently Pinot Noir is a grape that keeps mutating (like the annoying shapeshifter from the old Commodore 64 game) and Pinot Gris is just one of those mutations from back in the day.

Goose Fetish
On perhaps the most relaxing vacation of 2011, Cristina and I stopped by northern California for some catching up with friends (thanks Begs and Jess), some redwood hiking and some mutant wine tasting. By far the prettiest of the vineyards we visited in the Anderson Valley near Mendocino was Toulouse, a family run operation with a strange affinity for geese in ridiculous postures. Really engaging winery with premium Pinot Noir and affordable Pinot Gris – you can imagine which bottle made it home.

Sunny Memories
Now, half a year later, it’s cold in November and time to break into those bottles of whites that bring back memories of summer, California and general lusciousness. Hola Pinot Gris – let’s see what your Too Loose bottle has to say.

Delicate, slightly tart, some peach, lots of flowers in mouth – light/medium mouthfeel with a lingering but not strong finish. Good acidity and balance – bit too heavy on the alcohol. Sunshine and outdoors warmth definitely recognizable.

Detail Up!
Pinot Gris 2010 from Toulouse Vineyard in Anderson Valley, California

Random Googles:
* Pinot Gris (France) = Pinot Grigio (Italy), except in style. Same grape, different wardrobe.
* Alsace, that French region up near Germany, produces the most famous Pinot Gris styles. Oregon, California and Washington produce pretty significant amounts too.
* Surprisingly, all Top 10 Restaurant wines in the US are white wines. Three are Pinot Grigio.

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Lagrein is a grape that I wasn’t even sure was a grape. It was only through a process of elimination that I determined Lagrein was the grape in this bottle. First, Tobin James – biggest font on the bottle, meaning winemaker (probably). Next, Paso Robles – heard of it and know it’s in California so not the grape. Year, alcohol content and “silver reserve” – nothing sounding like a grape. Lagrein it is.

Anyway, Tobin James doesn’t list this grape on their website so they might not even make it anymore. Having never heard of it before or seen it anywhere in a wine store, it seems pretty rare here in the US. In really northern Italy, knocked up next to Austria in Trentino-Alto Adige, this Lagrein is at home. Outside of its home, wikipedia calls it “rare to the point of obscurity.” Needless to say, it’s pretty cool that a friend brought it to the mac&cheese&wine party the other night.

The wine tasted a lot like a dusty shiraz, kinda more stringent and earthy without all that fruit. It looked about the same color as a Shiraz and had the same body (and high alcohol-content) but lacked all the fruit that Aussies love to export and Americans love to import. Blackberry shouted down all the other flavors in the wine but really the wine was about the structure. Not sure if they blend this in with others (yup, see below), but it’s got the body for blending and a pretty unique dirty smokey quality going for it. Less like a fine cigar, more like a country road, it’s a pretty unique wine. Not amazing but not lackluster either, certainly happy to have tried it.

Detail Up!
Tobin James 2008 Lagrein from Paso Robles – cellartracker’s pic above too

Random Googles
* Lagrein – related to Syrah, Pinot Noir and (really obscure) Dureza
* Australia’s playing around with Lagrein in trial patches to blend it with Shiraz
* Highly tannic grape that winemakers age for 18+ months

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