MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris 2007
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MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris 2007 Tasting Notes

Last year I tasted and reviewed MacMurray's full-bodied 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris and called it a “big” wine. The 2007 vintage has a similar aromatic profile, an equally refreshing finish, and yet a smaller footprint. No judgment call; one would expect vintages to differ, especially in an appellation as geographically vast as the Sonoma Coast. The 2007, judged on its own, brings a lot to the table for a $20 wine.

Pinot Gris, thought to be a mutation of Pinot Noir, is colonizing California at a respectable clip and is even more popular among Oregon winemakers. Pinot Grigio (the Italian name) is either the same grape or a closely related clone. In California, the choice of one name over the other reflects more a stylistic winemaking choice than any botanical difference. In the case of the MacMurray, the use of the French term is appropriate, since this wine has clear stylistic affinities with the Pinot Gris of Alsace (one of that region's “noble” varieties). The wine brings plenty of Sonoma character to the table, of course.

The 2007 is clear lemon in color with a slight pink tinge. The wine shows an interesting configuration of notes on the nose, most of which seem to be white: white peach, pear, white pepper, white flowers, and a dash of honey. I firmly believe any wine drinker who takes a moment to enjoy a wine with the nose before tasting has a fuller experience, even if he or she lacks the vocabulary to describe the aromatics as I do here. The perfume-like aromas of this Pinot Gris make this a good candidate to prove that theorem. Besides, this wine has an aromatic note I cannot identify, only to say it is spicy sweet and tends to weave its way around all the others.

On the palate, the wine is dry at first taste, with good acidity, but sweetness soon kicks in to make it all more interesting (and to balance things). The peach, pear, flower and spice are all there, but the palate also has citrus and a slightly powdery minerality. The alcohol, though significant at 14%, is very well integrated. The pulpy fruit is a nice plus. Though not as “big” as its older brother from 2006, this Pinot Gris is mouth-filling, and yet finishes clean and crisp. A few years of bottle aging would not be a mistake.

As a final note on this Pinot Gris, parenthetical to be sure, I need to note that I tasted the wine on a summer day in New York on which the temperature exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit—that approaches 40 degrees for you Celsius fans. New York heat, as many can attest, has a partner in crime called humidity. While this wine, with its high quality fragrance and fruit, is much more than a summer refresher, for the record it did indeed refresh (though only slightly chilled). The crisp finish and abiding minerality stood up well to both summer villains.

Verdict: A Pleasure
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Pinot Gris is rapidly becoming more popular in the United States.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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