We've all read multiple articles about entertaining with wine -- how to do it, when to do it, how to make it work -- I've even written a couple of dozen of these articles over the years, each time almost hitting but inevitably missing the core point: wine connects specially with entertainment because wine itself is entertainment.
For the true wine lover, nothing's more entertaining than a bottle of wine. What the wine maker does is always interesting - oak or no oak, ripe style or lean zippy style, sell now or age a year in the bottle? What the wine does on its own, creating and re-creating new flavors and aromas as the bottle ages, is obviously creative. Finally, when you open the wine, pour it into a tall glass, and shine a spotlight on it, folks that's entertainment.
Wine, food, and the Fifty Shades of Grey soft core series (soon to be a major motion picture although Stanley Kubrick isn't around to direct it) were linked first in print and now forever in fact after last month's "Fifty Shades of Gris" tasting class. Grey the character has narrow, kid-like tastes -- mainstream Champagne, lemony Sauvignon Blanc -- plus he has a gigantic bag of money, youth, and good looks, which I guess is what makes it fiction.
We tasted a trio of literally gray wines -- Pinot Gris / Grigio translates as the gray Pinot because the grapes are somewhere between white and red / black in color -- that illustrated the wide range of styles one grape can achieve in two different parts of the world.
2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris (Oregon, about $15)
If you can't remember how to pronounce it, just remember this happy little rhyme: "It's Willamette, dammit!" Oregon is already making supremely successful Pinot Noir, so it's no surprise other members of the Pinot family are going to feel at home. I loved the texture of this wine: not quite buttery, but rich and round and nicely oily in a way the word oily just doesn't communicate.
Even if your family name happens to be King, you're making a statement when you use it on a wine label. The name promises much, and the wine has been delivering for decades. Their Pinot Noir is deservedly famous and kind of hard to find here in the northeast. This Pinot Gris is crisp and balanced with great concentrated white fruit juice flavors like melon and pear. Delicious with all kinds of seafood.
One of the challenges about Pinot Grigio -- Italian Pinot Grigio especially -- is that it comes in so many different styles. On the one hand, you can have stereotypic lean, crisp, almost watery Pinot Grigio. On the other hand, you can have this Pinot Grigio that's full of flavor and good texture and elaborate flavors. Friuli in northeast Italy specializes in white wine, and Case Sugan is a prime example of the best this grape can be, all for under $20 a bottle.