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Wine of the week: J Winery Pinot Gris 2013

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 J Winery Pinot Gris 2013The Wine Curmudgeon has almost run out of nice things to say about the J Winery pinot gris. You can look here. Or here. Or even here. But given that the 2013 vintage may be J’s best yet ($15, sample, 13.8%), I’ll try to find a couple more:

• Round, soft white fruit — peach, perhaps — but not flabby or overdone so that the fruit is the only thing you taste. 

• Fresh and crisp without any bitterness in the back, something else that is not common in this style of wine.

• Honest winemaking, in which the goal was to make a quality wine and not to hit a price point or please a focus group. Those are things that also happen too often with this style of wine.

This California white wine is highly recommended, as always, whether to finish out the summer on the porch or with grilled chicken or even fried catfish.

Wine of the week: J Winery Pinot Gris 2012

J Pinot Gris 2012I just finished a trade magazine story about pinot grigio, detailing what people are drinking, why they’re drinking it, and what’s in the grape’s future. One of the editor’s instructions: Make sure to include the J pinot gris in the story.

It’s easy to see why. The J ($15, sample, 13.8%) is one of the great wine success stories of the past five or six years – a very well made, reasonably priced wine that does exactly what it is supposed to do.

Pinot grigio and pinot gris are the same grape; the difference in name points to a difference in style. Pinot grigios, mostly Italian, have little fruit and a minerally finish, while pinot gris, like those from Alsace and Oregon, are fruitier.

The J is somewhere in the middle. Look for some lime fruit in the front and a peach pit sort of finish, but there is more to the wine than a wine writer’s description. This is not a simple, full fruit ahead wine. Rather, it’s about as long and elegant as a wine at this price gets, one that you sip and and then, suddenly, notice that the bottle is empty.

Serve chilled, on its own or with summer food (and especially if your air conditioning goes out just as the Texas summer is beginning). Highly recommended.

Expensive wine 48: J Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011

Winemakers like to talk about “difficult” vintages, where the weather was too cold or too dry or too something. We tend to forget, given modern winemaking technology and California’s usually perfect weather, how much of wine involves farming and depends on things that the winemaker can’t control.

I mention this because J winemaker Melissa Stackhouse had one of those too something harvests in 2011. There has been a lot of Winestream Media chatter about how difficult that harvest was (cooler and wetter than normal), most of which isn’t relevant to those of us who are trying to decide if we should spend $37 for a bottle of wine.

In the case of this pinot noir (sample, 14.3%), the answer is yes. Stackhouse turned difficult to her advantage, producing a wine that is much more interesting than the over-ripe, over-alcoholic examples that are the current favorites. It’s not an insult to say that this pinot noir tastes like pinot noir: raspberry fruit, some black pepper and smokiness, and a little oak on the back — but also the restraint that separates pinot noir from other red wines. I was particularly impressed with the wine’s balance, something sadly lacking in post-modern California pinot noir, regardless of price. It’s both a food wine (lamb, of course, but also roasted pork) and something to sip and enjoy.

The caveat: There are only 7,000 cases, less than half of normal. Chalk it up to the difficult vintage, which reduced grape yield. No doubt it will be gone quickly.

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