WineSmith Arroyo Seco Pinot Gris (4)

WineSmith Arroyo Seco Pinot Gris 4-Pack
Sold by: Winston Winery
$64.99 $140.00 54% off List Price
2014 WineSmith Pinot Gris, Arroyo Seco, Meador Estate Vineyard

I remember hearing some rumblings about this… excited to try a Pinot Gris from Clark! Did Mike collaborate on this project?

First sucker: chipgreen

Since my book deals almost entirely with red wine production, in the September 2014 issue of Wines and Vines Magazine, my column Postmodern Winemaker proposes to divide white wine production into four methodologies.

Being genetically almost identical to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris has both tannin and aromatics, and thus is a rare example of a grape which can defensibly be made in all four styles. This is a Method 2 wine, which is to say that its tannin was removed prior to fermentation via hyper-oxidative browning of the juice prior to SO2 addition.

Those of you accustomed to receiving highly structured (Method 3) whites from me such as the WineSmith Faux Chablis series will encounter something entirely different here, more akin to my elegant and ethereal Pinot Noirs. Arroyo Seco imparts highly aromatic nuances which float dreamlike, carried by a lightly oily texture and accented by an energetic minerally finish unmarred by excessive alcohol.

The wine is highly versatile, at home with any sort of fish or shellfish but also suitable for a roast chicken or game hen, and equally at home with salads and stinky cheeses.

For those of you who cannot access the Wines and Vines article, I will describe the other styles so you have a context for my previous remarks.

In brief, Method 1 refers to modern reductive winemaking which avoids tannin pickup at all stages in order to produce an ultra-fresh wine such as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. These wines are wonderful young but generally have very poor longevity.

Method 2 was developed in Germany as a way to deal with aromatic varieties such as Riesling, Muscat and Gewurztraminer, which are full of tannin. Their high terpene aromatics attract bees and birds, so they have evolved high tannin to cauterize wounds from predators. Most Mosels are hyper-oxygenated prior to fermentation, and of course the best of them can live and improve for decades.

In Method 3, tannins are intentionally left in the wine to create a structured wine similar to a red. Astringency is mitigated by lees stirring, as in Muscadet sur lies, Savenniere and my Faux Chablis. These wines have great longevity but are often austere and stingy with their aromatics for the first few years.

Method 4 dates back 8,000 years to the Georgian Republic and was the basis of Roman whites. Juice is left in contact with skins, seeds and stems buried in clay jars for months or years, resulting in very complex wines which require decades to come together but have incredible staying power. Georgians dislike the Italian term “orange wine” for this style.

Yes, of course, Chip. Mike has been my assistant winemaker for three years and 2014 was his first vintage with WineSmith.

Sounds delicious. Is this 50% neutral oak and 50% stainless?


So…a bottle of this arrived by GSO’s caped monkey affiliate yesterday morning. Straight into the fridge this bottle went, to await tasting later that night with follow-up the next day.

Also, knowing molarchae is generally not a fan of Pinot Gris, I kept the identity of the bottle’s contents blinded for her unbiased feedback.

Despite Mike’s suggestion that this is best served at a moderate temperature, this started out at fridge temp. I figure this is also reflective of how most people are going to start, so why not?

Colour is light straw. Right on opening I got a ton of pineapple and not much else on the nose. A few swirls later, citrus joined in, alternating between lemon and grapefruit. (molarchae mostly perceived a generic “citrus”)

I found the palate to be both rich and acidic. An unusual combination. The finish was somewhat bitter, which both molarchae and I find to be common with this grape variety. I bet Clark knows what compound(s) cause(s) this. molarchae did not enjoy the wine right out of the fridge because of the grapefruit and bitter notes. She is rather sensitive to bitterness. I thought this was a pretty unusual rendition of PG, which is about what I’d expect from Clark.

OK, so a little while later as it warmed up I thought the lemon and grapefruit were more front and centre while the pineapple receded a bit. To compensate, though, we had more notes of passionfruit and other tropical notes along with a kind of grassy (or maybe herbaceous) note. The increased temperature also let the palate come across as more hefty and rounded with lemon, custard, and vanilla more apparent than previously. The finish got richer and less bitter while still retaining its grapefruity character. molarchae liked it more at this stage.

Later in the evening, at higher temp and after more air we were both enjoying it more. The increased roundness and balanced continue to show themselves. The fruit transitioned more toward lemon from grapefruit and became even more tropical. I was a bit more generic in that, but molarchae pointed out mango and lychee. I also thought it gained a little more interest at this stage.

One note from even later in the evening - I took one sniff and thought the only aroma was pear. Didn’t get it earlier or later, though, just that one time.

About half the bottle went into the fridge, recorked without vacuum or inert gas. Openened again this afternoon and I thought it had regained some of its pineapple and sharpness. This, of course, was while it was still too cold.

As it warmed back up to a proper serving temperature I found that I liked the flavour profile a bit more - richer and rounder. Although it did lose a bit of its complexity overnight.

And a few hours later, sipping on another glass, I’m again finding that the tropical notes are front and centre. Finish is medium and has lost most of its bitterness.

If molarchae liked it we’d go in for a set. But this didn’t quite get over her general dislike for Pinot Gris, even when blinded. At least she’s consistent! Although this did get closer than any prior PG to passing that bar. So I recommend if you like the variety then go for it. Clark won’t disappoint you here.

One other note - not because we thought it would work well we ended up having some Indian food with this wine. The two did not complement each other. Especially when the wine was cold.

Yes, indeed. But you won’t detect any oak influence. The purpose was to provide body and richness, while the stainless steel protects the fresh aromatics. It’s also non-malolactic.

While I wasn’t thinking about thing in these terms, I agree with how Clark describes this. It’s not tannic at all, like some Pinot Noirs, but it does have the energy and minerality he mentions. The texture is almost Riesling-like, but with a totally different set or aromas and flavours. Interesting to make that connection, and maybe why molarchae didn’t outright hate this wine, as she does almost all other examples of Pinot Gris.

Yes, that silky oiliness is certainly reminiscent of Riesling. You can see that Mike’s advice about temperature is well taken if you’re looking to maximize aromatics, but I will have it cold when I want something crisp and cleansing, so the minerality and acidity are more prevalent and the body is lighter when chilled, so it functions like a Sauvignon Blanc.

The mango descriptor is very apt, and lemon/lime. When it warms, you get stone fruit aromas like peach and white cherry.

Like I said, it’s very versatile. A good wine to take to a friend’s when you don’t know what’s for dinner.

I drink a lot of this stuff, partly because the alcohol is low. The label says 13.2 but I think it’s really 12.8%.


The woot monkeys delivered a bottle of this yesterday, just in time to get some tasting notes.

After letting the bottle chill slightly down to around 55F, we pulled the cork and gave it a go.

Initial aromas were centered in the stone fruit arena and were jumping out of the glass. In a way it reminded me of some CA Roussannes and Viogniers I’ve had. After trying to pin it down, I think white peach is the best descriptor. Would not have guessed PG if sniffing blind.

Color in the glass is very light, almost clear. Initially the entry on the palate is honeyed stone fruit with quite a bit of acid. There is some weight and I can sense the tannin, but they are not prominent. Also getting a bit of salinity that is pretty interesting.

Dinner was homemade enchiladas, which were pretty smoky and spicy, so not the best mix for the wine. Set aside and allowed to warm up a bit. After coming up closer to room temp it picked up a little heft and roundness as expected. Acid is less noticeable and the stone fruit seems to have more density. Little bit of a pineapple note that is getting some play. The finish is relatively short, with really only a lingering acid note.

I must admit that PG is not my thing. I don’t avoid it and try it any time its open for tasting, but in general am unimpressed and quickly dump and move on. This wine however is far more interesting than your standard PG. It is a very floral wine, so if you tend to like that you should really enjoy this. The palate is really well balanced and not racy or zippy at all.

This PG gets a thumbs up from me.

I agree - especially the Sauvignon Blanc comparison. This wine could easily function as a more interesting SB when chilled and more like a Rhone-style wine when warmer.

I’ve got a bit left still…I will try it with dinner tonight, regardless of what gets made.

Reading the notes above match most of mine, so I’ll abbreviate it.

I don’t mind Pinot Gris, but as never wowed by it. It’s there. It’s fine. Great for seafood. Warm days.

This is definitely one of the best ones I’ve had, and if you like Pinot Gris, this is an auto buy.

Color: faintest of yellow, so subtle
Nose: best part of the wine. Amazing nose. Fruity/floral. White peach, green table grape and a velvet linger of floral (orchid I think).

Taste: subtle and complex. At first it is flat and tight, a bit sour at the edges. But very inoffensive. As it warms/opens, definitely pineapple and possibly mango, but not ripe ones. The acid is definitely pineapple.
And a light brine to it.
We picked up some chalky mid pallete (wife says like rice/soy milk) which I figured was because of the oak. Clark said above that you can’t taste it…so it’s likely something else.

It’s a great wine. Food wine for sure, but would be fine on its own.

This was a fun wine to collaborate on with Clark! We used an aroma capture technology when making this wine. (We first experimented with it in the Engracia 2013 Pinot Noir and really liked the results).

If you have been to a winery during harvest you will note the unmistakable aroma of fermented wine. Many of the aroma volatiles that are created during fermentation normally blow off into the air and we lose them.

For this wine we used a refrigerated condenser to capture those aromas.

I see a lot of Grape Debater notes about the aromas being different of what they are used to in most Pinot Gris’ These cool exotic aromas we recapture don’t normally end up in Pinot Gris.

An added benefit of this technique is that it reduces the volatiles emissions from the winery, while improving wine quality.

I tried so hard to resist this offer (really trying to cut back on purchases), but between the Debater notes and Clark an Mike chiming in…I’m toast.

First sucker: chipgreen
Last wooter to woot: karenhynes


Due to technical difficulties,I couldn’t get this from Fed-Ex until this afternoon so I.m tasting backward.First glass at room temp while the bottle chills.

Color: Very clear with just a hint of gold.

Aroma: Floral with scents of carnation.

Taste: Crisp and tangy. Lemon Citrus notes. Slight oily mouth feel but not syrupy or cloying. The taste grows on you as you drink it.

Not big fans of whites, and never have tried Pinot Gris, so didn’t know what to expect. Very unique and interesting as are all of the Winesmith’s wines that I have tried. Would enjoy this very much with seafood if I had something other than fish sticks in the house. It would probably be refreshing chilled in the spring or summer.

Thank you WD for letting us try this one!!!

Thanks for the well written notes.
At the risk of veering too far off topic, has anyone ever found a wine that goes well with standard Mexican food (tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc.)? I have yet to come up with a wine that pairs better than beer…

I doubt there is a wine that goes well with Mexican food. I have the same issue with Indian food - beer just seems like the natural choice.

Regarding the current offer, if I at all liked Pinot Gris I would be a buyer, being a WineSmith fan. But there are a few varietals I find no reason to buy, given the availability of others that I much prefer. Pinot Gris is one of them.


Was picked by the Woot wine monkeys and was shipped a bottle of wine with a fancy golden ticket. Shipping went to an old work address where I was promptly called knowing how important wine to me and picked it up. Threw this in the frig right away to drink with my wife at dinner.

Dinner was baby back ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, And corn. May I say this wine went quite well with the food. The temp of the wine was about 52 degrees. Had a nice citrus aroma. Upon sipping, I could tell this wine most likely did not have any oak in it. Also i could be totally different then my fellow wooters but this why made me think of a buttery type wine. Wife and I thought it was an interesting wine for a pinot gris. Wife noted low alcohol content and was glad to have a second glass to her normal one. My, I drank most of the bottle but wanted to save some for the next day. Popped the cork and had the final glass. Wine was fresh tasting as was the first glass. Didn’t notice the butter effect I got on the first day. No tannins on either day so not much differences to me between the 2 days.

We are bigger fans of red wines, but we do like some whites and it was great to try a white in time for our dinner. Thanks for thinking of me to review and apologize the review is little late. Better than never. Cheers!