Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and wine making in the Livermore Valley region. This column was contributed by members of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Each month, Livermore Valley wine country highlights a grape varietal grown in our region. April's featured varietal is pinot grigio, a white grape varietal with a pinkish-grey skin. However, pinot grigio grapes (also known as pinot gris) can also have pink, black or even white skin.

"Livermore Valley is one of the few places in the world where pinot gris, when properly grown, can ripen fully without becoming lifeless, says John Kinney, of Occasio Winery. "By volume, it is the third-most abundant white wine varietal grown in Livermore Valley. It provides a real choice between its two rivals, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, in that it does not express the grassiness of sauvignon blanc or the tropical flavors of most chardonnay."

Cheryl Perry, of Eagle Ridge Vineyard, also enjoys the contrast to mainstream whites. "Pinot grigio isn't as sweet as sauvignon blanc nor as dry as chardonnay, so it provides a delightful alternative. Typically pinot grigio presents as a fruity, crisp wine redolent in melons, lichee and other lighter fruit flavors. We love the little hint of citrus, honeydew and cucumber that lingers on the palate from our pinot grigio. I also serve it a little cooler than most, which really brings out the fruit."

"It's a fantastic summer wine -- bright, fresh and energetic," says Phil Long, of Longevity Wines. "We soak our skins to extract flavor and color. The finished wine is a gorgeous salmon pink color, and the flavors extracted are amazing."


Advertisement

Bonnie Bartlett, the owner of Charles R. Vineyards, likes that "pinot grigio offers an abundance of flavors in a light wine that's easy to drink. Its fresh, spritzy attitude makes it ideal for warm weather and sipping on the patio."

"Pinot grigio is quite versatile with food," says Lindsey Roffey, of Rodrigue Molyneaux. Try it with pasta with cream-based sauce, like fettuccine Alfredo, or grilled fish and chicken. It also pairs well with anything citrus-flavored."

"Occasio's pinot gris is a natural choice with seafood, especially the fresh Pacific salmon (the season is coming up) and shellfish," says Kinney. "It is absolutely wicked with scallops."

Find pinot grigio at these Livermore Valley wineries: Charles R. Vineyards, Concannon Vineyard, Eagle Ridge Vineyard, Elliston Vineyards, Fenestra Winery, Las Positas Vineyards, Longevity Wines, Mitchell Katz Winery, Occasio Winery, Page Mill Winery, Rodrigue Molyneaux, Stony Ridge Winery, Tamás Estates, Westover Vineyards and White Crane Winery.

To learn more, visit www.lvwine.org or www.discovercaliforniawines.com

wine country events

  • Down to Earth -- April 21 (times vary--see website for details); 15 participating Livermore Valley wineries; www.LVwine.org. Cost: varies, most are free. Livermore Valley Wine Country will celebrate Earth Day and Down to Earth month by hosting simultaneous ecofocused events. Wineries across the region will highlight sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices used to craft Livermore Valley's award-winning wines.

  • Wine Wednesdays -- 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through October; a different Livermore Valley Winery each week -- see www.lvwine.org for schedule. Cost: admission is free, tasting fees vary. Each Wednesday from April through October, one Livermore Valley winery will be open to help guests "wine" down from a hefty workweek or just grab a taste of wine before heading out to a fabulous dinner in the Tri-Valley!