Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio: The Denim of White Wine

Pinot Gris is the wine world’s answer to denim. Sipping a glass of easy-drinking, affordable Pinot Gris is like throwing on your favorite well-worn pair of jeans. Both are about kicking back and getting comfortable.

Core Words for Pinot Grigio:

  • Dry: Most bottlings of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are considered dry though wines labeled Pinot Gris often sport a whisper of sweetness. It’s not that sugar is added to the wine as many people think, rather that a little of the sweet grape juice was left unfermented during the making of the wine. The wines won’t taste sweet like some Rieslings, for example, but will be juicy and fruity.
  • Crisp or Smooth: When grapes are grown in cool climates or harvested earlier as they often are in northern Italy, the wine tastes crisp and vibrant. If the grapes are grown in a warmer climate such as Alsace or Oregon, the acidity is lower and the final wine tends tastes softer and smoother.
  • Light and Medium-Bodied: Pinot Grigios tend to be lighter-bodied and Pinot Gris medium-bodied. In Alsace, however, the Pinot Gris can be so full and fleshy it almost needs a girdle to contain itself.

Here’s one of our favorite appetizers to pair with Pinot Grigio:

Figs and Goat Cheese: Cut fresh figs in half. Place face up on cookie sheet top each fig half with a dollop of goat cheese. Broil just until bubbly. Squeeze a dash of lemon juice on top and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Serve as finger food at room temperature.

What are your suggestions for appetizers that go well with Pinot Grigio?

Visiting Wineries and Tasting Rooms

From the Napa Valley to Sonoma, to Washington, Oregon, France and beyond, there is no shortage of wine tasting places to visit.

Share with other Thirsty Girls, your favorite wineries and tasting rooms to visit. What was your experience like and what are your recommendations for other places nearby to visit?

Is there a lunch or dinner there to die for?

Do you recommend a certain time of year? Call ahead?

We’ll start…

Visiting Sonoma Valley- The Sonoma Valley is truly a delight. It’s a little more laid back than the Napa Valley and it’s easy to drive up and down Highway 12 to visit wineries.

Here are some must see spots:

  • Sonoma Plaza which has a great playground for kids,
  • the vineyard tram tour at Benziger Family Winery
  • and a stop by the Sonoma Cheese Factory.

Tasting Room Etiquette:

  • Don’t be afraid to spit! Just try not to splash the person next to you.
  • Expect to pay a fee in most tasting rooms (though you often get to keep the glass).
  • Call ahead if you have kids as some spots are kid-friendly and others aren’t.
  • Many smaller wineries require an appointment, so make sure to check before dropping by.
  • Avoid the crowds by visiting on a weekday.
  • Assign a designated driver or hire a limo to take you around and split the cost among the group.

What are your favorite wineries to visit?

Cabernet Sauvignon- The Classic Red

Cabernet Sauvignon is often considered a classic red wine. It is a wine wardrobe essential. Cabernet remains the most popular red wine on the market because it offers distinctive drinking in a wide range of prices and styles.

  • Dry: Cabernet Sauvignon is considered dry wine. It often tastes more dry than shiraz or pinot noir, for example, but not as dry as sangiovese-based wines from Italy.
  • Bright: Cabernet sauvignon grapes are naturally higher in acidity than merlot grapes so the resulting wine often has a more vibrant character (think of green plums verus ripe, juicy ones), especially when the grapes are grown in cooler areas such as Bordeaux.
  • Medium or full-bodied: styles of cabernet sauvignon range from elegant to powerful depending upon where the grapes are grown (warmer regions equal riper grapes, higher alcohol (13-14 percent) and fuller body, cooler regions equal less sugar in the grapes and slightly lower alcohol levels (12-13 percent). In the glass, that translates to the difference between satin and velvet, or brushed cotton and winter wool.
  • Medium to strong tannins: These are thick-skinned grapes, which mean the wines are inherently more tannic than most all other reds. If you don’t like the sometimes drying, astringent feel from tannins (see page 000 for details on tannins), cabernet sauvignon may not be to your top pick in reds. Try merlot or pinot noir.

VALUE TIP: One of the best-value Cabs on the market today comes from Gallo of Sonoma whose Sonoma County bottling (often under $10) is produced with a healthy dose of Alexander Valley grapes.

Have you tried this?

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Fresh Mint Sauce: Rub the outside of the leg of lamb with a mixture of honey, Dijon mustard, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and chopped fresh mint and rosemary. Grill or roast until cooked. For the Mint Sauce, mix chopped fresh mint with a little olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Stir it into couscous or rice and serve with the thinly sliced lamb.

What are your favorite recipes/food ideas to go with your favorite Cab Sauv?

Share with us your favorite Cab Sauvs and why you like them.

Wine Shopping Checklist

Whether your hosting a dinner party, an event or attending as a guest, wine shopping goes more smoothly when you have a list.

How do you decide what wine to buy or which wine would work best for a particular event?

  • What is your budget?
  • Where will you buy?

Here are few tips on Wine Shopping from Leslie:

  • Ask yourself what the wine is for:
  • To serve with dinner at home? Now that you know about Pinot Gris, give it a try tonight.
  • To bring for a dinner party? Pinot Noir is one of my top picks because it goes with everything.
  • To give as a gift? I like to give Champagne and dessert wines as a gift.
  • To pour for a party you are hosting? Look for a magnum, which is a large bottle that holds the equivalent of two regular-sized bottles.
  • For a special occasion? Dream big! Try aged red Bordeaux from France or Italian Barolo.

If you have questions when browsing wine in a store, ask for help or ask for their recommendations. Also, keep in mind that many stores will offer a discount if you are buying 12 bottles or more.

What else goes on your wine shopping list?

Thirsty Girl Wine Tips and Terms

Here are some exclusive tips and sips from our Head Thirsty Girl, Leslie Sbrocco. Next time you find yourself at the bar by yourself, strike up a conversation with person next to you or the bartender. Wow them with your fabulous knowledge.

Cheers to that!

  • Toasting the oak staves in new barrels imparts notes of vanilla and spice to wine. After a few years of use, the barrel becomes a neutral vessel imparting little oak character.
  • Tannins are chemical compounds found in the skins, stems and seeds of grapes that impart an astringent sensation in young red wines. Tannins help wine age and pair with food.
  • A varietal wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, must contain a minimum of 75% of that grape variety.
  • Wines that simply say Oregon can be a blend of grapes from the state’s various growing regions, which include places like the Willamette, Umpqua, Columbia and Rogue Valleys.
  • Pinot Grigio is the same grape variety as Pinot Gris. Both mean pinot grey in reference to their pink/maroon skin color.
  • White Sauvignon Blanc is a tad untamed since it takes its name from the French word for savage. It, along with elegant red Cabernet Franc, gave birth to the hearty red Cabernet Sauvignon grape.
  • Wine Words: Crisp, bright, smooth = acidity levels in wine from higher to lower
  • Wine Words: Dry, off-dry, medium-dry, sweet = sweetness levels in wine
  • Wine Words: Light, medium and full-bodied = the feel of the wine in your mouth. These relate to alcohol and residual sugar levels. The less alcohol, the lighter the wine feels. The sweeter the wine, the richer and more dense it can feel.

What tips would you add?

Bubbles! Favorite Champagnes

Next to diamonds, Bubbles are probably most Thirsty Girl’s best friends!

What’s in a Name?

Here are few terms to remember:

  • Sparkling wine – This is the umbrella category for any wine with bubbles.
  • Champagne – Champagne is a type of sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France. If the wine isn’t made in Champagne, it technically should be called sparkling wine.
  • Cava – Though the word means cellar, it refers to sparkling wine from Spain.
  • Spumante – Fully sparkling wines from Italy. Lightly fizzy Italian wines are called frizzante.

Here are some tips from Leslie for choosing:
For elegance and light to medium-body, look for wines from:Billecart-Salmon, Pommery, Lanson, Laurent-Perrier, and Moët & Chandon

For more fullness and richness, look for wines from:Pol Roger, Mumm, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Bollinger, and Krug

Share here what your favorite Champagnes are to drink (and if you’re so bold- share what occasion you like to drink it with!)

Let’s Talk Chardonnay!

Chardonnay is one of those wines that’s great to sip and goes well with so many types of food. Not to mention it remains very popular. Any basic wine wardrobe will likely include a Chardonnay. Known for it’s mild mannered Chardonnay Wine for Womenfruitiness, it lends well to making all different kinds of wine.

Here are some core words for describing Chardonnay:

  • Dry
  • Crisp or Smooth
  • Light, Medium or full bodied
  • Fruit aromas
  • Oaky and Toasty
  • Buttery and creamy
  • Vanilla Spice and Nuttiness
  • Ripeness

LESLIE’S TASTING TIP:

In Argentina there is a popular white grape called Torrontes, which makes a wine that tastes like a cross between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Look for the easy-on-the-wallet version from Santa Julia Winery that ranges in price from $5-7.

Chardonnay Friendly Sauce
Creamy Mustard Dressing: Use one tablespoon Dijon mustard to two tablespoons olive oil and blend together with a fork or small whisk until creamy. Add one tablespoon of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (more for a thinner, tangier dressing). Add fresh chopped tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on sandwiches, top salads, or drizzle over grilled meats.

Share your favorite Chardonnay recipes in the comments below!

French Chardonnays

LESLIE’S TASTING TIP (For Chablis): One of my favorite producers is Domaine Laroche. Their range of wines is stunning from the classic Chablis Saint-Martin (around $25) to the pricey Domaine Laroche Grand Cru bottlings that can cost more than $60-100 per bottle.

VALUE TIP (Pouilly-Fuisse): Look for wines from Saint-Véran and those labeled Mâcon-Villages, which I call the smart-buy version of Pouilly-Fuisse. These Chardonnays, which can often be found for around $10 per bottle, sport a charmingly soft texture, hints of nuts and pear notes.
What are your favorite French Chardonnays?

Have you got some favorite Chards to share? Food pairings? Share them in the comments below!

Wine Tip: Navigating Wine Lists

Are you sometimes overwhelmed with where to start when you are handed the wine list at a restaurant? Head Thirsty Girl, Leslie Sbrocco has some tips for help you navigate through a wine list.

TIPS

  • Ask for help from the sommelier.
  • Be adventurous- and look for other sections or wines from other countries.
  • Instead of just a glass, go for a half bottle of wine.

Pairing Wine and Food

When it comes to pairing wine with food, we all have our favorites.  Whether you’re eating something sweet, salty or spicy, try think of “refreshing” when pairing a wine with it. Here, Leslie shares some of her favorite tips when pairing wine with food.

A Food and Wine pairing tip from Leslie: Match the texture or feel of the food and wine: Delicate foods with delicate wines and big foods with big wines. (Think leather pants with a sweater and linen pants with a cotton shirt.) It’s not the outdated mantra of red wine with meat and white with fish; it’s about the weight of the food and wine in your mouth.

What are your food and wine pairing tips?

What favorite wines do you like to pair with heavier, more robust foods?

What wines do you pair with lighter fare?