By Rick Riozza

Ever since this column appeared in the first issue of the CV Weekly, we’ve always contended that it’s all about the game of wine. And we also commented that if you love the wine game and you wish to play it well, then this column is for you.

Now one of the most fun moves in the game is going out to find a romantic wine to match-up with the super Day of Love; and, what we’ve seen lately—with all the craziness in politics, culture, and pandemics, there is a real thing of All Valentines Week, where we revel well in love for an entire week.

And quite often, we wine enthusiasts also love the challenge to discover or at least find a new and different wine to celebrate Il giorno Santo Valentino di amore. Sure—we all wish a nice bubbly to pop open for the occasion, and we’ll get to those next week, but for his article, let’s find an exciting and sexy wine.


Our recommendation is the 2020 Etude Pinot Gris Carneros (around $25). We’ll get to this specific Etude Pinot Gris in a moment. But let’s discuss Pinot Gris in general.

Generally speaking, Pinot Gris seems to be the one grape/or one wine that consistently fools the experts in blind tastings and sommelier exams. Now that fact alone is exciting! And, what keeps the interesting & sexy is that the wine expresses a taste profile that is different from one region to the next.

The primary fruit flavors in Pinot Grigio are lime, lemon, pear, white nectarine and apple. And depending on where the grapes are grown, Pinot Grigio can take on faint honeyed notes, floral aromas like honeysuckle, and a saline-like minerality.

Most wine folks know by now that a Pinot Gris is technically the same as Pinot Grigio. They have the same grape DNA. One is the French pronunciation, the other Italian. Pinot Gris is obviously French, since we pronounce it as Peen-noh Gree. But there is a marked difference between the Italian “grigio” and the French “gris”(gree) The Italian is usually totally dry with brilliant acidity with a bitter almond note. The French is fleshy and more unctuous, and as mentioned above, with faint honey notes.

To complicate matters—in an interesting way, is that, in the American version, the wine often carries a more exaggerated fruit flavor with less acidity than European counterparts. California generally calls their version Pinot Grigio—following the Italian, but Oregon calls their grape with the French pronunciation. In Washington State, we see it spelled and pronounced both ways—leaving it up to the winery. Some will call it from the European clones the root stalk comes from.

And if we wish to throw in some more complicated matters, be it known that your beloved Pinot Noir grape as the same DNA as Pinot Gris/Grigio!! The Gris/Grigio is simply a mutation! Fun stuff again!

So let’s get back to our Valentines wine recommendation 2020 Etude Pinot Gris Carneros. After reading the flavor profile below, you’ll see why we call this wine sexy. This classic Pinot Gris offers lovely tree blossom aromatics with tropical notes delicately interwoven into this refreshing sipper. Guava, kiwi, pineapple, quince, passion fruit and lychee jump from the glass, while light apricot and Meyer lemon citrus and kaffir lime come through on the palate, supported by a chalky minerality. Pretty, rich and round, with a brilliant acid core and creamy mouthfeel, give this white depth and texture, leading to a persistent finish. Can you think of a more sexy wine?

Okay—we’ve written on the Etude Winery previously. And it so happens that we recommended their Carneros Pinot Noir last Valentine’s Day! We love their Pinot; we love the Pinot Noir from Carneros. Having the Etude Pinot Noir again this year will make the day as well.

The Etude Pinot Gris is crafted from grapes grown at their Estate Vineyard, Grace Benoist Ranch. Certified Alsatian clones are planted here in deep, well-drained loamy soils which are perfect for capturing memorable flavors. This is why Etude names their grape with the French name.

And you wine enthusiasts know well the Carneros region that straddles both Napa and Sonoma counties. The cooler temperatures driven by nearby San Pablo Bay provide for a long and even growing season, allowing the Pinot Gris fruit to fully ripen while still preserving natural acidity.

The Grace Benoist Estate vineyard is farmed to Etude’s exacting standards, using environmentally sound viticultural practices. We grow, and ultimately harvest, focusing on intensity of flavor, strong varietal delineation and ideal natural balance. Etude is sustainably certified under the Napa Green program at the winery, while Grace Benoist Ranch is certified under the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

As to the winemaking, they harvested the Pinot Gris into small bins at night and rushed them to our winery in order to retain the freshness and purity of the fruit. After gently pressing the whole clusters, the juice for the Pinot Gris was transferred to small, 75-gallon stainless steel barrels for fermentation.

The juice was then allowed to mature undisturbed for five months sur lie (aging on the lees), enhancing the silky texture and mouthfeel, before a very gentle bottling. The wine never touches a sliver of oak, nor does any portion undergo malolactic fermentation.

And there you go! All you need to know. You can spend the time explaining the wine or you can just drink it and just speak love; something like that or something in between. We’ll get back to some rosé bubbly next time. Cheers!