It’s very rare that you’ll stumble across single-vineyard, “estate-grown” wines for under $15, but if you do, you should jump at the chance to pickup a bottle! The simple reason is that the more specific a wine gets (with its place of origin), the more expensive it usually gets. Not with Willow Crest though, as most of their wines completely annihilate the competition in the price-to-quality ratio game.
Even though David J. Minick (owner of Willow Crest) has only been operating the winery since 1995, his family has been in the “grape business” since 1982. Truly believing in the mantra of the best wines being indeed “made in the vineyard,” Willow Crest only use estate-grown grapes, which carefully tended to and harvested by David himself.
Pinot Gris has long-since outpaced Chardonnay as the most planted white wine in Oregon, and is currently the #3 white grape in Washington, after Riesling and Chardonnay.
The history of Pinot Gris dates back to the Burgundy region of France in the Middle Ages where it used to thrive. The grape is thought to be a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. The grape also produces extremely noteworthy wines in the Alsatian region of France. There still remains a fair amount of confusion, but Pinot Grigio is the exact same grape as Pinot Gris, although stylistically Grigios tend to be lighter, more delicate and mineral-driven.
The Yakima Valley is the oldest growing region in Washington, and produces over one-third of the State’s wine.
More than 40 wineries call the Yakima home, with over 11,000 acres (around 17 sq. miles) of planted grape vines.
In Washington, Pinot Gris has been a tad slower to catch on than in neighboring Oregon, although it’s recently started to make up for lost time. In 2003, 1,900 tons of Pinot Gris were harvested, and by 2011 it was up-to 7,500 tons.
The Willow Crest Estate Vineyard is at located at 1300 feet above sea level.
Willow Crest use drip irrigation in their vineyards. Why is that important,? Well, if grape vines receive too much water, they have a tendency to put out as many leaves as possible (much the same as most plants). By limiting the water a vine receives (by slowly dripping the water through a pipe, rather than “making it rain” by using overhead sprinklers), instead of focusing its efforts on producing leaves, it concentrates all its energy on grape production/development.
I’d like to think that I’m a pioneer by shamelessly admitting that I occasionally drink my wine out of a Solo-cup, at least when I’m on the beach. The Mrs. seems to frown on me bringing my own stemware! The Willow Crest Pinot Gris is clean and crisp, but also bolder than most Pinot Gris from neighboring Oregon, at least that I’ve tasted. Beautifully fragrant (we could even smell it against the breeze from the ocean), the wine opens with cantaloupe, grapefruit, passion-fruit and guava. Medium-bodied, rich, and with a good acid balance, the wine evolves into citrusy blood orange and grapefruit on the long finish. The absolute best Pinot Gris for the money that I’ve tasted coming out of Washington, and the price won’t leave you feeling guilty about taking it to the beach…
Salmon with ginger, shrimp salad, spiced pork tenderloin, raw oysters, or just sat on the beach, watching as some random kid messes-around with a red surfboard, as his father looks on…
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