Lewis & John did it! Or shall we say Lujon?

By Celia Strong

Yep. They did. What did they do, you ask? They made some wines. Surprise! And here we are to learn about them. The wines, I mean. And a bit about Lewis and John. So, let’s move into study mode and get things started.

Lewis and John make wine in Oregon, so that’s where we’re going this week. Specifically, for their Pinot Gris. As we know, Pinot Gris is the same variety as Pinot Grigio. It’s just “gris” is the French name and “grigio” is the Italian. Because the wines made from this grape in Oregon are more like the French ones, stylistically, Oregon producers have chosen to call their wines Pinot Gris. Also, as we know, Pinot Noir is the variety that put Oregon on the wine map. It is their claim to fame and financial success. For white wines from Oregon, some lean to Chardonnay as the white “partner” for their Pinot Noir red wines. An easy connection to make because those are the two main varieties of the Burgundy region in France. But, Pinot Noirs cousins, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, do very well in Oregon soils and climates.

Realistically, though, there are not many wine drinkers who just have to have an Oregon Pinot Gris. Not like some have to a Cabernet or a Chardonnay or a Malbec or, even, an Italian Pinot Grigio. That means that Oregon Pinot Gris are sort of drunk by default. A shame because they can be great food wines. And not a shame because this lack of enthusiasm keeps them less expensive. Yay!

Pinot Gris was first brought into Oregon in 1966, by David Lett, the founder of Eyrie Vineyards. He started with 160 cuttings from just four vines that the University of California at Davis had. Lett made the first commercial Oregon Pinot Gris wine in 1970. The next one was not made until 1981, by Dick Ponzi. Even today, there are ongoing discussions about what Oregon producers should do with Pinot Gris. Since the 1990’s, the plantings of Pinot Gris in Oregon have increased almost fifty percent. It is now the second most planted variety in the state – red or white! When tasting Oregon Pinot Gris wines, we should look for fresh pear flavors with baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), mostly no oak and brisk acidity. These wines should be mouth filling – way more so than Italian Pinot Grigios.

For food pairings, it’s almost limitless where we can use a good Oregon Pinot Gris. Many vegetarian salads and pastas go extremely well with these wines. And, then, there are all the seafoods that go well too! Salmon, scallops, mussels, shrimp, tuna, sea bass, grouper, halibut. Fried; in cream sauces; in cheese sauces; with Asian flavors like curry, lemongrass, soy; pestos; fruit salsas; nut and fruit compotes. The list is as long as you can make it. (Anybody ever wonder why we get so hungry doing these lessons?)

Which brings us back to Lewis and John. Thank goodness. Lewis and John Derthick are father and son who started working together in 2005. At Lujon Wine Cellars. (“Lujon” is a combination of their two first names.) Lewis had been a wine lover for years. And John had worked in the wine industry for twenty years. As John says, “I think Oregon is in a unique position. We not only grow some of the best cool climate grapes in the world, but we are also blessed with some of the most diverse warm climatic regions as well. This is exciting from my perspective because I’m able to make great wines from a huge variety of grapes from all over the Northwest.”

The Lujon Pinot Gris is a great example of an Oregon Pinot Gris. Ours this week. It is complex and racy. This wine has textures that include fullness and weight and acidity. It has apple and pear flavors, crisp and extended. Not too high a level of alcohol, 12.8%, lets the acids stay incredibly fresh. The wine is balanced, with a lingering finish. And, sad news, only 275 cases were made. That means we can all get some, but no dilly dallying. If any wine can do it, this one will make us start thinking of Oregon Pinot Gris as wine we have to have. Lewis and John did it! Or should we say Lujon? For $9.99. Enjoy.

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