Pinot Blanc has similar DNA to Pinot Gris. They are both mutations of Pinot Noir. They were both first grown in Burgundy. There production spread to regions like Alto Adige in Italy (It is known as Pinot Bianco there) as well as Alsace in France. Wherever Pinot Noir thrvies, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris will as well. When you think of Pinot Noir is the States, Oregon is usually the first thought that comes to mind. Oregon should be at top of mind with Pinot Blanc as well.
Pinot Blanc has been around in Oregon since the late 1960's. It has remained consistent in plantings and production. It has not gained mainstream popularity because it tends to carry a higher price tag due to limited production. There are only about 200 acres planted in Oregon. What merits the higher price for Oregon Pinot Blanc than say California? That answer is simple...
Oregon Pinot Blanc is actual Pinot Blanc. It was brought directly from Alsace and verified. California's first smattering of Pinot Blanc was not Pinot Blanc, it was a hybrid grape dubbed "Melon". This was discovered in the 1980's. Nowadays, more and more actual Pinot Blanc has been planted.
In terms of Oregon Pinot Blanc, a perennial favorite of mine has been from Bethel Heights. It is a family owned winery in Oregon's Willamette Valley that was bought in 1977. A group of friends decided to make a go at turning a passion on theirs into a business. They started with only 14 acres on cuttings in the ground. The vineyard stands on a former walnut grove and many Walnut trees still stand.
Their Pinot Blanc is always consistent. The 2011 vintage is no different. It has great notes of lemon zest on the nose mixed with a touch of spice. It has a wonderful complexity on the palate with more hints of citrus as well as apple and pear. The fruit is balanced with a bit more acidity than in years past but I love what it brings to this vintage. Overall, it is a wonderful example of what Pinot Blanc should be.
Bethel Heights Pinot Blanc in a Nutshell:
Description: 100% Pinot Blanc. Aromatics in the glass are that of Lemon zest with a hint of nutmeg. The palate is highlighted with pear and apple flavors. This wine has a wonderful mouthfeel. This is all brought together with bright acidity on a lengthy finish.
Food Pairings: I am a huge fan of Pinot Blanc as a compliment to summer desserts such as Peach Pie. It also makes a wonderful pair with Oysters on the half shell or a big bowl of Mussels in garlic and butter.
Vintage/Price: The 2011 vintage is current. You may still be able to find the 2010 vintage on the market. The price is right around the $18-$20 mark.
For more information on Bethel Heights Pinot Blanc as well as their other wines, Please go to: Bethel Heights Vineyard