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The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris 2016

Dundee Hills, Oregon, $21

With a degree in viticulture from UC Davis, 3,000 nursery vines, and an idea, David Lett moved to Oregon in 1965 and planted the very first pinot noir and chardonnay grapes in the state, as well as the first pinot gris grapes in the country. Lett’s idea turned out to be more than fruitful, and an entire Oregon wine industry grew up around these grapes. The pinot pioneer’s practice of natural winemaking — eschewing such things as fertilization, irrigation and even artificial temperature control — eventually led to organic certification.

Second-generation owner/winemaker Jason Lett continues in his parents’ footsteps with The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris. Crafted completely from pinot gris, the wine presents warm golden-yellow in the glass. The aroma is enticingly sweet, showcasing a complex medley of Asian pear, lychee, honeysuckle and pineberries, lifted on a note of lime. The fleshy mouthfeel is quite pleasing on the palate, where we are given another glimpse of lychee, supported by yellow apple and guava, before the wine transitions to a more mineralic profile of graphite. The finish is crushed pea stone and citrus zest, and it lingers for an eternity. This wine can be enjoyed with escarole, white bean and sausage stew, a vegetable, tofu and quinoa salad, or, be a pioneer, too, and pair with pork ramen.

For just $21, you can experience an idea that led to an entire culture with this complex yet versatile white.

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von Winning Pinot Noir Rosé 2018

Pfalz, Germany $23

Producer von Winning employs organic and sustainable viticulture in its Pfalz, Germany, vineyards, and adopts a minimalist approach in the winery. Von Winning wines are produced via spontaneous fermentation with native yeast, and clarification is achieved without the use of fining agents. Among the coldest wine regions in the world, Germany is known for its cold-loving white grapes. However, cool-climate loving pinot noir — known here as spätburgunder — can be found growing in several German regions.

Produced entirely from pinot noir, Von Winning Pinot Noir Rosé delights the eye with its attractive salmon-copper color. The nose is equally agreeable, with notes of crushed raspberries, peaches and ruby grapefruit, interspersed with pink peppercorns, and just a hint of carnival cotton candy. Tart red fruit flavors tantalize the palate, led by red currants and rhubarb, wrapped around a steely mineral core. While still delicate, the weight of this wine is greater than expected from a cold-climate rosé. Cranberries and orange peel dominate the crisp finish. Although fruity, this wine is quite dry, as denoted by the term “trocken” on the label. Pair with rosemary focaccia with provolone cheese, French onion soup, or salade Niçoise.

At $23 a bottle, you may not want to give up this charming rosé once the weather turns as cold as Germany.

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Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo Fortercole 2017

Le Marche, Italy $30

Bordering a small corner of eastern Tuscany, the quiet region of Le Marche has been somewhat overshadowed by its well-known neighbor. However, this still-unspoiled region on the Adriatic coast produces world-class wines with the myriad “bio” grapes that grace its stunning slopes. For the past 15 years, Marianna Bruscoli has been growing organic grapes on part of her 800-acre family farm, certified organic since 1995, and crafting wines from them at her 100 percent renewable-energy winery located just outside the Unesco Heritage town, Urbino.

Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo’s flagship red wine, Fortercole, is a blend of sangiovese and montepulciano. In the glass, the wine is a brilliant Tyrian purple, reminiscent of the color of crushed blueberries. The nose offers an appealing aroma of clay, then opens to reveal an abundance of red-berry jam notes, led by raspberry and boysenberry. The aromas evolve from fruity to savory, with herbaceous inferences and a hint of tar. The palate is replete with black fruits, within which a whisper of sandalwood from judicious use of oak can be detected, ending on a slightly briny olive finish. The acid is crisp, and the tannins are silky. Simply delightful, this beautifully balanced wine is deceiving in its effortlessness. An excellent companion for tomato-based meat dishes, deep-fried stuffed olives, and a wide range of cheeses.

A stellar example of quality winemaking with a conscience, and with a reasonable $30 price tag.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appeared in the July 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.