When Kathleen Inman decided to turn her hobby of growing things into a job and moved from her farm in northern England to the Russian River Valley, the Napa Valley native knew she wanted to grow something white to compliment her 10 acres of Pinot Noir. The obvious choice would have been Chardonnay, but Kathleen had a secret.
During one of the frequent pilgrimages to Burgundy she and her husband would make from London, she tasted a white wine in the cellar of a famous Côte de Nuit producer that was neither Chardonnay nor the only other legal white grape in Burgundy, Aligote.
No, it was the simple but stately Pinot Gris. Further investigation revealed that there are four growers with small amounts of (illegal) Pinot Gris vines in the famous winegrowing region. And it was from one of those growers that Inman ultimately procured the wood for her vineyard.
Inman describes the Burgundian Pinot Gris she tasted as "floral without being perfumey," with a mix of stone fruit, citrus and, most importantly, a distinctive minerality. “I thought, what a great seafood wine,” says Inman.
Early attempts proved less than successful, at least by Inman’s standards, but over the next ten years, she honed her skills at making one of Burgundy’s best-kept secrets in a California region also dominated, although not prohibitively so, by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The 2012 Inman Family Russian River Valley Pinot Gris is bright and focused; driven by natural acidity and sparkling minerality. A great seafood wine, indeed. And, oh, is it oyster season?
2012 Inman Family Pinot Gris, $35
Available directly from Inman Family Wines
Courtney Humiston is a the sommelier at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg where she leads a wine list that includes over 500 labels from Sonoma County. Each week she will be selecting a Bay Area wine just for 7x7 readers.