These wines made by William Allen, Two Shepherds proprietor and winemaker, should come with a disclaimer warning that once you taste skin-fermented Pinot Gris, regular Pinot Gris will taste, well, regular. And while Pinot Gris made in the traditional way by the right winemaker, from the right terroir can be charming, skin-fermented Pinot Gris takes the variety in a completely different direction. It has been my experience that these wines are not only beautiful to behold, but the aromas, flavors and added texture imparted by extended skin contact make them so much more interesting than many Pinot Gris made without skin contact.
2019 Two Shepherds Skin Fermented Pinot Gris, Clarbec Vineyard, Sonoma Valley — translucent salmon-red in the glass with aromas and flavors of pear and apple with nuanced elements of iron supported by bright, citrusy acidity. The finish is medium in length and textural. 12.5% abv. $25
The flavors are generous for Pinot Gris with interesting notes of iron in the background. I often taste what I describe as iron in skin-contact white wines, in fact it’s a flavor I always hope to find. This wine is clean, without a hint of funk.
Pinot Gris was destemmed and left on the skins to begin fermenting with native yeast. After 5 days the grapes were pressed to finish fermentation and aged in neutral French oak barrels. Only 375 cases made.
2018 Two Shepherds Skin Fermented Pinot Gris, Glen Oaks Ranch, Sonoma Valley — lighter, translucent salmon-red in the glass with aromas and flavors of oat hay, iron, red apple, grapefruit and earth. Flavors are concentrated and supported by bright acidity and umami notes in the background. The finish is medium in length with a bit of weight and texture. 12.5% abv. $28
This wine is made in the same way with 5 days of skin contact, native yeast fermentation, pressing and aging in neutral French oak. It is sourced from a different vineyard and is a year older. The flavors remain fruity, but it has developed a bit more of those nuanced iron flavors hinting at umami that I absolutely love. Once again, this wine is clean and without even a hint of funk. Only 225 cases made.
If you’re unfamiliar with skin-fermented Pinot Gris consider getting to know it. These wines are perfect for summer sipping (actually I love them all year long) and they absolutely pair beautifully with almost any meal.
Also in William Allen’s flock of skin-fermented wines, and still in stock, is Grenache Blanc. These wines spend a little longer on the skins and are loaded with flavor and texture. I love them too. You will find several in my Instagram feed.
William Allen makes a variety of red, white, skin fermented and rosé wines every year at Two Shepherds. He is a Rhône specialist and sources grapes from a number of small vineyards, organically grown whenever possible. He and partner Karen Daenen also farm Grenache and Grenache Gris of their own (organically) and care for a variety of farm animals. Their production is small, so it is wise to get on their mailing list or become a wine club member to get your hands on these interesting and delicious wines.