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Varnum Vintners 2017 Pinot Gris Rosé

Drink it, don’t overthink it.

Cyler Varnum likes to say his wines are “made to drink, don’t overthink”. A catchy phrase that belies the serious thought he and his wife Taralyn have put into their wines.

When I asked him if he considered himself part of the natural wine movement, he laughed and rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he said, “I consider myself a natural winemaker – I use grapes from sustainably harvested vineyards, don’t add yeast, and make minimal interventions to the wine. But I’m not a religious extremist!”

Cyler was trained as a natural resource manager and thought he’d become a fish farmer. But after a semester in Australia, he decided wine was his true calling. He interned with Oregon’s famed organic Lemelson Vineyards and went back to Arizona full of excitement.

Before long, he tried to make wine in Arizona, even planting some grapes. But quickly realized that it wasn’t likely that wine could ever be made in a sustainable way in Arizona.

So, he and Taralyn, a high school science teacher, packed up their bags and made their way to Oregon. Their scientific backgrounds make them a natural fit for winemaking and their fun, understated attitudes sell their wines without a lot of fuss.

Cellar 503 Tasting Notes

Varnum Vintners, Amity, Oregon
2017 Pinot Gris Rosé

Cyler used to hate Pinot Gris. Too often, winemakers treated it like “generic white wine”, and consumers ordered it off menus as a back-up option, to be quickly forgotten. Could Pinot Gris be made great?

Taking a scientific approach, Cyler decided to conquer Pinot Gris. He bought the grapes from a one-acre block at Twelve Vineyard, and made Pinot Gris three different ways.

Now, Cyler’s become known as a bit of a Pinot Gris master. The grapes for this rosé were personally hand-harvested by Cyler and Taralyn at the Fir Crest Vineyard, and found their way into only 45 cases of wine (and we got nearly half of them!) You’ll pick up notes of apricot and peach, alongside spice and floral notes.

Pair this wine with grilled seafood — maybe some lemon and herb marinated shrimp, with some corn on the cob on the side? Summertime!

A Cellar 503 selection in August 2020, BBQ Wines Yamhill-Carlton | Pinot Gris