Are Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varietals related?

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If you said ‘yes’, you’d be right! The Pinot Noir varietal is a well-known Burgundian grape but what is lesser-known is that Pinot Noir is one of the ancient grape varietals theorized to be only one or two generations away from its native, wild ancestor. Over the centuries natural mutations of the vine lead to the Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio), Pinot Blanc and Meunier varietals. It’s hard to know for sure which mutation came first, but through DNA testing it is proven that the three are direct descendants.

How many AVA's (American Viticulture Areas) makes up Santa Barbara County? Can you name all of them?

This is somewhat of a trick question. The official answer is six AVA’s: Santa Maria Valley AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA, Los Olivos District AVA and Happy Canyon AVA. Technically, Santa Barbara County is broken down into two viticulture areas: Santa Maria Valley AVA and Santa Ynez Valley AVA. However, the Santa Ynez Valley AVA is further dissected into the Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District and Happy Canyon distinctions. Although there are six officially recognized AVA’s today, this may change in the future as more vintners push for their region to have its own AVA which acknowledges the unique characteristics of the terroir and wines produced there.

Why does a Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris bottle shape differ from a Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc bottle shape?

The answer is more simple than you may think. It has to do with the region from which the varietal originates. For example, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are presented in a Burgundy shaped bottle with less pronounced shoulders that slope downward. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, for example, are presented in a Bordeaux shaped bottle which has distinct, high shoulders and a deep punt on the bottom of the bottle.

These Wine Wizard questions were featured in our Gold Wine Club's newsletter,The Wine Press featuring wines from Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyard.