Flight Of Fancy

This one earned a half glass.What do Howard Hughes, Walt Disney, Captain Michael King Smith and a small Oregon vineyard all have in common?

Think big wooden airplane.

The Spruce Goose, perhaps the biggest intact relic of World War II, sits in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum near McMinnville, Oregon. More importantly, it’s right next door to the Evergreen Vineyards, makers of the 2008 Spruce Goose pinot gris.

The Spruce GooseWe weren’t sure this Grocery Outlet purchase ($5.99) would ever get off the ground, but we try to keep wines from Idaho and other Northwest growing regions front and center on our wine rack. As it turns out, this is a very lively white wine with plenty of lift.

The citrus and apple notes are evident from the beginning, with a sweetness of pear rounding out the flavors and keeping this wine from being overly tart. It’s medium-bodied and is best served lightly chilled, just below room temperature.

Critics of the would-be transport plane also known as the “Flying Boat” thought it wouldn’t fly either. The largest airplane ever constructed was built by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, Jr. He also piloted the huge craft on its one and only flight — a one-mile hop designed just to prove he could get it airborne.

It’s highly unlikely that the man who began this story, who was born wealthy and grew moreso throughout his life, ever had a wine this cheap. But it’s a decent all-around wine, good with a light meal and something you won’t mind pouring for friends when they stop by. That’s something else Mr. Hughes didn’t have, at least later in life — friends. Perhaps if he’d been more free with his wine…

In 1988, the Walt Disney Company bought the plane, which had been kept intact by a crew hired by Hughes until his death in 1976. Four years later, the museum’s founders, Michael King Smith and Delford M. Smith cut a deal to bring the wooden behemoth to Oregon.

Despite its name, the plane is actually made primarily of birch. Wartime restrictions on aluminum and steel forced Hughes to use the lightweight, light-colored wood. Turns out, it’s pretty close to the color of this wine, which is on the pale end of the spectrum generally covered by wines made from pinot gris grapes.

Evergreen Vineyards labelA lot of Oregon pinot gris trends more toward copper and has a fruitier nose and taste than the Evergreen. But this is not an overly dry wine, and the mouthfeel is more substantial than you’ll find in a lot of whites.

Oregon is more widely known for its pinot noir, of course, but the pinot gris (a mutant descendant of pinot noir dating back centuries) is becoming more popular. This is largely due to the efforts of an Evergreen neighbor, the King Estate winery about 100 miles south on I-5.

The full story of the Spruce Goose is pretty amazing, and you can check out the real thing at the museum. It’s just 40 miles from Portland. The Evergreen Vineyards tasting rooms are located right inside the museum.

Aromatique: A little sharp, but the fruit is evident, especially after the wine mellows a bit.

SipQuips: Apple and citrus, moderated with rounder notes of pear. Smooth mouthfeel and a fairly clean finish.

Kitchen Couplings: Ideal for a light meal or hors d’oeuvres; light- or medium-flavored cheeses.

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