For fresh and vibrant try a Pinot Gris

Must be an automatic reaction, but whenever I have a glass of Pinot Gris

Mindy Hewitson of the Estates Group, representing King Estate Winery in Oregon and owner of Vittorio’s in San Diego, Victor Magalhaes. Photo by Frank Mangio

Mindy Hewitson of the Estates Group, representing King Estate Winery in Oregon and owner of Vittorio’s in San Diego, Victor Magalhaes. Photo by Frank Mangio

I smack my lips. It’s one of those few white wines that I savor with small sips. Only a few really capture my fancy and pass the “smack” test, like a Pinot Gris, Fume Blanc, Viognier and some Chardonnays.

Pinot Gris can be confused with Pinot Grigio, the Italian version. I usually have nice things to say about any Italian wine, but I have to stop short of such praise when it comes to the Grigio side of Pinot. Best thing I can say about Pinot Grigio is that it is gulpable. Lots of names offer Grigio in a magnum “big bottle” format.

I was reminded of the Pinot Gris majestic crispness with that arugula-like pepper accent when I guested at a recent wine dinner, and King Estate of Oregon was the featured winery.

King Estate is a sustainably farmed 1,000-acre state of the art winery southwest of Eugene Oregon, with 400 acres under vine. It has made a living with its Pinot Gris. The current vintage is the 2011 with 100,000 cases produced ($17).

I am a longtime enthusiast for this crisp white. Unlike others, this vintage has a hint of honey, which serves as a backbone of flavor to the strong citrus element. The host restaurant, Vittorio’s Family Style Trattoria in the Del Sur district of San Diego, and its owner, Victor Magalhaes, paired the Gris with an Alaskan Dungeness crab cake with remoulade sauce. The combination was poetry in motion, and may they live happily ever after.

Other brands, including King’s new NxNW, were part of the dinner.

This Washington based wine includes a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon with a shot of Merlot and Malbec, from the Columbia Valley. The brand means North by Northwest and represents the best efforts of six vineyards.

It was paired with a Flat Iron steak, chimchurri sauce and potato gratin.

Vittorio’s and the Estates Group, representing King Estate and some 32 other leading wineries, have teamed up to present wine dinners once a month. They recently jointly brought in Clos Du Val and will bring in an Italian favorite Poggiotondo Sept. 26 starting at 6 p.m. Dinners so far are a reasonable $49.50 per person for four-courses and four different wines. Call (858) 538-5884 for an RSVP at Vittorio’s.

Did you know this about wine?

According to our friends at Wine Spectator, America is now the biggest wine market in the world and younger drinkers are the most important in where it goes. In 2012, 100 million wine drinkers consumed 324 million cases. Baby boomers and Generation X-ers are still important, but the growing Millennial generation (21 to 24) can’t be ignored. They’re already making an impact by ending the two-color palette, as dry rose has come up to be a major player already with sparkling wine.

Sparklers and pink are in, like Proseco, Moscato and Lambrusco with double digit increases in sales in the last five years.

Americans are experimenting with more grape varietals and drinking less single grape wines. Blends are in!

Rose’s at $12 or more are seeing double-digit sales this year. Provence in France is claiming the leadership on this, pointing out that a “by-the-glass” wave has hit. Rose’ represents 88 percent of all wine produced in Provence, with Grenache the grape of choice.

The wine gadget of the month is an iPhone app called BottleStock. It does the best job of helping you not just remember what wines you enjoy the most, but also you get a better understanding of why you enjoy them. The device recognizes a label when you take a picture of it and log in the when and where. Then along comes tasting notes tailored to the wine. You can also share the bottle information on Facebook, Twitter and others. So if the wine is a Cabernet, you see buttons such as green pepper, and full bodied. BottleStock is free for users of the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Wine Bytes

The 3rd annual RB Historical Society Tasting Festival will be held at Bernardo Winery Sept. 22 from noon to 4 p.m. Wine and food tasting, live music and artist creations highlight the day. $20 advance cost, $25 at the door. Call (858) 775-5788.

The 9th annual Chef Showdown happens at NTC Promenade in Pt. Loma Sept. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m. benefiting the Center for Community Solutions. Ten of the top chefs in the area come together for culinary competition. Visitors receive sample food portions and lively education. Live music and silent auction. Tickets cost $125. RSVP at (858) 272-5777 ext.120.

The Lobsterfest is back again at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas Sept. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. Fresh 2-and-a-half- pound Maine Lobster flown in, served with sides and a selection of wines from California and France. $100. Size is limited to 50 people. RSVP at (760) 479-2500.

The next class at SDSU College of Extended Studies, Wine Certificate Program is Oct. 5, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s Wine Making Behind the Scenes with wine maker Gus Vizgirda at Maurice Car’rie Vineyard in Temecula. For information call (619) 594-1138.

Frank Mangio is a renowned San Diego wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at Reach him at



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