Meet the Whites: Pinot Grigio


Bottle of Pinot Grigio

We’re going to kick off this trip down the white wine aisle with a look at the easy-to-drink, easy-on-the pocket book Pinot Grigio.

In Northern Italy, as this bottle shows, it’s called Pinot Grigio but in Alsace, France, where it grows especially well, it’s known as Pinot Gris (pronounce GREE). And, yes, it is a cousin to my favorite Pinot Noir. This grape also grows well in California and Oregon.

What you’re looking for in a bottle of Pinot Grigio is a light color (sometimes it can go to golden yellow, but usually you want pale) and a recent year. This is not a wine that’s meant to be aged in the bottle more than 5 years, tops, and most of them should be served much sooner than that! Give it a good chill and then take it out of the fridge or cooler about 20 minutes before you’re ready to drink it.

Wine that’s too cold will taste like nothing–your taste-buds will be too busy being cold to find anything decent about the wine–you have to give it a chance to wake up a little bit.

You probably won’t smell a whole lot from this wine, even after swirling it around in your glass a few times, the nose tends to be subtle-to-nonexistent, though the French Pinot Gris will give a little bit more, as I understand it (the Alsace wines tend to be richer, even for light-bodied wines). The flavor, along with the aforementioned “light” and “crisp”, may contain hints of fruit, like pear or even melon.

Pinot Grigio falls under the heading of a light-bodied white. It pairs well with fish, such as sole or flounder, as well as clams and oysters.

Now, if you’ve ever had really good oysters on the half-shell–ice-cold, firm and clean-tasting–you know you want something light and crisp to go with them. Pinot Grigio is your wine!

In fact, most seafood, as long as it’s not covered in a super-heavy sauce (cream or tomato) will mesh quite well with the humble Pinot Grigio. You might want to steer clear of acidic (tomato, again, and citrus) foods with the Grigio as the levels of acid in both might clash.

So, you know, don’t use a Pinot Grigio in your next Mimosa, but it might make a great white-wine spritzer.

Really, though, it’s a great wine for general drinking when the weather starts to warm up and you want something refreshing. Having a cocktail party? Stock up–it tends to whet the appetite.


50 Shots of America–California



The 31st state, California, was ceded to the US as a result of the Mexican-American war and became a state on September 9, 1850.

I had the opportunity to visit The Golden State a few years ago but there are places there still on my list to visit.. When I got back from San Diego and realized I was a scant hour or two drive from the original Mouse House (Disneyland) I was crestfallen. Napa is also on the list but mainly I want to see San Francisco–I’ve had my work on display, there, but still haven’t been able to visit in person!

In honor of the early Spanish and Portuguese settlers, the local viniculture and the early Gold Rush days that gave the state it’s motto, I present

The Goldrush

1 oz White Wine
1 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Goldschlagger
splash of Orange Flower Water

Combine over ice and shake as a prospector panning for gold in Sierra Nevada. Strain into a chilled cordial glass.

Similar to a quickie Sangria, this fruity drink uses gold-flecked cinnamon liqueur instead of the traditional brandy. Orange flower water can be found in specialty or international food stores and you really only need a touch–more than anything it adds a delightful perfume to the drink without the added acidity of straight orange juice. Obviously you want to use a California wine, here, but if you should choose to go with a red instead of the white, call it a Golden Gate.



A fruited wine beverage, Sangria has as many variations as it has makers. The downside, generally speaking, is that to make good Sangria you need time. Namely, time for the fruit to mix and meld with the other ingredients. But what if you want Sangria now, and you’ve got all the parts but you’d rather drink it tonight as opposed to tomorrow? Are you doomed to a passable but not spectacular bottled version? Is there a happy medium between 8-hours and a screw-top bottle?

I think so.

In fact, my theory is that you can “fake” the steeping period by the application of gentle heat to the fruit and any other items you are adding to the wine base (because in addition to a variety of fruits and their juices, brandy, spices or even some flavored vodka could be used). In this scenario, you could then have a very flavorful Sangria in an hour or so, instead of overnight. Plus, you can make just enough for a drink or two (or a person or two) without needing to make an entire pitcher.

Red Sangria for 2

Combine in a small saucepan:

1 lime, cut into slices
2 strawberries, hulled and halved
a couple chunks of pineapple
1 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp hot water
Small cinnamon stick (optional)

Bring this mix to a gentle simmer then reduce heat to low. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to gently break up the fruit. After about 10 minutes, add

1-2 oz vanilla vodka

turn off the burner and let the mixture sit for another 10-15 minutes.

Pour the fruit mix (sans cinnamon stick) into a glass jar or carafe or divide between two tall glasses. Pour in

4-6 oz. red table wine per glass

and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Serve with more fruit, if desired, and enjoy your drink!

Variation: White Sangria for 2

Substitute a handful of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for the lemon and pineapple in the red version and skip the cinnamon stick. Use Apple Brandy instead of the vodka and a white wine for the red.

Compared to the bottled Sangria I picked up for comparison, both of my versions (actually, all four since I tried each fruit/liquor combo with each wine just out of curiosity) were less sweet than the pre-made. You could add orange juice (red) or white grape juice (white) if you wanted a fruitier, sweeter beverage or add club soda or some other fizzy drink for a bubbly version.