Today's Sponsor
 The Connoisseur's Series
Membership in California Wine Club's elite Connoisseurs' Series is now available to Wine Advisor readers.

In This Issue
 Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio? So much forgettable wine is made from this Italian grape variety that it's worth a reminder that it's not all boring industrial stuff.
 Renato Keber 2003 Collio Pinot Grigio ($16) Rich and full, lucious pear aromas and flavors built on a sturdy acidic structure. A wake-up call for those who shun Pinot Grigio.
 The Connoisseur's Series Membership in California Wine Club's elite Connoisseurs' Series is now available to Wine Advisor readers.
 Connoisseurs' Series tastings The Jaffurs 2002 Bien Nacido Syrah and Reverie 2001 Diamond Mountain Red both strongly impressed me with their balance of power and grace.
 Fun wine link British wit offers a wacky hypothesis on the relationship between wine-bottle "punt" depth and value.
 This week on A new wine-education column for food-service workers, a discussion on growing a grapevine in a pot, and a new poll about critic Robert M. Parker's influence on wine.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Whassamadda wit' Pinot Grigio?

It's funny how entire wine-grape varieties move in and out of wine lovers' respect. As we've discussed quite a bit lately, thanks to the impact of the wine-related movie Sideways, Pinot Noir is way up, while the grape that the character Miles called "#@&%ing Merlot" is down. Chardonnay grapples with an "Anything But Chard" sentiment, while such downscale grapes as Concord and Thompson Seedless remain in permanent exile from most wine enthusiasts' fancy.

And then there's Pinot Grigio.

This Italian white variety (which wears the French moniker Pinot Gris in most of the rest of the world) has enjoyed a tremendous boom in recent years as an inexpensive, mass-market quaffer. This development has led some of the more "industrial" producers to make a lake of the stuff in an insipid, slightly sweet style, devoid of varietal character or flavor interest but easy to drink. Naturally this trend has earned the scorn of wine geeks, who've pretty much signed off from the entire variety for the duration.

But all Pinot Gris/Grigio is not created equal, and a wholesale PG-exclusion policy makes little sense. Some of Oregon's Pinot Gris makes a splendid match with Pacific wild salmon, for instance; and fans of Alsatian wines would argue that the grape may reach its apogee along the stretch between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine.

In northern Italy, my secret - and yes, it's a generalization too - is, "Head for the hills." A great deal of Pinot Grigio is grown on the Veneto plain, and a lot of it goes into the kind of drinkable, forgettable wine mentioned above. But move up into the Alpine Alto Adige region, or the pretty hills of Colli Orientale and Collio (which, not coincidentally translate as "Eastern Hills" and just-plain "Hills"), and you'll find Pinot Grigio to reckon with. Like today's tasting from Renato Keber in Collio, a mouth-filling, aromatic white wine indeed. Nothing insipid here!

The moral of today's sermon? As with so many simple rules-of-thumb - about wine and about many other things - those who place too much reliance on strict rules miss a lot.

Renato Keber Renato Keber 2003 Collio Pinot Grigio ($16)

The rich color of this clear golden wine shows an almost subliminal touch of reddish-bronze, a signature of ripe, fine Pinot Grigio. Its luscious aromas focus on pears, a clean, appealing fruit character that carries over into a full-bodied, balanced pear and melon flavor nicely shaped by snappy lemon-lime. No mere "glass of white wine," this is serious Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy's Collio hills. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati, from Marc de Grazia. (June 17, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: A handy food match with a variety of dishes, it served well with a summer party buffet that included grilled chicken kebabs, bratwurst and even grilled tofu.

VALUE: If more forgettable Pinot Grigios can command $10 or more, it's hard to quibble with the middle teens for a wine of this quality.

WHEN TO DRINK: Not really a wine to age, although the good body and luscious fruit will certainly hold it for a year or two under reasonably good storage conditions.

Pinot Grigio = "Pee-noe Gree-joe"
Collio = "Cole-yoe"

Here's a link to distributor Marc De Grazia's page on Renato Keber, including links to many of his wines including the 2004 Pinot Grigio.

Query for prices and vendors for Renato Keber's Pinot Grigio:

To read and comment on today's column in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, click directly to the online conversation at

Today's article is also posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community.

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

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Connoisseurs Series
The Connoisseurs' Series:
Unparalleled excellence in California wine

Membership in California Wine Club's elite Connoisseurs' Series is now available to readers and 30 Second Wine Advisor subscribers.

The Connoisseur's Series is the only wine club in America that can guarantee a monthly wine shipment of impossible-to-find, 90-plus-rated wines - each and every time. Whether you choose to receive wines monthly, every other month or quarterly, every shipment is guaranteed to include two to four bottles of California's highest-rated wines, along with detailed tasting notes, cellaring recommendations and winemaker comments. Monthly shipments average $125-$175, including all shipping and handling. Membership costs nothing, you may cancel at any time, and every wine is 100 percent guaranteed.

Personally, I'm sold on this club. High-end California wine can be a real minefield, but when I'm in the market - seeking a wine for review or simply for my own enjoyment - I rely on Connoisseurs' Series. I can count on their selections every time.

Visit or call The California Wine Club at 1-800-777-4443 to learn more about The Connoisseur's Series. Feel free to tell them that I sent you ... and, if you join, please don't hesitate to contact me by E-mail and tell me what you think.

These recent Connoisseurs' Series reds, still available to new members, impressed me very much.

Jaffurs Jaffurs 2002 Santa Barbara County Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah ($42 retail, $34 per bottle for half or full case orders from Connoisseurs' Series)

This big, powerful Syrah from a respected Central Coast producer that specializes in Rhone-style varieties even looks massive in the glass, with its inky, opaque blackish-purple color. It's no one-dimensional monolith, though, with raw beef and fragrant black pepper aromas adding complexity and a whiff of the Northern Rhone to California-style power and ripe, plummy fruit. Spicy black-fruit flavors follow the nose, big and structured and very well balanced; this big boy carries its hulking 15 percent alcohol with style and grace. A natural match for grilled beef and went very well with lean, juicy burgers fashioned from grass-fed local beef. Only 387 cases produced. Winery Website: (May 29, 2006)

Reverie Reverie Winery 2001 Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Red Table Wine ($75 retail, $64 per bottle for half or full case orders from Connoisseurs' Series)

Another robust red that signals its intensity even in its color, this Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend is such a dark and shiny black that it puts me in mind of patent leather, with dark-purple glints against the light. Deep and intense aromas offer classic "cassis" blackcurrant, black plums and cherries with aromatic back notes of menthol and cedar. Mouth-filling and properly acidic, it's fruit-forward, but a sturdy structure of acidity and tannins hold it up well. Smooth tannins and fine black-cherry and subtle conifer notes add elegance in the finish. Impressive but still very young, will benefit from cellar time. Another robust red that needs beef, it went very well with natural Kentucky Green River rib eye steaks. A total of 850 cases were made. Winery Website: (May 31, 2006)

Fun wine link

This British gent has his tongue firmly in his cheek - maybe - as he straight-facedly asserts that there's a relationship between the depth of the "punt" (the deep indentation in the bottom of most wine bottles) and the value of the wine. He offers plenty of "scientific" validation, including a well-scattered scatter graph, in support of his hypothesis. It's a fine wine-related chuckle for a Monday morning. Click

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Vino 101: Pop the Cork on Wine Training
Have you ever dined in a restaurant and asked the server for a wine recommendation, only to receive a blank stare? Restaurant operators have to struggle to train service staff in wine. In this new feature, wine educator Jorge Castillo of Vino 101 LLC offers our readers his unusual perspective on wine education. The focus is on food-service and wine-industry professionals, but we believe consumer wine enthusiasts will enjoy Jorge's clear, informative articles too.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

Poll: Parker's influence on wine
Articles about the American wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. almost always attach adjectives like "powerful" and "influential" to his name, and discussions about the wine industry invariably turn to Parker and whether the purported influence of his 40,000 circulation newsletter, Wine Advocate has changed international wine styles as producers seek to make wines to please his palate. Now it's your turn to judge, as our Netscape WineLovers Community online poll invites you to rate Parker's influence on wine as good, neutral, bad or irrelevant. Please take a moment to vote, as the larger the turnout, the more meaningful the results; extra credit if you'll stay to post a comment.

Advice on growing grapes ... in a pot
Can a wine geek grow a grapevine in a pot? A gag Father's Day present inspires this half-serious question, and our forum experts come up with some surprisingly useful responses. Read them, and add your own comments if you've got 'em, in this topic.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Second verse, just like the first (June 16, 2006)

 Summer bubbles (June 14, 2006)

 Grape jelly to fine wine (June 12, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Bresaola cheese packets (June 15, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, June 19, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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