Of Teeth and Tannins

Eastside dentist makes award-winning wines

Isn’t it nice when one of your professions helps support the other? Meet Dr. Kit Singh, Redmond dentist and Woodinville winemaker at Lauren Ashton Cellars.

Everyone knows what a steady diet of cab or merlot does to your teeth, right? It can stain them. What can your dentist do for your teeth? Whiten them.

And that is what’s called kismet.

This enamel yin and yang is not lost on the doctor. He is fully aware that his passion for the grape is not terribly good for his patients’ teeth. But wine is delicious. How can he deny them the pleasure? He’s like a life insurance salesman who also runs a sky-diving business. “I love all wine drinkers,” says Singh. “I live by the principle of everything in moderation. Including moderation.”

Singh is as interesting a blend as some of his wines. His ancestry can be traced back to India, but he was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago before moving stateside after high school. He and his family have called the Eastside home ever since. He has a strong connection to family — the winery, Lauren Ashton Cellars, is named after his two kids, and on the label of every bottle are pictures from Estonia, where his wife is from.

Singh, as a first-generation immigrant, is completely enamored of Washington. The tagline for his winery is “True Washington Character.”

“I am really all over that,” says Singh. “It is truly what I believe. I think you’re able to taste Washington. I believe we have probably close to the greatest, if not the greatest, wine-growing region in the world. I think we’re better than California.” Singh feels that on the world stage the only reason France might have a leg up is because it’s had a several-century head start on learning where to grow the best grapes, but just give Washington some time.

Lauren Ashton Cellars is a relatively new winery, but has made its presence known in short order. Its first vintage all scored in the 90s. In fact, its 2009 Cuvee Arlette scored 95 points and was ranked as one of the top 100 wines in the country by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

So what does a dentist know about winemaking? “I didn’t just start it up as a hobby in my garage,” Sing says. “I’ve always had a love of chemistry, and a deep-rooted scientific background so I went back to school to learn viticulture and enology.” He then interned at DeLille Cellars in Woodinville. His dentistry training helped as well. “It all comes back to attention to detail,” says Singh. As a dentist I work on small, little teeth.”

Making wine has had another surprising fringe benefit to his dentistry practice. He’s suddenly become the cool dentist. “I’ve been a dentist since 1992, 24 years, says Singh. “People sort of think of dentists as dry guys, not a great sense of humor, but now that my patients have discovered that I’m also a winemaker I’ve suddenly become more interesting to my patients. I’m no longer the guy who just says to brush and floss. Some of my patients now actually ask me for recommendations on wine. They ask what I’ve been drinking lately. They now start asking when they’re going to get a bottle of wine before a root canal. I tell them we’re not quite as far advanced as the Europeans on that front.”

Imagine, your dentist giving you pairing suggestions and recommending a good red while he’s polishing away on your bicuspid. “Just make sure at the end of the night you brush and floss,” says Singh.

Once a dentist …

Keep red wine on the menu, not your teeth

1. Prepare your teeth
This sounds a bit crazy, but brushing your teeth after drinking red wine can actually do more harm than good. The acidity in the wine softens your enamel, causing brushing to be more abrasive than under normal (non-wino) circumstances. The solution: Brush before you drink. Wine stains the plaque that’s stuck on your teeth, so the more you can remove before drinking, the less likely your teeth are to stain.

2. Drink sparkling water
Drinking water, especially sparkling water, helps to clean the wine off of your teeth, keeping the acidity from building up over the course of the night (or day – no judgment).

3. Cheese it up
Eating hard cheeses while drinking wine is pretty standard, but did you know that it can help to keep wine from staining your teeth? The cheese can coat your teeth and act as a barrier to the wine’s acidity. Foods high in fiber also help by activating saliva glands that coat the mouth, giving it an extra layer of protection.

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