The French call it Pinot Gris, the Italians, Pinot Grigio-different names for the same grape that stylistically can produce very different wines. The French model leans toward the richer end of the scale. In Italy, the grape is usually picked before it becomes fully ripe, resulting in a crisper, more refreshing wine. Here in the States, wineries tend to label the variety accordingly, the name reflecting the style they're trying to create. That certainly held true in our tasting, and it helps when you go shopping for wine. Here are the panel's top picks in the domestic Pinot Gris/Grigio category.
2004 Elk Cove Pinot Gris, $13.99
Rich, ripe apricot fruit, honeyed peach, melon and gooseberry fruit aromas backed by hazelnut, almonds and herb. Just as big and rich in the mouth with creamy peach and apple fruit flavors followed by hints of almond and basil. Finishes with soft citrus and a touch of lemon zest. This winner from Oregon proved a hit with the panel across the board.
2003 King Estate Pinot Gris, $13.99
Softly floral peach aromas that open up considerably with some time in the glass, this Oregon estate consistently makes top wines on the lighter side of the French Gris style. Not a big wine, but beautifully balanced, offering honeydew melon, subtle lemon, green apple, grapefruit and a hint of spice. An elegantly clean finish with good carry through-should be a great match for spring run salmon.
2004 Twin Fin Pinot Grigio, $7.99
The undisputed bargain of the bunch, this California entry sports a screw cap, and true to its Grigio name, offers a refreshingly crisp style. Starts off with lightly sweet aromas of ripe gooseberry, pineapple, fig, lime and vanilla. Nice bright fruit in the mouth with tart apple, grapefruit, pineapple and mango. Finishes with a zippy hit of citrus that keeps you coming back for more.
This Week's Panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Eric Arthur McDonald, Hayden Beverage; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing.