Riesling is perhaps the most underappreciated of the noble grape varieties. Too many people dismiss it as a sweet and simple white, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, it is responsible for some of the finest dessert wines on the planet, but it can also be made in a drier style that offers rich fruit balanced by bracing acidity. Riesling is a great summer sipper on its own and works well with any number of difficult dishes, including spicy Asian cuisine. Try any of the panel's top three.
2012 Kung Fu Girl, $12.99
A Washington entry from stalwart winemaker Charles Smith, this wine opens with spicy apple and stone fruit aromas backed by touches of wet slate and wild yeast. The palate has an undeniable richness with juicy apricot, plum and sweet apple, that's all kept in line by a sparkling hit of acidity. The lively finish is marked by mandarin orange and a nice minerality.
2012 Vickers Riesling, $12.99
Idaho's own Kirby Vickers is best known for his chardonnays (among the finest in the Northwest) and his uncompromising standards (he refuses to release vintages he finds to be unworthy). Now he has extended his talent to riesling with equal success. The aromas here are refined and elegant with juicy apple, citrus and mineral. The palate is filled with apricot fruit that is balanced by racy citrus. This wine is more proof that riesling thrives in the Northwest.
2011 Zum Riesling, $9.99
Germany is the original home of the riesling grape, and this entry-level wine from the Mosel region provides a lot of bang for the buck. The nose offers lovely scents of plum, apricot, tart apple and an intriguing touch of buttered popcorn. There's a nice richness to the palate that's a well-balanced mix of ripe, tropical and stone fruit, matched by crisp lemon and lime. Spicy elements color the wine's refreshing finish.