The dog days of summer are upon us, that sweltering season marked by the conjunction of the sun and Sirius, the brightest star of Canis Major. The ancients believed that as the dog star rose and set with the sun, it bathed the earth with extra heat, making this time of year particularly sultry. The point being that when it's really hot outside, you want to be taking in something really refreshing like a well-chilled glass of Italian Pinot Grigio. The French call it Pinot Gris, and while they are the same grape (a grayish-blue colored variety related to Pinot Noir), the Italian version tends to be a little lighter and crisper, just the thing for the dog days. Here are the panel's top three picks:
2003 Maso Poli Pinot Grigio, $16.50
Displays a complex array of aromas with white peach, green apple, clover, spice and hints of basil and marigold. Fairly rich in the mouth as well with honeyed melon and papaya lightly balanced by a soft hit of citrus. A well-balanced wine with flavors that carry through on the creamy finish.
2004 Riff Pinot Grigio, $9.99
Ripe apple on the nose backed by fig, vanilla and toast. A completely refreshing wine marked by bright citrus fruit (lightly sweet lemon), green apple and hint of mineral on the crisp finish. Singled out by the Wine Spectator as one of the top 100 wine values under $15, it's the perfect pick for those 100-degree-plus days.
2003 Tenuta Setten Pinot Grigio, $11.99
Opens with fresh citrus and subtle toast that gives way to a richer component something like bacon and dried apricots. The ripe apricot fruit flavors are nicely balanced by crisper lemon and lime with a good hit of acidity on the finish. Like the Maso Poli, this wine is on the bigger style of the Pinot Grigio scale. Save them both for those evenings when the mercury plummets to the lower nineties.
This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; Jeff Crockett, Idaho Wine Merchant; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing.