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You Say Grigio, I Say Gris

Pinot gris trio

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Pinot gris and pinot grigio are the same variety--two names, one grape. A clone of pinot noir, the grape sports a gray skin (hence the name) and can produce wines that vary widely in color and style. The Italian (grigio) tends to be dry and crisp, whereas the French version (gris) offers richer fruit and lighter acidity. Elsewhere, winemakers tend to label the wine according to those different styles. For this week's tasting, we opted for pinot gris, as the extra richness makes for a great transition to white for spring. Here are the panel's top three picks:

2012 Kings Ridge Pinot Gris, $12.99

Pinot gris has found a happy home in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where it's one of that region's most successful white wine grapes. Kings Ridge is a budget friendly example filled with peach and tropical fruit aromas. In the mouth, there's a nice core of ripe stone fruit flavors, surrounded by crisp citrus. A touch of mineral and black walnut comes through on the finish.

2011 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris, Cuvee Romanus, $21

This wine's aromas are light but intriguing with caramelized apple playing against sour melon, both backed by a touch of mineral-laced, ocean air. On the palate, it opens with sweet fruit flavors marked by ripe apple and peach that give way to tart melon and blood orange. Overall, this Alsatian entry is an exceptionally well balanced wine with a deliciously creamy fruit finish.

2012 Seven of Hearts Pinot Gris, $12.99

Another great buy from Oregon's Willamette Valley, this wine offers elegant floral aromas of citrus blossom and honeysuckle, colored by a whiff of lime zest. The flavors are round, ripe and racy with bright citrus, apricot and melon fruit. On the leaner side of the pinot gris spectrum, this wine's finish is crisp and refreshing with a food-friendly hit of acidity.