It's pinot gris in France, pinot grigio in Italy, but in the rest of the world, it's anything goes. Although they're the same variety of grapes, they often produce very different wines. Typically, grapes for bottles labeled pinot gris are harvested a bit later, resulting in wines that are fuller and richer than their grigio counterparts. The panel's top wines hail from three exceptional regions known for producing top-quality examples of the grape: northern Italy, Alsace and the Willamette Valley. Here are this week's picks:
2011 Elk Cove Pinot Gris, $17.99
This Oregon winery is known for its delicious, oh-so-rich pinot gris, but its 2011 offering dials things back a bit, offering a balanced style that I find even more appealing. Spicy peach and citrus aromas lead off. The flavors are a big mouthful of creamy stone fruit and ripe citrus, perfectly complemented by a bracing core of acidity. This is one of the best Oregon pinot gris I've tasted to date.
2011 Gaierhof Pinot Grigio, $17.99
From the Trentino region of northern Italy, this wine's aromas are surprisingly rich. You get a complex mix of pear, green apple and nectarine, colored by honeysuckle and herb. The flavors start out lean and lively, with crisp peach and citrus, turning round and ripe on the mid-palate, then finishing with a refreshing hit of food-friendly acidity.
2010 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris, Cuvee Romanus, $21
The Albrecht family has been making wine in the French region of Alsace since the 15th century, so it must be doing something right. This wine is a definite winner with its aromas of unctuous white peach and apple, backed by intriguing touches of clove and bacon fat. The flavors are absolutely sumptuous--candied fruit playing against crisp lemon and lime. The supple but lively finish lingers nicely.