Pinot Grigio 

In Italy, they tend to pick their Pinot Grigio earlier than they do in France (where it's called Pinot Gris). The result tends to be a bit racier and leaner in style, the perfect thing for spring quaffing. That said, the wines that made the cut here are all surprisingly rich though they manage to maintain nicely vibrant acidity. All are from the Tre Venezie of northeast Italy, representing the regions of Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli with vineyards situated along the foothills of the Alps. Thank the cool nights for keeping the acidity up—blame global warming for riper grapes and more opulent wines. Not a bad thing really, just a shift in style. Only one point separated the top three wines:

2005 Bottega Vinala Pinot Grigio, Trentino, $17.99

Definitely on the richer side of the Pinot Grigio spectrum with robust aromas of creamy citrus, fig and spice. Sweet and supple fruit flavors are just balanced by crisp acidity, with ripe apple, melon and subtle apricot taking the lead on the palate. A deeply extracted wine with a long, velvety finish and just the right hit of cleansing citrus. Save this one for sipping during the cooler part of the day.

2005 Riff Pinot Grigio, Venezie, $9.99

Forward aromas of mandarin orange and soft lime are backed by mineral and toast. The flavors are all green apple and sweet citrus, very crisp and refreshing. The vibrant finish is punctuated by lemon zest, melon and a nice bit of mineral. Riff is a secondary label made from sourced grapes by Alois Lagedar. A consistent best buy, this 2005 is no exception, stylistically weighing in more on the lean and racy side.

2005 Tommasi Viticoltori Pinot Grigio, Veneto, $12.99

Spicy apricot and honeyed melon aromas with light touches of clover and fresh grass. The spice component carries through on the palate, which has a nice richness dominated by sweet citrus, melon and tropical fruit flavors. The finish is clean and lightly crisp with nuances of ripe stone fruit and fig. All the grapes come from the Tommasi family vineyard of Le Rosse, which is planted entirely in Pinot Grigio.

This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing

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