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American Pinot Gris

Whether you call it Pinot Gris (as they do in the Alsace region of France) or Pinot Grigio (as they do in Italy), it's a great summer wine and the perfect choice for an afternoon picnic or an evening of Shakespeare. Stylistically, Pinot Grigio tends to be a bit leaner with bolder acidity than its softer, more perfumed French counterpart. In the United States, most wineries take this into account, choosing the name that best reflects the style they are trying to emulate. With one exception, this week's panel stuck with wines labeled Pinot Gris. Here are the panel's top three picks:

2005 Cline Pinot Grigio Chardonnay, $9.99

This California blend of 62 percent Pinot Grigio and 38 percent Chardonnay is something of an anomaly with its pineapple, grapefruit and herbal aromas—ones you don't usually get from Pinot Grigio. With its large dollop of Chardonnay, you might expect more richness in the mouth, but this wine is on the leaner side of the flavor spectrum with an unusual combo of grapefruit and lightly creamy apricot. It's an intriguing wine that would make a great aperitif or a nice accompaniment to lighter foods.

2005 Cloudline Pinot Gris, $12.99

This Oregon entry opens with spicy notes of lavender and peaches with just a subtle hint of straw. It's richer in the mouth than the Cline but with better acidity than most Pinot Gris, making it a great match with shellfish and most cheeses. And with its nice touch of spice backing, the soft peach and apricot flavors in the Cloudline would be a good choice to pair with Asian cuisines--especially Thai.

2005 Chateau Ste Michelle Pinot Gris, $9.99

This was a pleasant surprise from this Washington winery, and the richest wine of the group. The aromas explode from the glass with ripe citrus, floral white peach, orange zest and subtle hints of sage. Almost unctuous in the mouth, it has silky peach and honeyed melon flavors backed by very soft acidity. There's a cleansing hit of ripe lemon on the finish that helps balance things out. This classic Pinot Gris is at a great price and is perfect to pair with wild salmon.

This Week's Panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin, Boise; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Michael Molinengo, Idaho Wine Merchant; Steve Thies, Tastevin, Sun Valley.

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