- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Meridian, Pinot Grigio, California, 2005, $10

Pinot grigio, until recently, was not a California wine. It was exclusively Italian, made in a distinctive, somewhat idiosyncratic style. During the past decade, however, that style has exploded in popularity, particularly with American consumers. Not surprisingly, California vintners have taken note.

Pinot grigio is the Italian name for the grape grown in France as pinot gris. In France, particularly in Alsace, it yields rich, ripe white wines, a style long emulated by winemakers in other countries. But in Italy, where the grapes are picked earlier, the wines taste light and lean.

Until the recent surge in pinot grigio sales, few vintners elsewhere adopted this style. Now they have, especially in California.

The results have been mixed at best. Most California pinot grigios seem too heavy, lacking the vibrancy that makes the top Italian versions so appealing.

Meridian’s value-priced rendition is a surprising and satisfying exception. It’s the rare California pinot grigio that actually tastes flavorful and refreshing. It’s not as good as the best Italian wines, but it only costs half as much.

The fruit flavors in this light-bodied white resemble crisp apples and tangy citrus fruits. Since the flavors are subtle rather than overt, the wine easily can get overwhelmed by heavy foods. It’s perfect, though, when accompanying light, warm-weather fare, especially all sorts of salads.

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