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2008 ALMA ROSA PINOT GRIS

Being us, we began to think about food pairings with our first sips of this week's wine, the 2008 Alma Rosa Pinot Gris (about $18 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets) from veteran California growers and winemakers Richard and Thekla Sanford.In their Santa Rita Hills vineyards they specialize in organic, sustainable farming of pinot noir grapes. In the winery they craft pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc and pinot noir-vin gris (a rose), as well as chardonnay, which they also grow.

Even among food-friendly wines this highly structured pinot gris is a standout. It opens on a lightly floral note sustained by juicy peach and citrus. As it opens on the tongue it reveals a beautiful acidity, which gives the wine its long, clean, palate-cleansing finish, as well as mineral notes and hints of melon and ginger. In short, this gorgeous pinot gris is both complex and accessible.

As we sipped we decided this wine cried out for assertive food flavors, especially those involving fish, shellfish, chicken and pork. It would be a knockout with seafood-rich and spicy gumbo, Jamaican jerk chicken, a dense and buttery grilled monkfish or Cuban-style roast pork. It also would make a darling aperitif, whetting the appetite for whatever might come next.

By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.

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