Vin Connections Summer Wines (June 2003)


Summer Wines
Some of our favorites for poolside, BBQ and sultry summer nights, as once obscure white wines step forward and robust reds pair up with food from the grill.

Once again inspired by this month’s reader question, we’ve brought together a few of our summer favorites for you to enjoy with friends and family as you relax at the beach, the rooftop, or wherever your summer travels take you.

While we’ve included some predictable summer favorites like luscious, full-bodied Shiraz and fruity Rieslings, the surge in popularity of Chardonnay-alternatives Viognier and Pinot Grigio mirrors their undeniable qualities – and their deserved prominence in our summer picks.

Viognier: An obscure French grape? Not anymore.

This full-bodied and distinctive white is appreciated for its rich flavors. Once an obscure French grape, there were fewer than 75 acres of Viognier in the world before 1980. That’s particularly surprising since some believe it has been around for over 2000 years, first brought to the Rhone by the Romans.

A historically difficult and low-yielding grape to grow, the wine itself is a wonderful treat, with the color and nose hinting at something sweet, but the actual taste being somewhat drier and more nuanced. Don’t let the pronunciation intimidate you (Vee-oh-nyay), as the wine itself most certainly won’t intimidate or disappoint.

Pinot Grigio: Pinot Noir’s Cousin Grabs the Spotlight.

Another once obscure grape, Pinot Grigio has grown wildly in popularity in recent years. In 2001, Italian Pinot Grigio was reportedly the #1 imported wine type in the U.S., with the varietal accounting for 11% of all imported table wine consumed.

Pinot Gris and Grigio are identical, so in the U.S. vintners typically choose the name that best fits the style of wine they’re making: In Europe, Pinot Gris is at its historical best in the Alsace region of France, where it’s often sweet, spicy and rich. Pinot Grigio is the Italian version, a refreshingly clean, crisp and vibrant style of wine. No matter what you call it, this light, crisp and dry white cousin of Pinot Noir (which it resembles in the field) is a fresh and lively addition to any summer menu.

Both Viognier and Pinot Grigio are meant to be drunk young, and typically don’t gain much by cellaring. My advice? Drink them both early…and often.

No matter what wines you choose to drink this summer, enjoy them all, and the days and nights that surround them.


  • This Month’s Reader Question:
    “What wines do you usually prefer for summer?”
    (Ed: I guess “all of them” doesn’t count as an answer, does it?)
  • This Month’s Wine Pick:
  • This Month’s Quote:
    Robert Mondavi – Happy Birthday!


“What wines do you usually prefer for summer?”
(Ed: I guess “all of them” doesn’t count as an answer, does it?)

Q. “After a recent dinner party (on our first really hot night of the season) accompanied by the standard Chardonnay to start and Cabernet with the BBQ, I wondered if there was something better to drink this time of year. What wines do you usually prefer for summertime?”
— Alison Harney, Austin, Texas

A. In general, we tend to stay away from big, tannic reds (unless we’re bbq’ing a whole lamb on a spit) or bold, oaky chardonnays during the hot months. As the summer heats up, there is no better way to cool down than with a refreshing glass of crisp wine. With the exception of Shiraz (also known as Syrah, same grape) – my favorite these days for barbecued anything – my top summer wine selections are light, fruity and refreshing – perfect to enjoy as you soak up the sun or relax on a balmy evening.

I think that summer is time for wines that are, in general, a bit lighter. For whites, I enjoy Fumй and Sauvignon Blanc, Rieslings, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and my (current) personal summer favorite, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris. If red better suits your taste or your meal, look for Chianti, Beaujolais, Rosй, Pinot Noir, and some lighter Zinfandels.

While subscribers can find hundreds of great summer wines, we’ve highlighted 20 below that you’ll be sure to enjoy the next time you sit down for dinner this summer.


VIOGNIER: A rich, full-bodied white comes into its own

2001 Viognier, Andrew Murray “Santa Ynez Valley”
USA, CA, Santa Barbara County
IE: A$25, Grade A
2000 Viognier, Consilience
USA, CA, Santa Barbara County
IE: A-$21, Grade A-
2001 Viognier, Eberle “Mill Road Vineyard, Paso Robles”
USA, CA, San Luis Obispo County
IE: B+, A-$18, Grade B+
2001 Viognier, Callaway “Coastal Reserve”
IE: B+$15, Grade B+
2001 Viognier, Echelon “Esperanza Vineyards”
IE: B+$13, Grade B+

BBQ BUY-BY-THE-CASE: Perfect for grilling – Syrah/Shiraz!

2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Edmunds St. John “Wylie-Fenaughty,
Sierra Foothills”
USA, CA, El Dorado County
E: A+, A-$30, Grade A
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Cline “Los Carneros”
IE: A, A-$28, Grade A-
1999 Syrah/Shiraz, Penfolds “Kalimna Bin 28”
South Australia
IE: A-, B+, A$24, Grade A-
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Ch. Souverain “Alexander Valley”
USA, CA, Sonoma County
IE: B+, A-, B, A+$20, Grade A-
1999 Syrah/Shiraz, Penley “Hyland, Coonawarra”
South Australia
IE: A-, A$25, Grade A-

PINOT GRIGIO/GRIS: Crisp, clean and vibrant

2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Navarro
“Anderson Valley, Mendocino County”
IE: A+$16, Grade A+
2000 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Vieil Armand Tokay “Grand Cru Ollviller”
France, Alsace
IE: A$22, Grade A
2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Luna
USA, CA, Napa Valley
IE: A$20, Grade A
2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Marco Felluga “Collio”
Italy Friuli
IE: B+$15, Grade B+
2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Stone Wolf
IE: B+$10, Grade B+

BARGAIN WINES: Fumй Blanc and fruity Rieslings

2002 Sauvignon/Fumй Blanc, Brampton
South Africa, Coastal
IE: B+
$10, Grade B+
2001 Riesling, P. J. Valckenberg “QbA, Trocken”
Germany, Rheinhessen
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2001 Sauvignon/Fumй Blanc, Caterina “Columbia Valley”
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2001 Riesling, St. Urbans-Hof “QbA
Germany, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
IE: A-$15, Grade A-
2001 Riesling, Schloss Schцnborn “Kabinett”
Germany, Rheingau
IE: B+$10, Grade B+

Wine Quote

Robert Mondavi – Happy Birthday!

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.”
Robert Mondavi

Ed. Note: What a life to live! Happy Birthday to Mr. Mondavi, who, in addition to almost single-handedly creating and promoting the vision behind the California wine industry of today, turned 90 this Wednesday, June 18th.


Understanding our System

Grade: [A-]
Our grades represent a composite score developed using our proprietary system to blend wine quality and scoring information.

Vintage: 1999
This describes both the year of the actual grape harvest as well as the year the wine was made.

Price: $12
The prices quoted in the WPL are the “suggested retail prices” quoted by the wineries and the distributors. Though these are close to what you’d pay at the winery, you’ll often find discounts of 20% and more off these prices at retail.

Individual Evaluations: IE: A, A-, B+
This represents the number of individual reviews and ratings on which the composite grade is based, primarily representing individual reviews in top wine periodicals converted to our scale, and ratings by our tasting panel.

Wine PocketList Exclusive Categories: WPL: BBC, W, S, B
These are four exclusive WPL categories, and many wines rated by the PocketList will fall into one of these special designations.

[W] Widely Available:
These wines typically have bottling of 20,000 cases or more, making them widely available in most regions of the U.S.

[BBC] Top Buy-by-the-Case:
Based on multiple, outstanding reviews and a solid history, these are wines you can purchase by the case to grow your cellar with confidence today, and into the future!

[B] Bargain Wines:
Top-rated wines for $10 or less. Most of these can go head to head with a typical $30 bottle sporting a fancy label . . . and beat it hands down.

[S] Splurge Wines:
For most of us, spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine isn’t something we do lightly. These are wines that, while more expensive, are well worth the price.

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