Vin Connections (June 2004)


“Only drink white wine with fish!?” Uh, no. We don’t think so. In our opinion these kinds of “rules” can do more harm than good, especially when it comes to expanding your tasting experience and drinking more great wines. That’s why we’re backing up our opinion in this issue, giving you a wide selection of all “A” rated whites and reds to go with your summer seafood dishes.

It’s summertime; the ideal season for seafood dishes enjoyed with the wines that help them taste their best. The fact is, there are so many kinds of seafood to try and many more ways to prepare them. So when choosing wines to pair with the dishes you enjoy, the choices are myriad. In fact, choosing great wine for any fish recipe is no different than choosing wine for any food type, cooking style or occasion.

That’s because when it comes to wine choices there’s no hard and fast “rule” for pairing food and wine. I’ve had some very memorable meals drinking Pinot Noir and even Cabernet with the right fish. Sure, there are some guidelines that can help you find wines that will fit a particular dish better than others, and I’ll share a couple below. But at the end of the day (or the meal!) it’s really all about what tastes good to you.

This Month’s Reader Question:
“Do I have to drink only white wine with fish?”

June Wine Picks: The Straight “A” Issue — 20 “A” Rated Wines Perfect for Seafood:
Straight “A” Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc
Straight “A” Pinot Noir
Straight “A” Chardonnay
Straight “A” Syrah

This Month’s Quote:
Finally THE definition of good wine….


Summer’s the Season for Seafood. . . and the (“A” rated) Wines that go With it.

“I love to cook, and am a big seafood fan particularly during the summertime. My mom always told me if I cook fish, white wine is what I need to drink with it. Do I have to drink only white wine with fish?”

—Sherry Milton-Edwards, Phoenix, Arizona

The short answer is no — you can drink whatever you want with whatever you want. I know it’s tough to break with family tradition, but there’s no time like the present. I’m not saying your mom is totally off base — many seafood dishes are “lighter”, and, when simply prepared with a little lemon and butter, a big cab would blow it away.

But there are so many different kinds of fish and ways to prepare fish that any “up front” limitation you put on the wine choice to go with it could really short change your experience — after all, fish is only one component of the dish. Though medium-weight whites are a safe bet with almost any seafood, most wines — red and white — can hold their own next to all but the most intensely flavored fish.

Since you’re a cook, you know that creating great dishes is a complex process, and the flavors and textures are easily altered. So match your wine to the dominant textures and flavors in your food. A delicate seafood dish (like raw oysters) begs for a lighter wine; a Syrah would wipe out the delicate taste of the oysters. But put that same wine with spicy shrimp scampi, and you won’t even taste it. And that same Syrah will shine.

So if you’re going to follow any general rule of thumb, it’s this: the flavor of the wine shouldn’t prevail over the food, and the food shouldn’t be stronger than the wine.

That’s why in this issue of VinConnections, we’ll point you to some Sauvignon and Fumé Blanc’s to enjoy with your bi-valves, along with make-your-mouth-water chardonnay. And we’ll share some reds you’re likely to love with salmon or sea bass, or whatever other seafood creature you most enjoy baked, fried, barbecued or broiled. So drink, and enjoy…

[Do you have a wine-related question you’d like to ask? If so, contact us and you may see it answered in an upcoming issue!]


What’s in a score? At the Wine PocketList, we utilize a grading system that most people intuitively grasp. Letter grades. After all, which of us doesn’t understand that an A+ is the best you can get? Or that a C is mediocre? In this issue, we’ve picked only “A” rated wines to shine with your summer seafood dishes. Representing (on average) about 20% of the wines in the Wine PocketList database, an “A” rated wine is exceptional; it should knock your socks off, and is highly recommended with fabulous taste, finish and body.

California Viognier: A rich full-bodied white comes into its own.

2002 Viognier, Kunde, Sonoma Valley
Sonoma County, CA
IE: A-$23, Grade A-
2002 Viognier, Jaffurs
Santa Barbara County, CA
IE: A$23, Grade A
2002 Viognier, Eberle, Mill Road Vineyard, Paso Robles
San Luis Obispo County, CA, USA
IE: B+$18, Grade B+
2002 Viognier, Zaca Mesa, Santa Ynez Valley
Santa Barbara County, CA
IE: A-$16, Grade A-
2002 Viognier, Praxis, Lodi
San Joaquin County, CA
IE: B+$15, Grade B+

Perfect for grilling: Buy by-the-Case Shiraz!

2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Rosenblum, Fess Parker Vineyard
Santa Barbara County, CA
IE: A-, A24, Grade A
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Longoria, Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara County, CA
IE: A, A-$22, Grade A
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Voss, Shiraz, Napa Valley
Napa County, CA, USA
IE: B+, A$20, Grade A-
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Taltarni, Shiraz, Pyrenees
Victoria, Australia
IE: A-, B+$19, Grade A-
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Reynolds, Reserve
New South Wales, Australia
IE: B+, A$15, Grade A-

Crisp, clean and vibrant: Pinot Grigio is summer defined!

2002 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, MacMurray Ranch
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA
IE: A+$23, Grade A+
2002 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Elk Cove
Willamette Valley, OR, USA
IE: A$15, Grade A
2002 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Ponzi, Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley, OR, USA
IE: A-, A-$13, Grade A-
2002 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Eola Hills
Willamette Valley, OR, USA
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2001 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Domaine La Due
Carneros, Napa County, CA
IE: B+$10, Grade B+

Bargain Whites, $10 and under: Fumé Blanc and fruity Rieslings

2002 Riesling, Angels Gate, Niagara Peninsula
Ontario, Canada
IE: A-$10, Grade A-
2002 Riesling, Kiona, White Riesling
Columbia Valley, WA, USA
IE: B+$8, Grade B+
2002 Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, Barnard Griffin, Fumé Blanc
Columbia Valley, WA, USA
IE: B+$8, Grade B+
2002 Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc, Penascal,
Vino de la Tierre de Castilla y Leon
IE: B+$7, Grade B+
2002 Riesling, Avery Lane, Johannisberg, Columbia Valley
Columbia Valley, WA
IE: B+$7, Grade B+

Wine Quote

A Classic Quote… and Our Take On It…

“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.”

—Anthelme Brillat Savarin
Renowned French Food Critic, Author and Gourmet

“Any day with sunshine calls for a good meal and great wine…”

—Michael Hinshaw
Publisher, the Wine PocketList


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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