"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, send it to us via email at: 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.

Straight "A" Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc

2003, Warwick, Professor Black, Simonsberg $16, Grade A-
Stellenbosch , South Africa IE: A
2002, McCashins $17, Grade A
Nelson, New Zealand IE: A
2002, Rochioli, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $24, Grade A
Sonoma County, California IE: A
2002, Frog's Leap, Rutherford, Napa Valley $17, Grade A
Napa County, California IE: A
2002, Highfield $18, Grade A
Marlborough, New Zealand IE: A

Straight "A" Pinot Noir
2001, Sebastiani, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County $15, Grade A
Sonoma Coast, California IE: B+, A, B+, A WPL: BBC
2001, Rutz, Sonoma Coast $18, Grade A
Sonoma Coast, California IE: A
2001, Bergstrom, Willamette Valley $18, Grade A
Willamette Valley, Oregon IE: A-, A WPL: BBC
2001, Sebastiani, Appellation Selection, Russian River Valley $22, Grade A
Sonoma County, California IE: A
2001, Melville, Estate, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County $25, Grade A
Santa Barbara County, California IE: A, B+, A+ WPL: BBC

Straight "A" Chardonnay
2001, Mount Eden, West Slope, Edna Ranch, Edna Valley $12, Grade A
San Luis Obispo County, California IE: A
2002, Rosemount, Hill of Gold, Mudgee $13, Grade A
New South Wales, Australia IE: A
2001, Navarro, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County $18, Grade A
Mendocino County, California IE: A
2001, Hess Collection, Napa Valley $19, Grade A
Napa Valley, California IE: A
2001, Merryvale, Starmont, Napa Valley $19, Grade A
Napa Valley, California IE: A

Straight "A" Syrah
2001, Scott Harvey, Mountain Selection, Sierra Foothills $12, Grade A
Sierra Foothills, California IE: AX
2002, Barnard Griffin, Columbia Valley $14, Grade A
Columbia Valley, Washington IE: A
2002, Rosemount, Hill of Gold, Mudgee $17, Grade A
New South Wales, Australia IE: A
2002, Goat-Roti $18, Grade A
Western Cape, South Africa IE: A
2002, Clonakilla, Hilltops $19, Grade A
New South Wales, Australia IE: A
Finally. The definitive definition of good wine....

“The only good wine is the one you like.”

—Lois Stansberry, St. Supery Vineyards


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.


About VinConnections:
VinConnections is a free monthly newsletter of top-rated wines, published by the Wine PocketList, a comprehensive online database of top-rated wines for $30 a bottle or less. VinConnections publishes only a very small handful of the wines available in our comprehensive database. Complete listings of over 10,000 wines are available only to Wine PocketList subscribers.


Our mission is to inform and educate everyday wine lovers like us who enjoy a good bottle of wine, help locate great wine values and confidently broaden both your and our tasting horizons.


About the Wine PocketList:
The Wine PocketList
is a critically acclaimed online database containing thousands of recent wine ratings & reviews culled from top wine periodicals, and exclusive tastings from our publishers and advisory board.

Subscribers can search, save and print custom buying guides sorted by a variety of criteria (Varietal, region, category, price range, etc), getting hundreds of brand-new reviews each month as they're published.

Every wine is highly rated, and every wine is $30 or under. To see a demo for yourself, click here.

  If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to email us
or contact us directly. We
are very interested in
hearing from you!


Michael Hinshaw, Publisher
John Vankat, Founder and Contributing Editor
Denise della Santina, Editor

The Wine PocketList

VinConnections is a Wine PocketList service. (c) Copyright 2003, The Wine PocketList and The Innes Group, Inc. You may forward this newsletter if you do not cut or alter it.

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