BBQ. For most, the phrase conjures up images of warm summer nights, dinner with pals and a bottle (or two) of great vino. Of course, we’ve also been known to huddle over the grill in the mid-January rain for that perfect burger. But since summer’s almost here, we’re picking them now, so you, like us, can pick ‘em early and often...

In the English language, it turns out that the word ‘barbecue’ has at least four different meanings:

  • Something you cook on (“I just got a 780 cubic inch gas barbecue with a rotisserie”)
  • How you cook (“Thanks, but I’d rather barbecue my brisket”)
  • What you’ve cooked (“I like my barbecue with white wine and corn”)
  • Where you’re going (“I’m going to a barbecue at Billie’s house”)


So get ready... with just one word, you’re getting four meanings, four categories of great wine and 20 perfect wine picks to go with it. In this issue we’ve brought together a group of wines that we think will become your favorites too, as you enjoy a grilled backyard feast with friends and family or relax at the beach, the rooftop, or wherever else your summer takes you.

While we’ve included some predictable 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. So no matter what you choose to grill or what you decide drink with them, enjoy them all, along with the sultry days and nights that surround you.

This Month’s Reader Question:
"What are the “perfect” wines for an early summer BBQ?"
This Month’s Wine Pick: 20 Wines, Each One Perfect for an Early (or Mid, or Late...) Summer BBQ.
California Viognier: A rich full-bodied white comes into its own.
Perfect for grilling: Buy by-the-Case Shiraz!
Crisp, clean and vibrant: Pinot Grigio is summer defined!
Bargain Whites, $10 and under: Fumé Blanc and fruity Rieslings
This Month’s Quote:
A Classic, Sunny Day Quote...and Our Interpretation...
Grilling Season is Almost Here...

“BBQ Season is just about on us, and we entertain by the grill all summer long. Whatever you can think of, we grill it. Can you give me some ideas for stocking my cellar in advance (actually, the closet in the back bedroom, but hey...) to cover all my bases?”

—Kevin Fie, Beaufort, South Carolina


You’ve given yourself lots of latitude with this question, Kevin... after all, when it comes to wine choices (whether BBQ, Seafood, Jambalaya or anything else) there’s no such thing as a “rule” for pairing food and wine. If it tastes great, I say drink up. After all, enjoying wine is all about what you - and your friends - like. That said, there are some generalities that might help as you choose the perfect wines for your grill-side gatherings.

In general, I 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’s no better way to cool down than with a refreshingly crisp glass of wine.

With the exception of Shiraz (also known as Syrah, same grape) - my favorite these days for barbecued anything - my top summer wine choices are light, fruity and refreshing. Perfect to enjoy as you soak up the sun after lunch, or relax on a balmy evening by the lake.

Overall, I think that summer is time for wines that are a bit lighter. For whites, I enjoy Fumé 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, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and some lighter Zinfandels.

While subscribers can find hundreds of great summer wines at, we’ve highlighted 20 below that you’ll be sure to enjoy the next time you sit down for a meal hot off the ‘cue....

[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!]

20 Under $15: Proof that great wine doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg!

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

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

Perfect for grilling: Buy by-the-Case Shiraz!
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Rosenblum, Fess Parker Vineyard $24, Grade A
Santa Barbara County, CA IE: A-, A WPL: BBC
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Longoria, Santa Barbara County $22, Grade A
Santa Barbara County, CA IE: A, A- WPL: BBC
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Voss, Shiraz, Napa Valley $20, Grade A-
Napa County, CA, USA IE: B+, A WPL: BBC
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Taltarni, Shiraz, Pyrenees $19, Grade A-
Victoria, Australia IE: A-, B+ WPL: BBC
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Reynolds, Reserve $15, Grade A-
New South Wales, Australia IE: B+, A WPL: BBC

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

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


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.

The Wine PocketList
Post Office Box 2867
San Rafael, CA 94901
Toll Free: 1-866-265-2652