Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Lovely Fall Wines

It’s Labor Day weekend and I’m smiling ear to ear.

Why? Well, it’s almost fall and that means football season has arrived, leaves on the trees will soon be painting our beautiful mountains with a palette of autumn colors and, best of all, the harvesting of wine grapes is in full swing.

In my little corner of the world, the harvest also means a few hardy souls will join me in transforming some of those grapes into wine right here in West-By-Golly. As a matter of fact, this old geezer has been making wine each fall since 1977.

Since I’m not a formally trained wine maker or a chemist, I have learned from other more experienced amateurs how, for example, to use my eyes, nose and taste buds to determine how to coax the best from the grapes or juice I’m fermenting. I’ve also come to the conclusion that a good home wine maker is, first and foremost, a good steward (i.e., keep equipment clean, the barrels topped up, don’t use too much sulfite, etc.).


Over the years, I have used a number of different varietals to make wine, including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, petit sirah, grenache, zinfandel and sangiovese. And yes, I am an amateur, but I’m also serious about trying to capture the best possible flavors from the grapes or juice I buy. So, assuming that I acquire reasonably good grapes, I can usually produce a very drinkable wine.

And while I’ve made a lot of good wine over the years, I know most of you will never engage in the process of producing your own wine. So, today I’m going to recommend several wines that will complement your enjoyment of fall. Whether you’re tailgating before that big game, enjoying a hike in our majestic mountains or picnicking in your back yard, you might give these vinous lovelies a try.

2017 Chateau Ferry Lacombe Mira Rose’ ($18) – Ripe strawberry flavors highlight this dry rose’ from Provence in southern France. Pale orange in color, this wine is round, yet has excellent balance and would be a superb accompaniment to a cheese soufflé’.

2017 Izadi Blanco Rioja ($20) –From Rioja in northern Spain, this white, comprised of 80% Viura and 20% Malvasia, was barrel fermented for three months in French oak and features flavors of ripe apples and citrus. Round and ripe, it would be excellent paired with Paella or grilled monk fish.

2014 Collefrisio Confronto Bianco ($36) – This Italian white from Abruzzo in Italy is a chardonnay-like blend of pinot grigio and pecorino (the grape not the cheese) that is a rich and round, medium to full bodied wine. With almond and brioche nuances, this white would be a perfect match to veal saltimbocca.

2015 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore ($17) – From the Veneto region in northern Italy, this Valpolicella is a delicious quaff with flavors of ripe cherries and spice. This medium-bodied red would make a great accompaniment to chicken grilled and basted with a sweet barbecue sauce.

2015 Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors Rouge ($17) – This blend of syrah (70%) and grenache (30%) is a ripe, inky, purple mouthful of wine with smoky, blackberry flavors. Silky and smooth, this French red from Languedoc needs to be paired with a full-flavored meat dish such as smoked beef brisket.

2015 Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna ($20) – From the island of Sardinia, this ripe grenache has fruit-forward flavors of dark cherries and black pepper. Aged in French oak, drink it with grilled Italian sausage and fried (sweet) bell and (hot) banana peppers.
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