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

Odds and ends and wines to try

Odd n’ ends… As you know, each year around the 15th of November, the first wine of the 2008 vintage from the Beaujolais region in France is released to the public with great fanfare and celebration.That’s right, Beaujolais Nouveau time is upon us and this year’s wine is very good.

In terms of drinkability, Beaujolais Nouveau can be a lively, frothy, strawberry fruit- forward mouthful of wine.  At its best, the wine is a pleasant quaffer that is never meant to be taken too seriously, but rather to be enjoyed and celebrated. Even when the wine is ordinary, it’s still something I look forward to each year.

In cafes and wine shops all around the world, people are buying  Beaujolais Nouveau to toast the new vintage year and to prepare their palates (and wallets)  for the holiday wine-buying season to come. More...If you haven’t yet sipped the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau, I recommend the Georges Duboeuf ($14). With a mouth-tingling frothiness and aromas of strawberries, this is a very tasty wine that will match up well with an assortment of mild cheeses or a frittata of eggs, Italian sausage and red and green peppers.


Wine and beef lovers should take a trip over to Huntington and sample the goodies at Frankie D’s Italian Chop House. Frankie D’s specializes in using “choice” beef and serves up reasonably priced dishes of you favorite cuts of red meat.  The menu also includes seafood and pasta, along with a martini bar and an extensive wine list.

The wine list boasts a fairly comprehensive selection of cabernet sauvignon with a price to meet just about every pocket book. On my visit, we paired the wines of Vigna Dogarina from the Veneto region of northern Italy with a four course meal highlighted by a delicious crabmeat- topped eight ounce filet.

Accompanying this dish was the 2004 Vigna Dogarina Decano ($24 retail price). This wine is a blend of 55% cabernet and 45% merlot, and fills the glass with chocolate and mint aromas. In the mouth it is silky, round and rich with flavors of black cherry and anise.

Give Frankie D’s a try. It’s located in Pullman Square. You might call ahead (304-781-3022) for reservations.


Hat’s off to Kroger for the renewed emphasis the company is placing on wine. The store at Ashton Place has completely rearranged and relocated the wine department and has hired Lisa Cicconi to manage the operation. Lisa is a long-time wine lover who is also a knowledgeable wine enthusiast. Look her up the next time you’re shopping at Ashton Place.

Three reds to try: 2004 Wild Oak Cabernet Sauvignon ($27) – This is a finely structured cabernet from St. Francis winery, and is a blend of several Sonoma County appellations and integrates merlot and petit verdot into the finished product. Approachable now, this wine should improve for another five to seven years. Grill a T-bone with this baby.

2004 Rivola Sardon De Duero ($18) - Rich, ruby red blend of tempranillo and cabernet, this Spanish wine has understated aromas of vanilla and plums with flavors of dark fruit and spice. Try it with pork tenderloin rubbed with olive oil, garlic and black pepper and roasted in a bath of wine.

2005 Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabernet ($30) -   One of my favorite all-time wineries, Sebastiani produced an elegant wine from the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County. This wine, like other Alexander Valley cabernets such as Jordan and Chalk Hill and Silver Oak, have the appellation’s smooth tannins along with earthy, spicy black currant flavors. A holiday season beef rib roast would be the perfect match with this wine.

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