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

Some wines (and stuff) for your holiday gift giving

Well, here we are again faced with that most enjoyable of all dilemmas: what wine to get for that loved one, friend or you this holiday season.


Normally, the pressures of holiday shopping are both frustrating and exceedingly difficult for me, but not when it comes to wine gifting!  Why?  Well, for me, securing a quality selection of top wines for the holidays is a labor of love and today I’ll share my top picks that should meet just about every budget.  


Let’s start, though, with some non-vinous gift recommendations for those in need of wine accoutrements (that’s French for “stuff”), or other goodies that are not liquid.   


I just finished reading and really enjoyed ”The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine” by Benjamin Wallace.  This real life mystery story  (which is still raging) recounts the alleged fraudulent sale of several bottles of 200- year old Chateau Lafite Rothschild to a billionaire who is bent on exacting pain from those he feels are responsible for the sham.  


The other book I suggest for your reading pleasure is “Wine and War:  The French, the Nazi’s and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure” by Donald and Petie Kladstrump.  This book recounts numerous stories of how individual French wine makers and their families fought to save their vineyards and wines from the invading Nazi’s. 

Both books are available in paperback and hard cover and can be found at local bookstores or ordered online.


There is nothing more pleasurable than sipping good wine from crystal stemware. You can spend a lot of money on wine glasses from renowned companies such as Riedel, or you can get similar quality by purchasing your wine glasses and crystal decanters right here in West Virginia. 


Masterpiece Crystal in Jane Lew  (96 Trolley St.) produces magnificent handmade lead-free crystal wine glasses and carafes.  Buy right from the showroom or go to and get them online. You may also place your order by phone (800-624-3114).   


Now to the good stuff.  The following wines are among my favorites and should be available in wine shops around the state.


White Wine  (under $20 a bottle):  07 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab; 07 Pertinace Roreo Arneis; 06 Domaine Patient Cotat Sauvignon Blanc; 2008 Alexander Valley Chardonnay; Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling; 07 L’Ecole 41 Semillon; 07 Cakebread Chardonnay ($50); 07 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay ($35); and 07 Talley Arroyo Grande Vineyard Chardonnay ($30);


Red Wine (under $20 a bottle) 07 Martin Codax Rioja; 06 Las Rocas Vinas Viejas Garnacha; 07 Ancient Peaks Zinfandel; 07 d”Arenberg The Stump Jump; 08 Castle Rock Pinot Noir (Mendocino); 07 Guenoc Petite Sirah; 07 Falesco Vitiano Rosso; 06 Monte Antico Rosso; Delas St. Esprit Cotes Du Rhone; 05 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon; 06 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee ($45); 05 Falcor Sangiovese ($35); 05 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($65) and 01 Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino ($67).


Here’s wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons, Cheers!

Bubbles for the New Year!
Sippin’ wine older than Howdy Doody!