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

Wine for everyday meals

If you’ve followed my scribblings over the years, you know that I’ll never tell you about a wine without recommending specific foods with which to pair that particular bottle. However, a friend of mine (who is less than subtle) recently admonished me for always seeming to suggest wine compatible foods that she referred to as “Saturday night” or celebratory meals. You know, special dinners you might prepare for birthdays, anniversaries, or when Uncle Homer gets out of prison.

And you know what? She may be correct. So in an effort to dispel a myth which I may have been unintentionally espousing (that wine is only for special occasions), I want to offer you a sincere Mea Culpa. Let me also make this clear: wine could and, in fact, should be a part of your everyday meals!

I know that most of you don’t drink wine every night of the week. But when you do open a bottle on say, a Monday or Wednesday, you shouldn’t feel like you need to whip up some elegant repast like Beef Wellington or Peking Duck. So today, we’ll concentrate on some of the foods that comprise our everyday meals, and I’ll suggest wine pairings for them.


Meatloaf is a menu mainstay that some families enjoy regularly. Instead of boring yourself with diet cola or iced tea, you might open a bottle of inexpensive and medium-bodied red wine to spark up that meatloaf entrée. Marietta Old Vines, which is a blend of zinfandel and other red varietals, would be a good pick. Or, you might also pair it with malbec from Argentinean producers such as Susana Balbo or Catena.

Macaroni and cheese still graces our table as a main dish at least once a month. Sometimes, we’ll add roasted red peppers or jalapenos to the dish to spice it up. This is a meal that can be paired well with both white and red wine. For plain mac & cheese, try a medium bodied white such as Soave from Allegrini or pinot gris from Oregon’s King Estate. For spicy versions of the dish, I recommend pinot noir from producers such as Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma County or Erath in Oregon.

Pot Roast is a great wintertime dish. Slow cooked with onions, potatoes and carrots, I love the hearty beef flavors that can be greatly enhanced when the dish is accompanied by a full-bodied red wine like zinfandel. Among my favorites zins, Easton from Amador County and Seghesio from Sonoma pair wonderfully well with pot roast.

Chicken and dumplings are also on the menu at our home in the colder months. I just love the light and fluffy dumplings and tender breast meat all immersed in rich chicken broth. You will need a white wine with sufficient acid to pair well with this dish. Try these two sauvignon blancs from New Zealand: Kim Crawford and/or Whitehaven.

Pan fried pork chops are a staple in many kitchens, but the dish can be significantly elevated when paired with a simpatico red wine. Seasoned simply with salt and black pepper and dusted with flour, this all-American dish goes exceptionally well with Cotes Du Rhone from producers like Saint Cosme and Guigal. These supple reds from the Rhone region of southern France have black pepper aromas and dark fruit flavors.

Chili, with or without beans, is a hearty, spicy dish that would seem to pair better with that other (frothy) beverage more than it would from the fruit of the vine. But I’m going to suggest that you trade that hoppy carbonated brew for an upgrade to a scintillating, effervescent and delicious alternative – sparkling wine. And you don’t have to plunk down big bucks either! I suggest you try these inexpensive, but excellent sparklers with your pot of chili: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava from Spain and Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir Rose from Sonoma County.

So, there you have it: wines for the meals you’ll fix on just about any day of the week – even Saturday. But make something special for Uncle Homer and pour him a nice glass of wine. There weren’t many food and wine pairings in the Big House.

John Brown is also a novelist. His latest book is “Augie’s World” which is a sequel to his debut novel, Augie’s War. You can find out more about his novels at

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