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 Spectator Awards include WV restaurants

I have always maintained that a good meal can be transformed into a great dining experience when a complimenting wine accompanies it. This is particularly important for restaurants. Those that understand and incorporate this principle into their business model should be recognized.

Now it’s one thing for this backwater gourmand to say nice things about a grubbery, but when a prestigious international magazine - like The Wine Spectator - does…well…that, to use the local vernacular, is “spay-chull ” (or special for those whose ears are unaccustomed to our twang).

Therefore, wine lovers and foodies in West Virginia should be proud to know that the annual Wine Spectator restaurant awards were recently announced and that 12 Mountain State establishments are among those receiving the lofty honors.

According to the magazine, “Wine Spectator’s restaurant wine list awards program recognizes restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to the cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.

“To qualify for an award, the list must present complete, accurate wine information. It must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines by the glass…” The three categories of awards are: “Awards of Excellence;” “Best of Awards of Excellence;” and the “Grand Award.”

Only 2880 restaurants across world have received the “Award of Excellence,” including nine restaurants in our state. Three other WV restaurants, the Bavarian Inn and the Greenbrier’s Main Dining Room and Prime 44 West, received “Best of Awards of Excellence. ” That’s quite an honor since only 788 restaurants on the planet achieved that distinction.

The state restaurants receiving “Awards of Excellence are: Bridge Road Bistro, Charleston; The Chop House, Charleston; Ember, Snowshoe Mountain Resort; The Glasshouse Grille, Morgantown; La Bonne Vie, Chester (at Mountaineer Racetrack); Provence Market Café, Bridgeport; Sargasso, Morgantown; Savannah’s, Huntington; and Spats, Parkersburg (in the Blennerhassett Hotel).

Tell your friends and associates about the award winners and encourage them to patronize these restaurants. I know there are many other fine restaurants in the state that are very close to achieving a Wine Spectator  award.

Two Charleston restaurants that get WineBoy kudos for not only presenting delicious cuisine, but for taking their wine lists seriously are the South Hills Market and Café and the Bluegrass Kitchen. While the lists at both establishments are not exceptionally deep, they are well selected and the food is superb!

While these awards probably won’t go a very long way toward changing the stereotypical hillbilly image some flatlanders have of us, I think it does argue for an upgrade to the traditional seven-course West Virginia gourmet meal.

Instead of a six-pack and a chili dog, how about a fried green tomato, three sausage biscuits with gravy, a corn dog and a moon pie all washed down with a flagon of Uncle Roger’s Ramp Rose’?

We’re movin’ on up !

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