Dressing up dinner: Make these bottles part of your weekday ritual—occasion or no

Ankida Ridge. Photo: Courtesy Ankida Ridge Ankida Ridge. Photo: Courtesy Ankida Ridge

While many regard wine as something best reserved for special occasions, there are tremendous rewards to be found by integrating it into everyday life. Treat it like a longtime friend—never a special guest—at every meal. Here are a few essentials that can become your “house wines”—staples to keep stocked and ready to be your companion on any day, special occasion or not.

Choose a versatile white wine to start, one that can stand on its own in the glass but also has fruit and acidity to pair well with food. Chardonnay is perfect for this because it is made in many different styles—it’s easy to find one to please everyone. Go with one that has a bit of a roundness in texture and some acidity so it can be consumed year-round and in a variety of situations. The 2018 Midland Construction Chardonnay ($27, midland.wine) fits the bill, with a delicate nose that hints at sweet honeyed citrus, papaya, mango, and white flowers and a palate that is bright and lean with sweet lemon-lime, orange peel, and a long finish full of acidity and just a hint of bitterness. Lees aging (keeping the wine in contact with yeast) adds fullness and a baked bread quality.

Sparkling wine can highlight any celebration, large or small, but also consider popping the cork more often, as it can be a great accompaniment to everyday food (think fried chicken, fish tacos, macaroni and cheese, and even popcorn). The Thibaut-Janisson Xtra Brut ($36, tjwinery.com), an excellent and serious wine, is made with chardonnay and incorporates a bit of oak-aging. Medium-bodied with fine, rolling bubbles, it displays complex flavors of apple and pears with hints of roasted nuts. This is a dry wine, and while some might prefer a version with more sweetness, this bottling is as well-crafted as you’ll find in Virginia.

A medium-bodied red—something not too heavy or high in alcohol—is perfect for a weekday evening, It’s also perfect for pasta with red sauce, pizza, and roast chicken. The 2018 Blenheim Vineyards Cabernet Franc ($22, blenheimvineyards.com) is a wonderful example, coming in at just 12 percent alcohol and expressing the varietal character that makes cabernet franc such a success in Virginia. This fruity, low tannin wine goes down easy, expressing flavors of cherry, cranberry, pepper, and a bit of sage.

For steaks on the grill, or maybe just a quiet night of contemplation on the deck, a full-bodied red wine should always be on hand. There are many worthy examples available, including the 2016 Jake Busching F8 ($43, jakebuschingwines.com), a 50-50 blend of petit verdot and tannat. This is dark and brooding wine, big and bold with flavors of blackberries, stewed plums, smoke, tar, and a hint of roses. Good acidity and strong tannic structure suggest this wine will continue to improve in bottle, but it’s delicious right now.

A final recommendation is to always have dessert wine on hand. A glass can be served on its own to finish a meal or paired with a sweet ending to add a special touch. For flavors like apple pie, creme brulee, or vanilla ice cream, a white dessert wine such as the Barboursville Vineyards 2016 Paxxito or the Michael Shaps Raisin d’Être White will match beautifully. For those who prefer chocolate, look for a port-style wine such as the Stinson Vineyards 2016 Imperialis ($31, stinsonvineyards.com). This sweet, dark wine with flavors of black plums, raisins, and cola can be the perfect ending to your night.

King Family Vineyards’ 2017 Mountain Plains Red has aromas of cherries, plums,
and black currants.

Stock up

Here are a few more recommendations (because you can never have too many bottles on hand).


  • 2018 Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Steel Fermented Chardonnay
  • 2019 Keswick Vineyards Chardonnay


  • Ankida Ridge 2016 Blanc de Blancs
  • Veritas 2015 Scintilla


  • Michael Shaps 2017 Cabernet Franc
  • Early Mountain Vineyards 2018 Madison County Cabernet Franc
  • Pollak Vineyards 2016 Meritage
  • King Family Vineyards 2017 Mountain Plains Red

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