Hello, Wine [Book Review & Meatloaf Recipe]

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What’s the difference between a pinot noir and a pinotage? Which is the best wine to pair with fettuccine primavera? Do big red wines pair better with cheese? And what do you really need to know about ordering a bottle in a restaurant? Hello, Wine: The Most Essential Things You Need to Know About Wine by Melanie Wagner has all the answers.

hello wineHello, Wine: The Most Essential Things You Need to Know About Wine by Melanie Wagner is a fun, super-informative guidebook that helps you discover how to choose the best wine for any occasion. Tagged “a stylish primer for any newcomer to the endlessly fascinating world of wine” it is certainly that and more. Melanie Wagner, a Certified Sommelier, wine writer, speaker, and teacher from Chicago has written an accessible yet comprehensive book that makes learning about wine fun and approachable.

Hello, Wine is the perfect book for someone who wants to know more about wine but doesn’t want a stuffy take. It is filled with short bits of information, easy to understand recommendations and tasting party menus. The book explores every aspect of wine – from how it is made to how to drink it – and provides helpful descriptions of grape varietals and recommendations that can be taken to a wine store or restaurant.

One of my favorite features are a handful of super-useful lists in the back of the book. I was pleased to see that almost half the wines on the “25 Reliable Grocery Store Brands” list hail from California and Washington including a few of my sustainable favorites such as Hess Collection and Chateau Ste. Michelle; that said, I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t come up with at least one domestic producer for the “25 Wines on a Dime list.”

Another of my favorite parts is how to throw a wine party: Wine Party Idea #1: Match My Mama’s Meatloaf Challenge.  The idea here is “a pairing party with a challenge.” In this case, Wagner challenges party guests to find a wine to pair with meatloaf. She then tells you everything you need to know from what to say on the invitation to how to present the bottles. She even provides the meatloaf recipe (although you’ll have to buy the book to find out who Ota really  is):

Ota’s Monster Meat Loaf Muffins

Recipe by Melanie Wagner

Optional side dishes for this are cheesy scalloped potatoes, gourmet mac and cheese, garlic smashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and garlicky green beans.

Note: Use jumbo muffin tins, not regular cupcake-size muffin tins.

Yield: Makes 12 monster muffins


  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Tabasco
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (80 percent fat)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 3 cups panko bread crumbs, plus more as needed
  • Bourbon Ketchup (recipe follows)


  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  • Place the onions, egg, ketchup, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire, capers, relish, brown sugar, and Tabasco in a blender and blend, but do not puree.
  • Add the beef, pork, and veal to a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands until combined. Add the salt and pepper and mix until blended.
  • Transfer the contents of the blender to the bowl, and combine with the meat (still using your hands). Add the bread crumbs and mix until combined. You may add more bread crumbs to adjust the consistency if needed. The mixture should be wetter than a typical hamburger patty.
  • With your hands, form the meat loaf mixture into baseball-size balls and place in ungreased muffin tins.
  • Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the muffin tins from the oven. Turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Meanwhile, baste the tops of the meat loaf muffins generously with bourbon ketchup.
  • Broil for 5 minutes or until the bourbon ketchup has caramelized. Serve hot.

Bourbon Ketchup


  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Tabasco


  • Combine the ketchup, bourbon, brown sugar, and Tabasco in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the consistency reduces to that of regular ketchup, 8 to 10 minutes. If you are feeling extra adventurous, try flambéing the ketchup: Wait to add the bourbon until the other ingredients are hot. Add the bourbon, and then ignite it with a long match or lighter flame to burn the alcohol off. This adds another interesting flavor and makes you look like a pro in the kitchen.

Bottom line: I love this book and so will you.

 Wine Photo: Shutterstock.com


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