From fantastic wine pairings and exquisite food, The Wine House is a foodie’s dream in downtown Vicksburg

Published 11:26 am Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Some people love holiday entertaining. You know the kind. They are the perfect host or hostess and seem to be able to present a beautifully decorated home, creative hors d’oeuvres and delicious adult beverages with ease.

Then there are the rest of us, who break out in a sweat at the mere thought of hosting family and friends at a holiday cocktail or dinner party.

Fret not. Owners and staff at The Wine House in downtown Vicksburg are happy to help.

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Mary Jane Wooten and Daryl Hollingsworth opened the business about 18 months ago and so far, so good.

“We have been very pleased. We’ve had so many compliments. People tell us, ‘This place doesn’t look like something you’d find in Vicksburg. It looks like someplace I’d expect to find in New York.’ That’s exactly what we wanted, to create a place that is unique and striking,” Hollingsworth said.

His passion is wine and the two traveled extensively to places known for good food, wine and cocktails — like New Orleans and San Francisco — before opening The Wine House.

“The holidays are an important time for us,” Wooten said. The restaurant’s staff is particularly proud of the cocktail parties they host.

“We do an excellent cocktail party,” Wooten said. “We have a great, intimate setting, have a great vibe. We typically set food out buffet style and people are free to mingle.”

While holiday entertaining can be stressful, Jonathan Abogado, sommelier and bartender at The Wine House, said his job is to alleviate that stress.

“My job is to make customers feel comfortable,” Abogado said. He guides customers through the restaurant’s wine list by asking questions about their preferences, such as whether they prefer a sweet or dry wine.

“I want to make them more confident about what to order the next time they drink wine,” he said.

Abogado moved to Vicksburg to join his wife. He grew up in the Philippines, but spent the last 16 years as sommelier and bartender on “one of the most luxurious, mid-size cruise ships in the world,” operated by Paul Gauguin Cruises in Tahiti and French Polynesia.

The Wine House also boasts one of the best selections of bourbons in the area.

For those new to wine, or those who simply like to sample different varieties, The Wine House’s “wine machine” can help.

“We serve a flight of wine, which is a sample of an ounce or so of a number of wines,” he said.

In addition, Abogado holds monthly classes, called Cocktails 101.

“Sometimes he teaches how to make martinis. Other times are wine tastings,” Hollingsworth said.

Students who attend Abogado’s cocktail and wine classes not only learn about the beverages, but get to sample what he makes and nosh on perfectly paired appetizers.

Chefs Ashley Clark and Felicia McKnight, who Wooten calls the “dynamic duo,” man the kitchen at The Wine House.

“For easy entertaining, one of my favorite dishes to make is a salmon dip,” McKnight said. She creates hers by grilling salmon and mixing it with cream cheese, chives, purple onion and a little sour cream.

Clark’s favorite holiday dip is a crowd pleaser — spinach dip. She mixes frozen spinach — well drained — with ranch seasoning, sour cream and green onions and serves it with Hawaiian bread.

“It’s reliable. Everyone likes it,” she said.

Hollingsworth grew up in the Mississippi Delta in a place called Sunflower Plantation and moved to the Vicksburg area in 1984 to go to work at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant, where he continued to work for 24 years. Wooten was raised in Vicksburg and, in addition to her work at the restaurant, is a real estate agent with Curb Appeals Real Estate.

For more information on The Wine House, booking an event, catering or Abogado’s monthly Cocktail 101 classes, call 601-642-7151, visit or like The Wine House on Facebook.