California Dreams

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Caught up in the romance of soaking up Napa Valley, honeymooners Jason and Tatjana Brown hatched the idea to open a wine shop in their Westerville neighborhood. They were in the moment. They weren't thinking of the signatures they'd have to collect and votes they'd have to garner to be issued a liquor license, nor did they anticipate the usual challenges of opening a small business.

But two years after those Napa nights, they're successfully running Meza, which sells wine, specialty foods and kitchen items.

They've also welcomed a daughter to the family, and cheerful Laila has become a popular draw among Meza's guests.

While Jason Brown built all of the store fixtures himself and now assists with tastings, Tatjana greets customers from behind the counter every day and draws on her family history of food and wine to stock the store.

"I'm Serbian, and my parents make their own wine, and we've always cooked everything from scratch," Brown said. "It's just how I grew up."

The emphasis is on Ohio-made ingredients like sauces, pastas and marinades, and under-$40 wines from all regions in a homey, comfortable atmosphere. They incorporate plenty of customer suggestions, too, Brown said.

"That's how we learn the most about what people want," she said. "Because we can try wines, and it can say it has 90 points from Wine Spectator, but it has to be about what our customers are looking for and enjoying."

Q & A

What's it like being the only wine shop in Uptown Westerville?

It's turned into exactly what we hoped it would be. It's quaint, somewhere you can pop into at the end of the day and grab wine for your dinner or for a gift. And it's becoming a fun little neighborhood place.

How do you get people actively engaged with wine?

Every Friday night, we do tastings with different themes. And we do "Thursday night flights" and occasional collaborations with other local businesses.

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and wine pairings?

When I pair things I'm cooking, sometimes I'll start out with just pairing by region. If I'm making something that has a Spanish influence, I usually like to choose a wine from that area. I also like to pair wines by weight, so if I'm doing something really light, like seafood, I'll do a really light, crisp pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.


Cascina Castle't Barbera d'Asti (2007)

Region: Piedmont, Italy

Tasting notes: Light-style red with ripe, red-berry fruit tastes and a slight oak flavor

Pair with: A light chicken-centric dish, or pasta

Why Tatjana likes it: "The winemaker, Mariuccia Borio, is a very old-school type of individual. She doesn't believe that wine and the wine-making businesses is forwarded by technology, but it's about patience and truly working everything by hand. That's what makes her wines so superior."

Cost: $18

Crios Malbec (2008)

Region: Mendoza, Argentina

Tasting notes: Heavier mouth-feel, full of dark berries and plums, with smoky flavors and soft tannins

Pair with: Smoked meat, ribs or a grilled steak

Why Tatjana likes it: "The winemaker is Susana Balbo. She wanted to show, in her winemaking and in her labels, the importance of her being a family woman. While it is a bigger red, it is a little bit softer and the tannins are calmer, so I think a lot more people could enjoy it."

Cost: $16

Meza is located at 48 N. State St. in Westerville and can be contacted at 614-259-3101 or