Passion & profession

Written by Joe Stumpe | Photography by David Don Wallace Jr.

Dr. Theo Mellion is a man of exacting standards, whether in the surgical suite or the vineyards of France. He practices in the state's largest and best-equipped facility of its kind, the Kansas Spine and Specialty Hospital on north Webb Road.

"My ultimate goal is to help patients achieve the best possible quality of life," said Mellion, a neurosurgeon. His three-year-old wine import business, Roche- Mere Wine Selections, is built entirely around wines he's fallen in love with during trips to France with his wife, Kelli.

"My thing is looking for wines that are driven by the place they come from and the people that make them," he said.

Born and raised on the East Coast, Mellion trained at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Baylor College of Medicine. He practiced in Baltimore and southern Illinois before coming here with his wife and daughter, Melissa, now 12.

"Turns out to be the best move we ever made," Mellion said. "We love it here."

Most of his surgical work is geared toward relieving patients' back and neck pain, whether it's been brought on by injury on a degenerative disease such as arthritis, stenosis or disc problems. Although surgery is Mellion's specialty, he recommends it only when all conservative approaches have failed.

That's exactly what happened with Pratt County farmer and rancher Greg Meireis, who injured his back while delivering a calf one cold night last winter. By the time his local doctor referred him to the spine hospital, Meireis had been to a chiropractor and tried pain medicine without any improvement.

"I was walking like a 90-year-old man, and I'm 50 and very active," Meireis said.

A month after seeing Mellion for the first time, Meireis underwent surgery in Wichita. He was up walking a few hours later, home by noon the next day and completely healed up weeks later.

"By five weeks, I was a farmer again – I'll just put it that way," he said. "As far as Dr. Mellion and his staff, just top notch, A-plus. I'd recommend him to anybody."

Mellion is proud of the Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital, which added the latter part of its name last year name to reflect the addition of specialists in orthopedics and urology.

"We've been able to dedicate the hospital to taking care of patients with very specific problems efficiently, effectively and very safely," he said. Indeed, the hospital was recognized by Consumer Reports last year as one of the top five hospitals in the country for back surgery.

Mellion's interest in good food and wine began in the mid 1980s and really blossomed after he and his wife started visiting France on a regular basis. They maintain an apartment there as a base for their gastronomical and oenological wanderings.

Mellion and a friend who lives in France started Roche-Mere in 2011. The name means "mother rock" or "bedrock." Roche-Mere imports wine from small, independent operations of 10 to 50 acres. The company is currently importing about 100 wines – reds, whites and sparkling wines – from a total of about 40 producers located across France.

In Kansas, his wines are distributed by LDF and are available at Chester's Chophouse, Mike's Wine Dive, Scotch & Sirloin, Hereford House, Jacob Liquor and Auburn Wine & Spirits. They're also sold in 10 other states.

Whitney Post, senior wine buyer at Jacob, said Mellion is the only Wichita-based importer of wine that she knows.

"They're fantastic, and he probably has one of the most expansive and discriminating palates in the area," Post said. "He concentrates on Old World wines, and there's just a specialness to them. He's great at seeking those out."

They're within most wine drinkers’ budgets, too. The Roche-Mere wines range in price from $12 to over $100, with the majority costing $15 to $30.

"My mantra has always been you should be able to drink high quality wine at a reasonable price," Mellion said.

Chicken with Garlic and Shallots

Dr. Theo Mellion says cooks shouldn't fear the quantity in this dish, a classic French bistro recipe. "It becomes somewhat sweet and deliciously aromatic when cooked." It goes well with both red and white wine. He recommends Closerie des Alisiers Bourgogne Blanc, which he describes as a delicious white Burgundy, or Domaine Gaget Beaujolais Les Galets, a "mouth-watering, fruit-forward red."

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 chicken, cut up, or 6 leg quarters
• 40 cloves garlic
• 3-4 shallots, sliced thin
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1/2 to 3/4 cup good quality chicken stock

Directions

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and butter and brown chicken pieces well in a large frying pan (about 5-6 min per side). Reduce heat and bury garlic and shallots under chicken pieces. Continue cooking about 10 minutes, shaking pan occasionally. Do not let garlic burn. Add wine and chicken stock, scraping up any solids from pan. Cover and cook over medium low heat 10-12 minutes or until chicken is done. Season to taste. Serve with rice or couscous, spoon sauce and garlic cloves over chicken pieces.

 
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