Tim's Wine

Sunday Night Dinner – At it’s best

by timswine on Tuesday, March 3, 2015

As I have often written in my weekly newsletter and club offerings, Sunday is my big cooking night and it usually means something special is coming out of the cellar.  This week we had an additional reason to celebrate, our son came home for spring break from UF. It gave me the chance to finally cook the veal shanks I purchased in Atlanta a couple of months ago (kept frozen of course.)  They were big, meaty, gorgeous examples, that were almost two inches thick, like the ones you see in cookbooks.

The preparation would be ossso buco, using the Cook’s Illustrated version.  The only difference is I prefer to take the braising liquid and mirepoix and puree it into a sauce, not serve it like a stew.  I also am a purist and prefer saffron risotto to their polenta.  If you want to see the meal then visit our Facebook page for a pictoral explanation.

IMG_2989My wine pick, from deep in the cellar, is the 1999 Sandrone Barolo “Cannubi Boschis.”  This is one of the great cru sites of the region, produced by one of the top winemakers in the Piedmont.  Sandrone, who produced his first vintage in 1978, was one of the vangards of quality Barolo in the 1990s and remains a top producer to this day. While wines made from Nebbiolo are not everyones cup of tea, as my description below will show, but if you tire of wines that are little more than oak laden fruit bombs then you might find them quite exciting.

The Cannubi cru is located in the commune of Barolo and like all the best sites faces south-southeast.  Nebbiolo is finicky when it comes to ripening so producers have to plant the grape in the perfect exposition to the sun to coax a few extra degrees of ripeness each year.  What makes Sandrone so unique is that he was one of the first to perform a “green harvest” in his vineyards.  This entails passing through the vineyard after veraison and dropping those clusters of grapes that are not perfect.  Sandrone actually performs this twice on this vineyard, an expensive process not only in time but also it greatly reduces the vineyard’s yield.  The result is a level of concenatration in the final wine that makes most others pale by comparison.

The important part of this meal was the wine, which was stunning.  (Actually dinner with my family, but you get the idea) After an hour in the decanter it showed classic notes of road tar, porcini mushroom, Mr. Lincoln rose petals, violets, sour cherries and a wisp of strawberry jam.  The tannins were soft, almost completely transparent, and the finish would not stop.  Overall a great wine at the prime of it’s drinking window.  I would encourage anyone interested in this wine to check out the New York Times Wine School for February, where they featured Nebbiolo.

The current vintages of Barolo, 2009, are very good, on par with the 1999s.  I would encourage anyone who enjoys great wines to slide a couple of bottles into their cellar.  The 2010s will arrive soon, touted as one of the greatest vintages ever in this region.  For those with a lot of patience you may want to grab a few of those too.

Is Parker Still Relevant? –
Reprinted from Reserve Club, Spring 2012

by timswine on Thursday, June 12, 2014


 My stand against scores is well known, right down to the sign in my stores that says, “Scores don’t mean “sh%@!.”   While my choice of language is designed to grab attention, my logic is quite sound.  Using critical scores to buy wine over the recommendation of a professional is a mistake because the critic has no credibility.  Now, before everyone sends me emails accusing me of libel, hear me out.

         The greatest reason for listening to your local wine expert, be it a TWM staff member, franchisee or someone in another wine shop, is that we put our reputation at stake.  If I, or any of the aforementioned experts, recommend a wine to you, you identify us with the selection.  If we pick the right wine, you are happy, come back again and hopefully recommend us to your friends.  If we pick wrong, you feel duped that you wasted money, never come back and most likely, tell your friends about the experience.  Starvation is a powerful motivator with regard to customer service and credibility.      

        Now, if you buy a bottle of wine that you don’t like, based on the rating, do you have the same animosity?   To be fair, do you even remember who the rating publication was?  A recent survey of a warehouse wine section proved to me that the score is in big print, the rater credit is much smaller.  Worse yet, the actual description of the wine was not present at all.  If you like oak, but the wine doesn’t show that character, what good is a number and how would you know?  If you actually talk to your local expert they are there to help match you to the best possible wine to suit your palate. 

      Consumers who use critics also make assumptions that the rater is qualified to even make assessments about wine.   Look at the recent turmoil at Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.  For thirty years the reviews were the opinion of one man, Robert Parker.  Love his reviews or hate them, he was consistent.  In 2006 he started to allow the reviews of “qualified” experts in areas where he was either not qualified or not welcome to review.  His selection of “experts” was a mix of friends, bloggers and part-time wine reviewers with little or no trade experience.  Professional wine tasting and assessment is a skill that takes years to develop.  It is not honed over a few bottles after work each week. I stopped subscribing to his publication after I realized that three of the reviewers had less combined years of experience in the business than me.  Just because you can write copy doesn’t make you an expert any more than driving a car makes you a mechanic.

      Since then he has seen a few of his “experts” come under scrutiny for their ethics with regard to trade groups and the influence they peddle.  While now there is a statement of ethics and standards on his website, there is no independent auditor verifying compliance.  The same goes for the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine News; how can they sell advertising to the very wineries they review without any sort of financial transparency?  At least when you buy a recommendation from a retailer willing to stick their neck out, you know exactly what their motives are; your satisfaction and continued patronage.  

      So is Parker still significant? I think that in the absence of qualified guidance his reviews are better than nothing.  But if you can find a wine person who learns your palate and preferences you are far better off.  We all have an agenda but at least the salesman is accountable. 


Travel the World with Tim – Italy, Part 1, the North

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From the French border with the Piedmont to Venice, Northern Italy produces many of the most iconic wines of the country.  This tasting will examine the wines of the Piedmont, Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli, showing that while the reds … Continued

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Wine U Two, ITALY Save the Date

Friday, July 12, 2013

By popular demand, this is advanced Wine U.  Focus on Italy.  All Wine U grads are encouraged to attend. Four weeks, meets weekly on Thursday evenings starting  July 10th.  All classes meet 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  

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Your Beverage Dollar

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The article below was published last week in Palm Beach Illustrated and it started me thinking about the buying trends of our customers, not just in our stores but in restaurants too.  I have added it below but I have … Continued

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The Argument for Decanting

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

If you follow anything that I write about wine you will always see the caveat with each description, “decant this wine for _____ minutes before serving.”  I try with many write-ups to explain why this is important but I feel … Continued

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