New Good Taste Report, in BETA

•November 26, 2009 • 2 Comments

A New Chapter
Please come play:
the new site, .


the new blog,

Both are in BETA mode and are extremely minimal and are consistently being added to. They should be in high gear mid-February, with endlessly growing wine education, interviews, reviews, and general info. I have an enormous amount of information/notes that I have collected since Fall ’08 that I will be adding! Come REGISTER for the site… Thanks for your attention! – gtr


The Clairvoyant Talent Train

•September 10, 2009 • 5 Comments

Talent Reads Customers
clairvoyant decisions

Whether you have two and a half employees at the cool & clever wine shop or 2,000 at the corporate restaurant chain, leadership is everything. Hiring is everything.

The element of the soft skill shows up at the initial interview or it doesn’t. The atom spark, the fever, the sixth sense, humility, graciousness, and most of all empathy. The employee had to show up at your door with these traits. It’s too late to train for these. You can give details or teach the material/product, but you generally can’t teach the soft fire and genuine approach.

Is leadership able to recognize and capitalize on these traits? Talent recognizes talent. If you have lame staff, you have lame leadership. If lame leadership arrives to lead rockstar talent, the talent will run for the plank. You attract your own kind.

Your staff is the primary source of competitiveness and profitability. Your staff keeps you from drowning, hopefully. If you’ve done a good job in hiring, then you must contemplate retention. The costs involved when a good employee walks out the door can be overwhelming. The direct expenses of recruiting, interviewing, training a replacement, not to mention that the replacement may require higher pay/signing bonus and they might not be as talented? The indirect costs of the affect on the workload, morale, and customer satisfaction… Will other staff consider quitting? Will customers follow the employee who left? What about opportunity costs, including the potential knowledge (or special soft-skill touch) that is lost and the work that doesn’t get done while managers and other employees focus on filling the slot and bringing a replacement up to speed, assuming they can get up to speed?

It’s all about the manager. If talent leaves, something had to happen to make the employee consider leaving. Seems to generally be a direct relationship with the immediate manager that determines how long the employee will stay. I know that at my last job I stayed much longer than I probably should have because of my immediate manager and the talent that our team had. Loyalty to companies may be disappearing, but loyalty to colleagues is not. You must create a great environment and train, mentor, motivate, and support your team. Companies that perform the best with their customers are always nuturing their associates. Make your staff want to be there. Give courtesy, respect, and stretch ability to your folks. Talent loss tends to dull a brand’s competitive edge and leads to a decline in quality and customer service. When an environment is good, folks will work for less pay. What your staff wants is recognition and a place they are proud to work. You sense when walking into a wine retailer or restaurant that the team truly works. Customers sense the spirit. Is it alive with a spark or dragging? Nobody wants to work in a toxic environment or with a collection of prostitutes. Killing that atom spark tends to kill the brand. People with choices typically will not work for a nincompoop. People don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses.

Great wine managers select their people for their talent and specifically soft skills, not strictly the technical side. Most of that can be taught. A person has empathy walking into the first interview or doesn’t. Talented wine folks manage each customer relationship in the most effective manner. The key is to determine how to take greater advantage of what people already do well. It’s not enough to merely hang on to your talented staff; you also need to seize advantage of the unique knowledge, ideas, soft and hard skills they bring to the table. Maximize their strengths as a wine guy or server and take care not to dilute the atom spark that caught attention in the first place.

Then, you’ve gotta train, mentor, motivate, and reinforce. You want team players. Cross-training drives home the fact that you are supported. You are only as strong as your weakest link. The staff knowing the insides and outs of every corner only makes the retailer or restaurant brand stronger. Recall the Truman quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Want everyone to do well. Win-Win.

nurture your people

nurture your people

If all your staff is confident and good at what they do, leadership doesn’t have to be there for direction at every move. A good manager sets in motion and the ball rolls on its own. A bad manager has to do it all by himself or “it’s not done right”. Once again, train, mentor, motivate, and support your people. Be right there with them while letting them do their thing…

Slap Me a Saperavi

•July 20, 2009 • 5 Comments

Step Inside the Little Known

Step Inside the Little Known

My first introduction to Saperavi was in 2001. For awhile, I had heard how “incredible” Georgian wines were. Like many similar comments, I dismissed the “incredible” possibility due to the many Georgian Champions’ local experience and global inexperience enthusiasm. Most fans were from that realm (their homeland) and I considered there might be a bit of bias?

I did try several at the time, though. Pretty consistent ‘producer’ to ‘producer’.

They come dry. They come sweet. The dry could surprise most wine explorers. The sweet wouldn’t.

Serious color. Serious tannins. Serious acidity. Fun for the whole family! Saperavi (translates to “dye” or “paint”) is a red wine grape that is named for its dark pink flesh and very dark skins. Originally from Moldova, the land that puts this grape on the map (along with Rkatsiteli, Mstvane, and Tsolikauri) is the Kakheti District of Georgia. In the days of the Soviet Union, Georgian wines were generally thought of as the jeweled crown and it has been said that the land of Georgia (Europe’s oldest wine-producing region) has been producing wine 7,000 to 9,000 years!

Saperavi (especially the dry) tends to have a barnyard, cinnamon, cigar box, soy-sauced mushroom, gamey-plum thing going on, with a sledge hammer of tannins and a lower PH (medium-plus acidity). It can be brilliant for By-The-Glass programs because some will last for days! And with the right amount of serenading to sleep and nightly brushing the bottles “hair”, these wines can age upwards of 50 years, though most fade at 6 – 10 years. The 3 common styles are Saperavi (aged 1 year or less), Kindzmarauli (aged 2 years), and Stalin’s favorite wine Mukuzani (aged 3 years or more). Also seen are Napareuli and Akhasheni. Though, I’m still looking… I’ve never found evidence to support it, but I’ve often wondered if there is a relation to Syrah or Lagrein.

On the downside, Georgia could probably use some updated wine-making techniques. Two somewhat consistent “barnyard” comments on Saperavi are the perceived Brettanomyces (mousey/horse taste) and 4-ethyl-phenol (lopsided leather turned manure smell/taste). At low levels, these 2 things can be considered an attraction in some Rhones and Burgundies, but the recently trendy American Brett love is not for me. And it should also be noted that the days of grape powder blended with spirit to produce “Georgian Wine” are still here, but there ARE some pretty exciting Saperavi wines out there. Go fish.

Thorough Purebred

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

modern in the father time
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” – Oscar Wilde

Straight-forward out-of-control liquid speech from wines once made to truly evolve. Not that the 100-yard dash isn’t fun, too, but there’s something rhythmically magical about the long distance runner that I miss with the last decade contenders. The uninterrupted book vs. the sitcom, commercials and all.

Brilliance, in order preference.

1. ‘64 Cheval Blanc St. Emilion $900 A+ -100 ***** 032509
—speechless quiet time/mature & complex/what Heaven pours
2. ’90 Cheval Blanc St. Emilion $1050 A+ -275 *****
—bloodrich/thorough with 20 carressed years to go/Heaven’s back porch
3. ’67 Latour Pauillac $365 A+ +85 *****
—powerful/seamless genius/speaking in tongues/don’t stop
4. ’95 Meo-Camuzet Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux $175 A+ +45 *****
—pretty earth & real/spicebits, chunky meat, delicious oddball
5. ’89 La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan Rge $925 A+ -565 ****
—all the darkside/fairly tannic flesh/to be alone/slight heat
6. ’67 Dr. Burklin-Wolf Riesling TBA Wachen Rehbachel Pfalz (375ml) $240 A = ****
—goofy weirdo, but I loved it!/old & oxidized/out of this world

Source of Your Sauce

•June 1, 2009 • 1 Comment

The source of your sauce: Berrys encourages accountable drinking debate…

A new survey from the UK’s oldest independent wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd, reveals concerns about reducing one’s impact on the environment aren’t just the preserve of foodies, with 82% of wine lovers expressing an interest with how their wine is produced and how vines are tended.
However, despite worrying about how their wine is produced, only 15% of drinkers would buy a wine purely because of biodynamic or organic certification. The root of this, however, may be a lack of understanding – with six in ten (57%) wine buffs saying they’d buy more biodynamic wine if they understood how it was grown.

In light of the fact that many wine lovers remain in the dark about biodynamic and organic wine production, with many respondents citing biodynamic methods as ‘mysticism’, Berry Bros. & Rudd is launching ‘Wine Matters’, an initiative to dispel biodynamic myths and encourage wine enthusiasts to have their say on how the wine they buy is produced.

The initiative, at, is an interactive platform for debate with a series of topics and discussions from Berrys’ Masters of Wine and industry experts, including a post from Jasper Morris MW, asking: ‘Biodynamics: Do we believe?’

Morris comments: “Our number one concern as a business is selling the very best quality wine and we are increasingly seeing that biodynamic production methods, given the stringent attention to detail required by producers, result in better quality wine. We want to share this knowledge with our customers and let them know where their wine has come from and how it has been made.”

Berrys will be inviting guest bloggers each week to join the debate including biodynamic wine producer from Rhône, Montirius, and Gavin Partington from The Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Visit Wine Matters to have your say on biodynamic wine production and learn more about biodynamic viticulture methods. For more on this and other wine topics follow Berry Bros. & Rudd on Twitter.

Berry Bros. & Rudd will also be inviting wine lovers to come to the Berrys’ Factory Outlet, in Basingstoke, for a complementary biodynamic wine tasting on 5th and 6th June and are including an organic or biodynamic wine in Wine Club cases going out to over a thousand members.
-Emily Monsell (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

Austin’s Bill Norris World Cocktail Competiton Finalist

•May 12, 2009 • 4 Comments

Austin, TX – Bill Norris of FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar competes in the United States Bartenders Guild’s World Cocktail Competition in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 12th. As one of ten finalists, Bill once again represents Austin and the South Region.

For fifteen years, Bill Norris has poured drinks in venues from the Jersey Shore to London to New York to Austin. While in New York, he helped to open L-Ray in the West Village with Chef Aaron Sanchez (Isla, Paladar and Mixx) and consulting chef Jimmy Bradley (The Red Cat, The Harrison).

At FINO, Bill focuses on a mix of classic cocktails and carefully crafted original recipes, relying on the best spirits, fresh juices and homemade mixers. He is the Texas Regional Champion in the 2008 Cocktail World Cup, a member of the 2nd Place Team in the 2008 Cocktail World Cup Final in Queenstown, New Zealand and the 2008 Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll winner for “Best Mixologist.”

The United States Bartenders Guild notified the finalists late Saturday of their advancement to the final round of competition in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The ten finalists represent San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee and New York.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 12th
WHERE: San Francisco, CA

For more information about the competition, or for invitations to the event, please contact Admission is free.

FINO Bar offers over 15 hand crafted house cocktails that utilize fresh juices, house made syrups & bitters. The wine list includes over 100 bottles with selections from across the Mediterranean & United States.

By the way…
Lisa and Emmett Fox hit huge homeruns letting Bill Norris drive the bar and Josh Loving the winelist! Both Bill and Josh make the Fino drink list one of Austin’s best! If you don’t eat there, you should at least start the night on the patio with something to sip.

Cover 3 Austin

•May 8, 2009 • 2 Comments

Finally a restaurant that will hopefully survive this space! Though there seems to be a bit of an identity crisis, it’s a nice addition to the Anderson Lane Restaurant Row. The half-baked, self-promoted as an upscale sports bar concept needs some tweaking. This is more of an inviting, contemporary new American food restaurant that happens to have 15 unobtrusive and muted 52” flat-panel TVs on the wall. Although technically a sports bar, the images of pitcher slamming and wing mastication won’t be observed here. Ignoring the humdrum beer selection, think “Mr. Howell’s Sports Bar” if he never shipwrecked. The TVs are on mute and most are at distantly odd angles from wherever you happen to be sitting.

Endless button-up shirts and polos abound for business lunches, most-likely pulling from Houston’s wait down the street. The Anderson/Burnet neighborhood has undergone such transformation that Cover 3 can scratch an itch that previously needed the Domain or downtown.

Contemporary, orderly, and somewhat cozy, the leather booths, exposed brick walls, granite table tops in the bar area and on the patio seem out of place for the shopping center and sports bar aspect, but this ain’t your grandpa’s North Central Austin. Although, it’s a fairly large space, you don’t feel it. There is still upscale neighborhood warmth. Upstairs in the loft, you feel like you are in a skybox, with red leather couches and chairs, able to watch what’s happening below in the main room or be private.

The white queso style, as opposed to melted/shredded cheese, wasn’t our favorite, but it’s likeable. There’s a pretty serious steak knife in case your dinner companion gives you any lip. The Pacific ahi tuna burger just ended up being a waste of fine tuna, with the flavor of the fish drowned beneath the rest of the sandwich, which was accompanied by an unremarkable Parmesan-dusted shoestring fries. You won’t have any room for any of their desserts, but we urge you to not let that stop you from trying. Journey around Austin for a straight-forward “brownie thing” and you’ll find bla-dom. This one is worth the warm toothsink.

I ate about 40% of my tuna burger and picked at the remaining raw scabs. The waitress didn’t ask if everything was alright, her only downfall. The staff seems like they’ve worked at better establishments for the Austin scene. Enthusiastic and excited to serve.

There’s a great daily happy hour. Cobra Taps that deliver beer and some spirits at a degree above freezing, so quite cold, which may clinch the thirst for a light lager, but kills the weighty side of brew.

The idea is definitely there, it just needs a little tweaking. We have a strong feeling that Cover 3 will find it’s place and this may be opening week jitters (though it’s not the opening week). Nights get busy in the bar area. It’s a great place to happy the hour after work with drinks and appetizers.

Cover 3 Restaurant – Austin