Monthly Archives: February 2011

Route 9…ahhh…we’ve been waiting for you!

Those in the industry get that you can take the man out of the restaurant but you can’t take the restaurant out of the man.  Last nights dinner at Route 9 was a reminder how often I miss being involved in really good restaurants…for a moment anyway!

Route 9 is the main drag that runs through upstate NY and is the home to Hyde Park’s most famous residence, the Culinary Institute of America. Yes, this is the thoroughfare where the restaurant pays homage to with its name, as the husband and wife team; Paola and Jeremy Goldberg met here and this is where their culinary road began.

The restaurant sits on the north end of Ponce De Leon, just a short walk from the hustle and bustle of center city Coral Gables. The interior of the restaurant is warm and inviting albeit plane on the second day of operations, however, family touches abound from the real cotton flowers that simply adorn the tables to the chalk drawings in the “Living room” sitting area done by Paola’s sister.  The restaurant holds about 60 people intimately, with high ceilings and rich woods.

The eclectic menu that tips its hat to “American cuisine with a Latin and Florida flair” is concise and well thought out.  Portions are a value for the quantity of food and the use quality ingredients. On our first visit on their 2nd night we brought wine and bought a bottle of Priorat off the list, but this is a place that even the most seasoned wine snob can find a great bottle and at a steal. The list is maybe 60 selections from around the globe, but not much is familiar on the list which makes one explore and push their comfort zones.  Not to miss is a killer beer list that is comprised of some of the best kraft beers from around the US and at least one of them on draft.

As a good Jewish boy growing up in NJ my dad every Winter hung a full Hebrew National Salami in the basement and by the summer we had one of the best hard Salami’s on the planet….that was until Paola decided to make her Roasted Hard Salami that will have you ordering it on every trip.  Salty, meaty and smoky goodness that the Rabbi would fight you for!  The artisan cheese plate was a great start with a bottle of white burgundy, Reggiano, Manchego  & another soft cheese were accompanied with what I will now refer to as Paola Crack, a local honey and her homemade Jalapeno “Jelly” add some mixed olives and some crusty bread an you might think you are in the south of France at the Marche…

The ceviche last night was Escolar with sweet potatoes and was fresh and balanced with just the perfect hint of cilantro (pet peeve of mine too much is like having a bar of soap with your fish…)  Those that like fire on their tongues and a great IPA to wash it down with the Sticky wings are for you and they are baked not fried for maximum flavor penetration all the way to the bone. Grilled baby squid were kissed on the fire and were soft and succulent with lentils and fire roasted peppers. 

Main plates were an even bigger hit; Hanger Steak with Grilled Romaine with a blue cheese vinaigrette was better than Tony Bordain’s when he was in NYC at Les Halles…. Prosciutto wrapped pork tenderloin with roasted cippolini onions reads like a chef’s nightmare of a dish, over seasoned and then wrapped with salty prosciutto..dry, dry, dry….but Paola’s was roasted to perfection, pink and moist inside and crispy on the outside with the cippolini’s a great dish. The fish tacos were light and heavenly with great soft, yet crisp taco.

Full disclosure is my rep so you need to know that when we arrived last night there was one table in the place and they were finished so they had all hands on deck to make our meal fabulous which it was.  It’s my opinion that these two will be able to handle the pressure when the place is packed full with people waiting on the sidewalk!  This is the kind of restaurant that exists in every serious food town in America…Chicago, San Francisco, NYC, ect.. , For the life of me I cannot understand why Miami misses the boat? Before you get all high and mighty on me I get that there are good, maybe great restaurants here in MIA, all I’m saying is that there should be more…..

Route 9 is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise corporate, stagnant Coral Gables dining scene.  They plan to open for Lunch next week and are planning on having a weekend brunch soon.  Paolo and Jeremy have opened a restaurant that is truly an extension of who they are; confident, hip and smart.  Finally the neighborhood joint that I can go to over and over!  The Wolfepack should take Route 9 and drive there often!

p: 305.569.9009 | f: 305.569.9008| a: 1915 Ponce De Leon | Coral Gables, FL 33134  http://www.route9miami.com

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Just a matter of time…Age gets to us all!

So over the weekend erobertparker announced quitely to his on line subscribers that changes were in the works at the Wine Advocate.  Antonio Galloni, the emperor in waiting will no longer just review Itlay and Champagne but will now take on parts of Burgundy and the shocker…California…If you know anything about Wolfe’s we have been a fan of the low alcohol, sence of place wines that come from all around the globe since we opened our doors, so did we see this coming, all bubbles burst at some point…..  With this news we sit at a precipice in winemaking in California, after his first reviews of the 2010 vintage will we see a change to make wines that are in touch with  Europe?  That answer will come with Galloni’s first reviews that will not come for 2-3 years but mark my words, Winemakers in California are nervous!   A writer, fellow twitterer and lover of all things wine Jon Bonne wrote the following for the San Fransico Chronicle, he hits most nails on the head.  Enjoy

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Jon Bonné

Jon Bonné

Smell. Taste. Scribble. Repeat — The Chronicle’s wine editor on what to drink. Read bio

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Robert Parker passes the California torchMonday, February 7, 2011 at 3:33 PM in Reviews, Tastings, Wine, Winemakers
Robert M. Parker tastes at Shafer Vineyards with winemaker Elias Fernandez. (Photo: The Chronicle, 2002)

Over the weekend came stunning news in the relatively cozy world of wine writing: Robert Parker, founder of the Wine Advocate and arguably the most influential wine critic ever, is going to hand off responsibilities for reviewing California wine.

Parker handed the reins to one of his key lieutenants, Antonio Galloni, who has been responsible for Italian wine for several years.  Galloni also picked up several other duties, including the influential portions of Burgundy — the Cote d’Or and Chablis — following on his recent acquisition of duties for Champagne reviews.

Parker will keep Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, as well as what he termed “older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines.”  Specific to California, he wrote in a note to his subscribers that he would be doing “a series of horizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines that will give readers insight into how they are developing.”

There’s so much news in here that let’s first consider what isn’t going to change. Parker will continue to be the market mover for his first wine love — Bordeaux, a region in which he holds unparalleled influence and authority — and his more recent evident wine love, the Rhone. So he’ll keep his two unrivaled loves. Bordeaux, which seems to live or die on Parker scores, will remain a major focus. And ditto for the Rhone, which has gained a new fame because of his interest.

As for California, this news is enormous. Parker is almost entirely responsible for the stratospheric rise of many of the cult wines of the 1990s, including Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle (the debut 1992 launched with 99 points) and Sine Qua Non. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that his ratings essentially defined the modern California style, which depending on your view is either extraordinarily opulent and, to use his word, hedonistic, or overwhelming and overblown. Either way, Parker’s compass set a direction for California winemakers wanting to excel in the score wars.

Critics of Parker’s approach love to pin the proliferation of high-alcohol, heavily oaked, massively extracted California wines on the Maryland-based critic. And there have been some puzzling stances at times, like his continued defense of the super-ripe 1997 vintage, which even many winemakers now admit created wines that aren’t enduring as well as expected. (It brought perfect 100-point scores for Harlan, Bryant Family, Abreu Madrona Ranch and Screaming Eagle.)

But Parker was notably instrumental in advancing the cause of Rhone-style wines in the United States; his annual California Rhone tasting brought dozens of new producers to the attention of deep-pocketed drinkers, and a huge amount of money into the state’s wine industry.

For that matter, while it’s easy to focus on his cult-wine impact, in recent years he also revived his reviews for the classic wines of Ridge (he gave the 2005, at a modest 13.2 percent alcohol, a 97+ rating), and provided early and influential coverage of labels like Rhys Vineyards, which makes Pinot Noir that rarely surpasses 13 percent alcohol — a world away from the high-impact Marcassin and Aubert bottles he’s usually attributed with endorsing. He has also consistently been bullish on some nuanced, moderate Cabernet-based wines, notably Dominus, that get a cold shoulder from such venues as the Wine Spectator. (I suspect this last is due to his lifelong fondness for Bordeaux; next time someone complains about a “Bordeaux-style California Cab,” I suggest they remember they are treading on the preferences of one Robert Parker.)

In other words, Parker and his palate have provided far more nuanced criticism than he gets credit for. And regardless of anyone’s sentiments about him, anyone familiar with California wine has to acknowledge just how much of a massive influence he has had on helping the industry achieve maturity and global acclaim.

Looking forward, there’s already much speculation as to how tastes will change under Galloni — and many tea leaves being read over his Italian reviews.

We can only help a bit with the tea leaves, but here’s a quick summary: appreciates stylish but not overly international wines; fond of traditional Barolos (Bartolo Mascarello jumped in its scores, while Elio Grasso and even Burlotto are getting some love) with some enthusiasm for more fashionable styles (Roberto Voerzio; Gaja) and not afraid to call out the use of oak (Ceretto); willing to give much love to the stylish Super Tuscans (Sassicaia, Tignanello); but also willing to give attention to Italy’s more esoteric, avant-garde efforts — Radikon, COS, and Sandro Fay, for instance.  In general, the focus on Italy means a lot more interest in wines that are appropriate for the table, rather than the trophy case.

What this means for California is a mixed deal — but ultimately I think it will mean very good things.  Those awaiting the demise of big, hedonistic cult wines are probably out of luck. (Did you think Robert Parker would choose as his replacement someone who’d suddenly toss Bryant Family on the heap?)

But there are big chances for more nuanced styles of California wine to get noticed — namely from small producers who have been less interested in trading on Parker scores and more interested in wines hinged on nuance and on finding a place at the table. Parker was able to become a conduit to fame for many small, ambitious producers who wanted to make big, impactful wines; Galloni could be the same for producers with a different philosophy.

Then there are Galloni’s own words on the matter, posted Sunday to the eRobertParker.com bulletin board:

“In California, for 2011 I will keep a tasting and publishing schedule that is in line with what RP has done over the last few years, although I may make additional trips throughout the year. I know a lot of readers have complained about a lack of in the bottle scores for a number of producers/wines. That will change. I can’t wait to get out to California.”

This latest move follows my emerging Parker theory: He realizes the Wine Advocate needs to have a life beyond his palate, so he’s been focusing on his core interests and diversifying the roster with critics who can specialize in their strengths. (That said, Galloni now has an assignment list big enough to run the risk of fatigue. It’s a lot of the world to cover, if he intends to cover it as comprehensively as his boss did.)  Example: Parker installed nonpareil taster David Schildknecht to cover such places as the Loire; the result was 90-plus-point Parker scores for wines that never before would have gotten such love. (92 points for a Muscadet, for instance.) And Parker himself apparently indicated that Galloni would ultimately be his successor.

If anything, I’d argue these changes have made the Advocate stronger now than it has been in years. And say what you like about the fading role of wine scores: Robert Parker still sells a lot of wine.

Other things to note in the shuffle:

1) Galloni’s coverage of Champagne has become ever more valuable, especially after he indicated he would taste only wines that provided a disgorgement date so he could accurately rate Champagnes by their release, a bold stand against the myth of nonvintage uniformity.

2) One small casualty is the loss of Schildknecht’s voice in covering the heart of Burgundy. No doubt Galloni will do a fine job, but Schildknecht brought a great intellect to the task. One possible explanation might come from Jeff Leve, a Bordeaux expert close to Parker, who wrote that Schildknecht’s “his inability to report on those wine regions in a timely manner was a problem.”

3) In addition to Lisa Perrotti-Brown’s recent acquisition of Australia and New Zealand as Parker phased the embattled Jay Miller out of those roles, the terrific Neal Martin is officially on board for South Africa. (With luck, he’ll pick up Madeira, too.) To wit, here’s the current breakdown of assignments according to Parker’s note:

Robert Parker: Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines
Antonio Galloni: Italy, Champagne, Chablis, Côte d’Or, California
David Schildknecht: Germany, Loire, Beaujolais and Mâconnais, Eastern U.S., Austria, Eastern Europe, Languedoc-Roussillon, Jura
Jay Miller: Oregon, Washington, South America, Spain
Lisa Perrotti-Brown: Australia, New Zealand
Neal Martin: critic-at-large overlapping all areas, plus specific reviewer of South Africa
Mark Squires: bulletin board and occasional articles on Israel, Portugal, and Greece

No doubt we’ll circle back on this soon, as more tea leaves are uncovered.