Delete Your Delivery Apps

In a recent article by Khushbu Shah in Food and Wine, he describes the predatory practices of online delivery services. What most consumrers don’t realize is that that GrubHub and others charge the restaurants 20-30% to make that delivery.  For restaurants that are just trying to survive, that’s a huge bite and can make the difference between profit and loss, especially if they are discounting the meal. Instead, he suggests calling the restaurant directly and ask if they deliver, many do. If not, ask what delivery service they prefer and use that one if you are unable to pick it up yourself.

Shah goes on to describe other practices such as adding a restaurant to a delivery app without their permission, asking restaurants to pay for promotions the app is offering, and the hundreds of dollars these services charge the restaurant to use their platforms. The restaurant industry asked the services to reduce their commissions as a result of COVID-19, but instead they started PR campaigns to make them seem as saviors to the restaurants. For example GrubHub deferred $100 million in commissions which only means the charges will have to be paid later, not reduced.

San Francisco passed an emergency order capping commissions at 15%, then GrubHub sent an email to its San Francisco customers asking them to oppose the order. DoorDash has reduced its commission to 15% as of this writing, for a limited time. With curbside pickup and now lunch trucks from notable restaurants available in Venice, think twice about using these apps.

New research

Resveratrol: A New Anti-Coronavirus Drug

Zhang, Jennifer

Coronaviruses can cause fatal respiratory diseases in humans and are responsible for the most recent worldwide outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that claimed more than 400 lives. However, no anti-coronavirus drug is currently available. In this study, resveratrol, a natural compound commonly found in some plants such as grapes, raspberries, and peanuts, was evaluated for any anti-coronavirus activity in an in-vitro cell culture system. In this system, when the cells are infected with a recombinant coronavirus that expresses a green fluorescence protein, virus infection and replication can be monitored in real time by observing the green fluorescence under a microscope. It was found that resveratrol completely blocked virus replication at a concentration of 25 μg/ml or higher. The 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) was estimated to be 5.5 μg/ml. Importantly, when virus-infected cells were treated with resveratrol starting as late as 6 hours following infection, resveratrol still exhibited significant inhibitory effects on virus replication. These results demonstrate that resveratrol is potentially a potent anti- coronavirus drug that can be further developed for treatment of coronavirus-caused diseases.

Wine List from Hell

Helen Rosner is a food writer for The New Yorker Magazine. She visited a restaurant and could not decipher any wine or even intelligently discuss which one to purchase. Obviously things have gone too far. I somehow sense this is the work of a somm (sommelier) that totally fails to understand his/her purpose. How many wines can you identify? I only found three but was not aware of the producers.

My problems with somms goes back a long way. First of all, I am not impressed by those who abbreviate their title and refer to wines as “burgs” and “cabs”. Supposedly these wine stewards took extensive training in wine and yet resort to treating them like afterthoughts.

Second, my experience has shown that many talk their way into positions and create wine lists that feature exotic and limited production items. They shun established brands and consequently make it difficult for customers to order.  This usually results in less profit for the restaurant owner and the somm moves on leaving a hoard of wines that have not sold and are not getting any better.

Some sommeliers even import their own wines and theie inventory becomes the wine list with. It isn’t hard to figure out what they will recommend.

Most galling of all is their inability to properly balance wine with cuisine. A post in a recent Wine Business Monthly by a respected somm described how he discusses wine with customers. His purpose is to find the style of wine the customer likes not the best wine to balance the meal.  It’s nice in Florida that most restaurants will offer a taste of a wine for evaluation. That takes most of the guesswork out of the process. I have found very few sommeliers who do that.



Cost vs Enjoyment

Classic Bordeaux Named Wine Spectator’s #1 Wine of the Year

Top 10 Wines of 2019 Unveiled at

November 21, 2019

New York, N.Y.—Wine Spectator, the world’s leading authority on wine, today announced Château Léoville-Barton St.-Julien 2016 as the 2019 Wine of the Year. The Top 100 list is now available on

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Following Château Léoville-Barton (97 points, $98, 11,667 cases made), Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2019 are:

2. Mayacamas | Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder 2015 | 96 Score | $125 | 2,250 Cases Made | Napa Valley, California
3. San Giusto a Rentennano | Chianti Classico 2016 | 95 Score | $36 | 7,500 Cases Made | Tuscany, Italy
4. Groth | Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Reserve 2016 | 96 Score | $150 | 4,800 Cases Made | Napa Valley, California
5. Roederer Estate | Brut Anderson Valley L’Ermitage 2012 | 95 Score | $48 | 4,217 Cases Made | Mendocino County, California
6. Château de Beaucastel | Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016 | 97 Score | $107 | 6,250 Cases Made | Rhône Valley, France
7. Ramey | Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros Hyde Vineyard 2016 | 95 Score | $65 | 1,256 Cases Made | Carneros, California
8. Château Pichon Baron | Pauillac 2016 | 96 Score | $176 | 13,500 Cases Made | Bordeaux, France
9. Penfolds | Shiraz Barossa Valley RWT Bin 798 2017 | 96 Score | $150 | 1,156 Cases Imported | Barossa, Australia
10. Viña Almaviva | Puente Alto 2016 | 95 Score | $130 | 15,000 Cases Made | Maipo, Chile


This announcement was taken from Wine Business Monthly. Only two wines were under $50 and the rest all over $100. In addition it is unlikely any of them will be available since their production is so small and it’s unknown how many cases were shipped to the United States. As I Have mentioned in a previous blog, can you tell the difference?

In their effort to curtail elitism in their top 100, the Wine Spectator wisely avoided  $1,000 bottle wines. However it would be a nice gesture to give us the top 100 wines under $50 or better yet, their top 100 Smart Buys. Wines we can afford.

Bob’s Top Wines of 2019

Domaine Greguen Bourgoyne

Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza

Caparzo Toscana

Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc

Col di Sasso

Josh Cabernet Sauvignon

Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon

All of these wines are well under $20.00, most around $10.00. Vintages are not noted because the house style will carry through vintages. All are consumed on a regular basis and no problems have been noted.

A One Year Retrospective

I started this blog one year ago. The purpose was to educate and inform friends and local wine lovers about the food and wine scene in Sarasota County. I’ve learned a lot in that year and met some very interesting people. I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy some wonderful meals and consume some great wines. I’ve also dined in some very mediocre places and met or failed to meet some very ignorant wine buyers. That’s how research is done. I hope that my analyses of wines, stores, and restaurants have been helpful.

The major drawback I see to enjoying wine in Sarasota County restaurants is the lack of knowledge and commitment of their wine buyers. Often there is no specific wine buyer, and the owner creates the wine list with the assistance of a salesperson. That’s why so many wine lists are similar, limited, and the choices usually boil down to wines like William Hill  because it’s a known quantity.  Obviously there are exceptions such as Michaels on East, Pier 22, the Crow’s Nest, Roesslers, Marina Jack , Vino Loco, Beach Road Bistro, and Lazy Lobster. With few exceptions, the better the wine list, the better the food.

Wine shops are another story. Sarasota County is fortunate to have great retail wine advisors like Sean King at Michaels Wine Cellar, Thomas Morgan at Seagrape,  Mark Montalbano at ABC Venice, Bill Herlihy at Island Time, and Joyce Colmer at Vino Loco. Their in store tastings provide  great opportunities to sample new wines and connect with other wine groupies.

A great benefit of wine service in this area is the ability to sample a wine-by-the-glass before purchase. I have found it to be even more exciting to compare two similar glass offerings before purchase. Another great benefit is the pricing of four glasses to be greater than the same bottle price. It encourages you to purchase a bottle rather than a glass to share with your guest(s).

Other than the reluctance of restaurant owners to become involved and create a great wine list, the lack of server training ranks high on my list of concerns. It’s a shame that many servers who wish to know more about wine have little opportunity. This is a real loss in profits for the establishment and a turn off for diners. Something I will concentrate on in the coming year.There are many restaurants and stores I have yet to visit. Let’s see what the next year brings.

Could you tell the difference?

MSN has the story of Hawskmoor, a steakhouse in Manchester, England, where a diner was accidentally given – and not charged for – a bottle of 2001 Chateau le Pin Pomerol worth the equivalent of $5,772 (US). (He had ordered a bottle in the $300 range … but the restaurant was busy and the wines apparently are kept near each other.)

According to the story, “The restaurant eventually realized the mistake and took to social media on Thursday morning to congratulate the diner for his stroke of luck, while simultaneously reassuring the person responsible for the costly error.”

The tweet read:
“To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4,500 on our menu, last night – hope you enjoyed your evening!”

“To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.”

Could you tell the difference?  So much of wine enjoyment is the expectation created by the image or reputation of the bottle you choose. Unfortunately, disappointment is the result of expectations unfulfilled when an unknown wine fails to meet these expectations. I hope that consumer enjoyed the expensive bottle more than the one ordered or perhaps couldn’t tell the difference. The mistake will not happen again.

A number of years ago a friend gave me a glass of wine and asked if I could tell what it was. After a couple on minutes analyzing the contents of the glass, and then swirling it in my mouth, I proclaimed “It’s a very good Merlot.” My friend was astonished that I could not tell it was 1982 Chateau Petrus. At the time it was $300 a  bottle and far more expensive today. My analysis was correct of course, and that’s what most wine people would say. Identifying it as one of the most expensive wines in the world is a skill I have rarely found. Good wine is good wine regardless of price. The key is enjoying the best wine you can afford.

Wine prices are determined more by rarity than quality. A $500 bottle of wine does not taste ten times better than a $50 bottle. Occasionally a wine producer will charge an exorbitant amount for a wine that lacks a pedigree. However that will not last long and I have seen many of these pretenders in the bargain bin within a couple of years. A $50 bottle of wine in retail probably costs between $10 and$20 to produce. A $1000 bottle does not cost that much more to produce. It’s simply the demand and reputation that justifies the price.

I have had the great opportunity to enjoy the most expensive wines in the world. In most cases they were business expenses or organized wine tastings such as those provided by the Wine Spectator magazine. Expensive wines are so much more enyoyable when you don’t have to justify the price. That being said, I have found an inordinate number of consumers who do not understand wine, but are willing to pay outrageous prices for wine because of its reputation.

Wine is a social beverage and its enjoyment is increased by participating in wine tastings, wine dinners and wine clubs. It won’t take you long to “tell the difference.”

2016 Burgundy

From my two previous posts on this vintage, you can guess what’s coming. Yes, 2016 was a great year in Burgundy as well as in Bordeaux and the Rhone. The entire region of Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) is referred to as the Cote d’Or. It is broken down into the Cote d’Nuit in the North and Cote d’Beaune in the south. The only red grape grown here is Pinot Noir and the only white grape is Chardonnay. The Wine Spectator described the growing season as hot and dry with a little rain in September. This made for optimal growing conditions.

Burgundy produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Due to the effects of primogeniture in passing down vineyard land over generations, most vineyards are quite small and the resulting grapes produce limited, expensive wines. Wines such as Richebourg and Eschezoux can command over $1000 per bottle. For the rest of us, there are regional bottlings of Pinot Noir from various vineyards in Burgundy. These are referred to as Bourgogne (Bur-goyne). Here are two that I enjoyed.

Bourgogne   2016  Ropiteau    $19.00

Light in depth and color, this Pinot Noir nevertheless had a great charm. An initial strong sense of cherry and chocolate gave it a sort of candy-like taste. As time went on, it developed a good balance and complexity. For a light appearing wine, it had good body and a balance of tannins and acidity. Definitely has aging potential.


Bourgogne      2016     Domains Des Farrondes   $17.00

Light in color, as most Pinot Noirs are, it still maintained good balance and complexity. It showed nice fruit character of black  current and blackberry. As the meal progressed, it  became creamy and exhibited elegance. Another wine with good aging potential


2016 Bordeaux

Recently, the Wine Spectator extolled the virtues of the 2016 vintage. This gave me the opportunity to revisit wines I have not tried in a long time. My introduction to wine began with Bordeaux and I was enjoying these with friends, primarily top growths, for many years. My change to  enjoying California wines began with representing Robert Mondavi Winery and favorably comparing California Cabernet Sauvignon to Bordeaux. Also French wine began its price escalation and therefore became more difficult to afford.

This article described the 2016 vintage as the best since 2010. A hot, dry summer, with a little rain in September, made for an  optimal growing season. It differentiated between the left and right banks of the Gironde river which separates the Medoc region (left bank), from St. Emilion and Pomerol (right bank). The Medoc wines focus primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon, while St. Emilion and Pomerol are Merlot based. Both regions are required to grow both grapes as well as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The blend is up to the chateau and depends largely on the characteristics of the grapes, weather, and tasting style of the chateau. The article stated that the left bank Cabernet Sauvignon wines were slightly superior to the right bank Merlot based wines.

I was able to find two Bordeaux wines locally from the 2016 vintage. This is early for shipments, with the bulk of more expensive wines arriving over the next two years. However the first arrivals often give an indication of the quality of the vintage and provide an opportunity for the producer to make some money while the more prestigious wines age and are shipped later. Bordeaux are the most expensive wines in the world with some costing over $1000.00 per bottle. Fortunately there are many less expensive. These were around $12.00 each. The reasons for the price disparity are the scarcity and reputation of the chateau. In my experience, I have not found a thousand- dollar bottle to be any better than a hundred-dollar bottle.

Barrail Meyney 2016 was an unexpected pleasure. Created in the small town of Genessac near St. Emillon, it was composed of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. My initial impression was a rich, dark, brooding wine with the musty character “gout de terroir” (taste of the soil). I enjoyed it with rack of lamb and as the meal progressed the wine became much smoother and more balanced. It certainly has aging ability and will be even more enjoyable in a few years. For the price, it was a wonderful introduction to the vintage and the Bordeaux characteristics I remember.

Michel Lynch Bordeaux 2016  led me to an interesting discovery. This is a wine blended from a number of appellations in Bordeaux but also includes wines from Fronsac, Cotes de Castillon and Blaye. It is meant for the mass market which desires a currently drinkable wine with the features of Bordeaux. Blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, percentages were not available. It was created by Jean Michel Cazes, the longtime and honored proprietor of Chateau Lynch-Bages. It was named after Michel Lynch, the original proprietor of Ch. Lynch-Bages and mayor of Paulliac during the French Revolution. It was a delectable wine with good color, intensity and balance. Flavors of blackcurrant and Cassis were noted.

It looks like 2016 was indeed a good year for Bordeaux and I look forward to enjoying many more.


Catania’s Winery

A winery in Englewood Florida? Yes! I  have driven River Road. many times and have been intrigued with the small roadside sign for Catania’s Winery. Last week, my wife and I and some friends decided to stop by. The building is in a small strip mall in an industrial area. Not expecting much, I was pleasantly  surprised by the facility. Having spent far too much time in Napa and Sonoma tasting rooms, this was eerily familiar. Entry is through a gift shop with all sorts of wine accoutrements, as well as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and winemaking supplies. The space is small but well fitted out. After you pass the gift area, you enter what appears to be a real winemaking facility. There were several 500 gallon fermenting/storage tanks and other winemaking equipment. There were several tables with stools for guests, and the tasting begins.

John Catania is the winemaker and owner. He presents small glasses and pours an ounce or two of Sauvignon Blanc. A few customers don’t care for whites but that’s no bother. He then proceeds to a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend which he pours from one of the tanks. Both wines were pleasant and well structured.  Before he pours reds,  he offers tiny samples of olive oil followed by balsamic vinegar. Unfortunately there are no crackers or bread to cleanse the palate.

The reds that came next were Cabernet Sauvignon based with either Sangiovese or Amoroso as the blend. Both are substantial and full bodied with good mouth feel and finish. All wines are twenty-four dollars per bottle which seems pricey but that’s a personal opinion. My friend and I had never heard of Amoroso but John said it was the grape of Amarone (Italy).

John has been making wine for over forty years. Born in Italy, he made wine in Canada, then in Connecticut, and now in Florida. There are no vineyards nearby so his wines are sourced from grapes he ships in from California or Washington state. Grapes are then made into wine on the premises. In addition he sources fruit from Canada which he uses to add complexity to the wines.

John is a most interesting man, charming and informative. When we asked about the blend percentages, he declined saying it was not to divulge. Also, do not get him going on Florda regulators. That is another story.

The only downside here is the tasting fee of twelve dollars per person which he did not waive when we purchased wine. Although the tasting glasses were complimentary. Also he has only one label for red, so only the foil will dictate which blend it is. I had to call back to identify the wines.

In addition, John sells homemade sausages, winemaking equipment, teaches winemaking classes and caters events.

Catania’s Winery, LLC  524 Paul Morris Dr. Ste. B, Englewood, FL 34223  941 475 7553