I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Gilmore at the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas event Cowboys and Gauchos, and pretend to be the head on his decapitated cabrito as it slowly roasted in the pit. Then the honor to interview he and his beverage guru, David Toby about Texas wines the following week. And I learned, as fun as Toby and Gilmore are, they take buying and supporting local seriously.
Gilmore is involved in the selection process of everything for his restaurants, but he turned the majority of interview over to Toby, saying he had massive respect for his work and saw him as an encyclopedia of knowledge. And he was right. Toby works hard to keep his finger on the pulse of local wine and spirits and was a wealth of information about the industry and his choices for the establishment.
Toby explained how, from the beginning, the beverage program and restaurant were designed for buying local and dedicated to quality. He said he’ll drop everything to consider a local product someone brings him: “I try to accommodate everyone here who’s passionate.” And quality is paramount in his decisions. If it’s great, he’ll put in on the shelves. If he feels it needs more time or development, he is honest with the producer and asks them to return later. His passion and consideration have resulted in shelves full of local spirits, all beer taps flowing with local beer, and lots of Texas wine in the cooler.
And how serious is Jack Gilmore about Texas wine? When he served his James Beard dinner in New York, he featured only Texas wines paired with dishes made by he and his son, Bryce Gilmore of Barely Swine. And when he brings Texas wines into the restaurant, he pushes them, educating his staff and educating the consumers. “I don’t care how I get it. Bring it to me. Our job is to promote it.” They learn all they can about the wine and the establishment that makes it, then encourage servers to share those stories at the tables and to offer pairing ideas. He even threw a restaurant-wide contest and took all the winning servers to Flat Creek Estates for a tour and tasting. They have hosted several dinners with Texas winemakers where, as Gilmore says, “I talk about the food and they talk about juice.” He said he has serious respect for what they do and for the farmers that grow the fruit for those bottles.
They rotate their list and offer special features regularly. On the list when I went in were the below selections, chosen for their quality:
~ McPherson Cellars Rosé
~ Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay
~ Messina Hof Winery Cabernet Franc
~ Becker Vineyards Viognier
~ Brennan Vineyards Buffalo Rhone
~ Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo
~ Driftwood Estate Longhorn Blend
~ Flat Creek Super Tuscan and Pinot Grigio
Cheers, David Toby and Jack Gilmore for your great work with the Texas wine industry!
– Margaret Shugart