Posts Tagged ‘Latham Oates’

2008 Finnzies Winners Named (Aaaaayyyy!)

December 2, 2008

For those of you who read this blog and who don’t live in the greater Memphis, TN area let me apologize for writing a blog that won’t really pertain to you unless you decide to vacation here.

With that said, it’s time to give the 2008 year-end Finn Wine Awards, better known as the “Finnzies”. (At this point, I need for Henry Winkler to say “Aaaaayyyyy!“) By winning one of these you receive nothing more than recognition, but really, isn’t that why you got into the wine business to start?!?

Category 1: Wine Shops and Wine People Who Pissed Me Off This Year

Surprisingly there were no winners in this category. Maybe my annual “kind to all” New Year’s resolution has actually softened up my heart. I’ve also elected to apply this resolution to people making Facebook friendship requests and now I accept all of these requests. It has made for some very strange bedfellows to say the least. I intend to keep this resolution next year even if it means accepting a friendship request from a certain N.Y. Times, Houston based writer if asked. Of course, the ultimate test won’t occur until my ex-wife makes a request (click on the link to see my ex-wife). Fortunately I don’t see that one happening.

Category 2: Novice Wine Drinker Of the Year

This year’s award goes to Mike Marshall, attorney-at-law. Mike has done several things to earn this award: (a) he has “gladly” offered up some of his personal wine collection to me, (b) he has offered up his home for wine tastings and parties, (c) he has attended Sip Around the World in each of the last two years with me (I would ask that you don’t judge him too harshly for this), and (d) he has offered me free off-the-cuff legal advice as needed. Congratulations Mike!

Category 3: Best Wine Merchant

This year’s winner is Josh Hammond, proprietor of Buster’s Liquors located at 191 S. Highland St., Memphis, TN 38111. Josh has always taken great care of me. Here are just a few examples:

  • He has always carried out my purchases for me. Why he does this, I don’t know since I am larger than him, but it’s just one more example of the level of customer service he offers.
  • Since I have purchased numerous cases from his shop — some when he was there, some when he was not, some with plastic, and some with cash — he almost always gives me a case discount even when I’m not making a case purchase from him.
  • He will special order wine for me when his wholesalers can get it.
  • He will let me in on some his very-hard-to-get stuff before it hits the floor.

In short, if you ever form your own wine group and make most of your purchases with Josh then he will take care of you. Also, since Buster’s sells more wine than anyone else in the State Of Tennessee (take that Frugal MacDoogal’s in Nashville) he usually has the largest and most varied selection since his wholesalers are usually going to give him first crack at anything they have.

Please make sure you tell Josh I sent you! It will help both of us.

Category 4: Best New Wine Merchant

Latham Oates is the owner and general manager of Forest Hill Wine Merchants located at 9087 Poplar Avenue, Suite 101, Germantown, TN 38138 (in the shopping center on the southwest corner of Poplar Ave. and Forest Hill-Irene Rd.). Latham is a reformed attorney and a great guy who is wonderful at helping the clueless masses in their quest to find the perfect bottle of wine (the right price, the right taste, paired with the right food). He has a selection of wines whose breadth is incredible and I love the layout of this rather large wine shop. In short, I really, really, really need this place to succeed, because I really, really, really like shopping there and it is convenient to my home. It is definitely a “destination” shop.

Once again, make you mention to Latham where you read about his shop so he can help you out.

Category 5: Best Winery Owner

I am officially retiring the owners of Adelsheim Vineyard from this category. As such, I feel obligated to make this statement one last time: they are the nicest owners of a winery I have ever met. The private tasting they gave me was so far beyond the call of duty I can’t even begin to describe it. Their Pinot Noirs are some of the best made on the planet and everyone should always have at least a couple of their bottles in their private cellar. 

I am also retiring Morgan Clendenen, wife of Jim Clendenen, owner of Au Bon Climat, from this category. A couple of years back Morgan ended up in a bidding war on some cigars against me and one of my friends at a L’Ete du Vin auction. At the time, we did not know who she was, but we told her we would quit upping the bid if she would give each of us a couple of cigars from the box. Although we figured we would never see her again she tracked us down and gave us the cigars. She was then promptly introduced from the stage for all of the wines she had donated to the charity auction. She is truly a class act. As a side note, the same friend once had lunch at Au Bon Climat a few years later with Jim Clendenen and he continues to rave about how nice he was and what a great experience he had.

With all of that said, this year’s winner is Dr. Michael Dragutsky, owner of Cornerstone Cellars. Dr. Dragutsky is a Memphis and he always donates, and more importantly shows up for Sip Around the World. Dr. Dragutsky is passionate about the great Cabs he produces. Year in and year out his creations consistently receive high ratings. On top of this, Dr. Dragutsky is always willing to patiently discuss his creations with both knowledgeable and novice wine tasters alike. In short, he is an extremely nice guy and a very good wine maker.

Category 6: Best Local Restaurant Wine List

There are a lot of Memphis restaurants deserving consideration in this category. Grisanti’s has always been noted for their wine list. I also like the wine lists at Encore, Spindini, Flemings, Ruth’s Chris, and Three Oaks, but my favorite wine list this year was found at Napa Cafe on Sanderlin. If you ever have a chance to dine in their wine cellar, I would encourage you to do so. Just be prepared to have your conversation interrupted by the wait staff coming in to find the various bottles which have been ordered by other diners. However, the ambiance and privacy more than offset these few minor interruptions.

Category 7: Best Wine Gospel Apostle

This one was rather easy. Carol Tidwell Simpson has created a Facebook group for oenophiles called “Folks Who Think Wine Should Count As A Serving o’Fruit in the Food Pyramid” that in a very short amount of time has grown organically by leaps and bounds. It has a comments section and discussion boards that are growing. It is well worth creating a personal Facebook page to check it out.

Category 8: Best Wine Critic (Outside Of Me)

Another easy category this year. The winner is James Molesworth of Wine Spectator. James was the writer who picked this year’s top WS selection, Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley 2005. If you click on the link to JM’s name you can see a video of him discussing this pick. By the way, James has an enjoyable blog on the Wine Spectator site that I would recommend reading, but only after checking to see if I’ve had a recent update.

That is it for this year. However, I will from time-to-time give “shout outs” to those individuals making a difference in the wine world who I deem worthy.

Now go out and Vici Vino!


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