q & a with bob fishman

If you live in or around Cleveland Heights, than chances are you know Bob, or at least his store, The Grapevine, on Cedar-Fairmountl. His wine shop has been part of the city for over 20 years.

1. What is your absolute favorite wine? The wine that I am drinking at the moment. They are all favorites otherwise I would not be drinking them. The wine that I have the fondest memory of was the 1990 Estancia Meritage. We drank it the night we conceived my daughter. It was a nice wine but my all time favorite wine as far as tastes goes is the 2001 Colgin Cabernet that we had along with Harlan, Maya, and Neiman this past November.

2. What is a must-try red and a must-try white? For red it would be a Syrah, from Alban – Sin Qua Non or an equal producer. If there is one out there, please let me know. For white, I love Oregon Pinot Gris, such as Elk Cove.

3. What is a decent red and a good white to give as a gift? The most popular red still is Cabernet Sauvignon, and for white it is Chardonnay. They are always safe bets, but when gift-giving I like to suggest something a little bit more off beat that you may not know about or purchase for yourself.

4. What tips do you have for someone ordering wine out, but isn’t sure what they are looking at? Talk to your server if they are wine savvy and tell them what you are looking for. They taste wine on a regular basis and have a good feel for the list at the restaurant. Try to find something that is priced in the middle of the pack. Ask questions such as what flavors do they have, and inquire about the specific vintage. If your server can’t help, ask for additional help from a manager or owner.

5. What do you look for when tasting a wine? Smooth, silky, great legs, complexity and a finish that lingers on and on.

6. What local wineries are worth the trip? Ohio has over 100 producers of wine and they are improving with each new harvest. There are the old guard wineries still making sweet, boring wines. The good news is that many are not – check out St. Joseph and Harpersfield for good examples of what is capable of being made in Ohio.

7. What’s your ultimate pairing? Grilled Salmon with a Oregon Pinot Noir from the 2006 vintage like Bergstrom.

8. What wine are you likely to serve at a dinner party at your house? We drink far more reds then whites. I am happy to open anything for our guests if they will appreciate it. We have been cellaring wines for years and it’s fun to bring out something that is 15 to 20-years-old. That way you can drink the best wines at the best times and the best prices. I have more Laurel Glen Cabernet in our cellar than anything else.

9. Do you have a tried and tested trick for wine stains? Drink red wine at your friends house only.

10. What type of selection can people expect to find at Grapevine? When we opened the store in 1987 we decided to do something different and have not changed our concept since day one. Our focus is the best selection of California, Washington and Oregon wines in the area. We have always carried French Champagnes, Ports and Sherries. There are no substitutes for the real McCoys. Even though we do not stock imports we have and always will be happy to special order in any wine that is available to us from our Ohio distributors.

11. Favorite cheese? Again based on our menu that can vary.

12. What’s your favorite thing about Cleveland and what drives you nuts? The people, culture, diversity and the cool houses and communities that we have here. Something for everybody, but I love the old neighborhoods such as Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. The grayness of winter drives me crazy. If it is 10 degrees out but sunny, I am a happy camper.

13. Favorite restaurant and what restaurant do you miss? Crop. Great food, great staff and always fun. We never get bored with the menu as it is always changing with new and fun foods. I miss Au Provence, which was a 36 seat restaurant that I worked at many years ago.

14. Where does your passion for wine stem from? Two people. Tom Wykoff, who was the owner of Au Provence. Tom was a pioneer in making Ohio wines and started the restaurant because he had so much wine and didn’t know what to do with it. Gene Parrino who was one of the founders of Vintage Wine Distributors. He forget more about wine then I will ever know, and I have been around the wine and restaurant industry since I was 13-years-old.

15. Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? I do most of the cooking at our house. My wife has a few special dishes that are her specialty, but I cook the rest. It’s been five years since I lost 65 pounds so I do not eat the way I once did. Lots of simple preparations, like grilled or sauteed foods with lots of rubs and spices.

16. What restaurant wine lists in town impress you? Any restaurant that charges fairly for wine. There is no reason to charge double retail or more. It is the ultimate turn off. Everyone is entitled to make money but there is a point of no return.

17. What book are you currently reading? One of my passions is reading. I try to read three or four books a month if I have time. I just started Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer. He is my all time favorite author who wrote Kane and Abel, Prodigal Daugher and about 15 others.

18. Do you ever hold any tastings or special events? We do not have a tasting permit so we can not open any wines at the store. We do tasting at customers homes, business or charity events from as few as 10-15 people up to events of several hundred. They are all designed with our customers preferences.

19. Is a screw top really better to preserve wine versus a cork? This is the ultimate debate at home. I love screw tops, my wife Lisa hates them. You don’t get corked wines with screwtops. There is an industry standard of up to three or four percent of bad corks out there, and lots of people don’t know they are drinking bad wines. The only thing we don’t know is how will wine age with a screwtop, but most people are not cellaring wines as they once use to.

3 Comments

  1. Kevin Walsh
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always been met with nothing but a condescending attitude and annoyance when I make the mistake of going into The Grapevine. A lot of people whom I know have had the same experience. How is this place still in business with so many other options? Strange. Is it just because the owner posts on a few “foodie” websites? Too bad. Maybe one day someone with a friendly personality will take over the place and it can actually become a destination.

  2. michelle v
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I can't speak to your experience with the store, but Bob doesn't commented on this blog and isn't looking for self promotion. I reached out to him and asked for a Q&A. I think a lot of people in the food and wine industry are nervous about posting (one all sites) because people will make remarks that aren't called for and assumptions that are out of line. Which is a shame, because I believe they could add a lot to the conversation.

  3. Randy Dunn
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    We have been shopping at the Grapevine for years and Bob and Lisa have always been friendly and helpful. If you are looking for great wine at a reasonable price, this is the place.

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