Tim Waters of The Grey in Savannah on Hot-Weather Wines and Aged Arinto

Tim Waters was working at The Landing’s Club, a private club in Savannah, Georgia, when he realized selling bottles could raise his check averages. He dove into the list there, and eventually ended up focusing on wine. He’s now the assistant beverage manager at The Grey, where the beverage team is happy to take guests to a new place, whether that means introducing them to orange wine or showcasing international varieties from places like Turkey or Lebanon.

The Ferzo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was the best-selling new addition to the list and the best-selling bottle for the year. Why do you think it was such a success?
It’s just a workhorse wine. It’s what we use for cocktail parties and private events. It’s what we like to push for big parties. The wine is hard to be disappointed with: It pairs well with most of the food. It has a nice Italian rustic feel to it. I think people are interested in exploring beyond the normal cabernets, sangioveses or pinot noirs. They want to try something new, and this is what we like to push. It’s at a good price point, too. A dish it goes great with right now is the beef short rib: Inspired by an African ground-nut stew, it has all these spices in it that really match well with the wine.

The top-selling sparkling bottle was a rosé Cava. Is this an indication of the rosé juggernaut, or are people beginning to approach sparkling in a different way?
I think it’s a little bit of a rosé trend, and it’s a nice price for a sparkling. Also Savannah’s climate in general is conducive to rosé. It’s tough to drink a red wine when it’s 90-plus degrees outside with intense humidity. Cava is a great, refreshing glass in the hot season.

Some of your more classic varieties like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay aren’t coming from the places you’d expect (2013 Château St. Thomas Bekaa Valley Les Emirs and 2016 Jean-Luc Mouillard Côtes du Jura Chardonnay). Are consumers turning to these for price reasons or are you as a beverage team focusing on expanding those horizons?
Definitely the latter. We’re trying to encourage people to enjoy different regions, and finding great wines from unique regions is definitely a push for us. [The Château St. Thomas] is probably the best-value cabernet on the list. It’s not a super deep, rich cabernet so it doesn’t overpower a lot of the food. It has a nice rustic oakiness to it with lots of cinnamon and spices. It’s an excellent pairing with the filling, rich food that we serve. Also being from Lebanon is eye-catching and draws interest as well. In general, we have quite a bit of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean wines. We have a vertical from Château Musar, and recently we added a Turkish white—a blend of sauvignon blanc and sultaniye, a table grape, from Sevilen, in the Aegean region of Turkey. It’s a complex sauvignon blanc, with a richer color than Sancerre or New Zealand [sauvignon blanc]. Lots of complex, smoky, spicy notes to it make it really interesting.

What other trends have you noticed?
We added a few orange wines to the list and people are interested in those. Not a lot of people are coming in straight looking for it, but when people see it on the list, they’re interested and they ask about it. Some people have no idea what an orange wine is, but they try it out and they enjoy it. Right now, we have Monastero Suore Cistercensi. It’s a trebbiano-malvasia blend from Umbria. We have one that we consider an orange wine, the Caves São João Poço de Lobo Arinto. We have the ’94 vintage on the list. That’s always an interesting wine to sell. Something with age on it but has such bright acid to it, it’s pretty crazy.

Tags  2020 Restaurant Poll  31st Annual Restaurant Poll  Tim Waters  The Grey  Savannah  GA