Tim O’Rourke was born in Seoul, South Korea, grew up in Chevy Chase, MD, and has lived in DC
since 1997. The first of two career changes saw him through culinary school at L’Academie de
Cuisine. That led him to formative stints cooking for José Andrés, at the birthplace of minibar,
Café Atlántico, and the late, great Michel Richard, at Citronelle. It was Michel who first
introduced Tim to all that the wine world had to offer, and that eventually led to his second
career change—moving from food to beverage. Tim helped Peter Weygandt open Weygandt
Wines, a European import wine shop in Cleveland Park, and served as General Manager for
about six years. From there he helped establish the Concierge Sales program nationally for
Total Wine and then opened Zachys DC, which included the first live auction of fine wines in the
area in more than 25 years. Five years ago, Tim joined Prestige-Ledroit Distributing Co. as
District Manager for DC. He now serves as the company’s Wine Sales & Education Manager.
With all of Tim’s knowledge of the industry we here at wanted to ask
Tim’s advice to get that loving feeling up and running~

Why are you the expert we should hear from?
I feel like I have a somewhat unique background in that I’ve cross-trained pretty much all aspects of the F&B world—front and back of the house in restaurants, along with retail, import, and distribution on the wine and spirits side. One enduring way that my experiences have shaped me is my perspective on how I approach eating and drinking. I think many of us who enjoy eating half-seriously think our lives revolve around food. For me, it’s like that, only add in the extra layer of pairing the best beverages (usually wine) with my next meal and then changing half-seriously to pretty, pretty seriously. It’s not to say all food needs wine, but when I’m planning out a meal, it’s almost always about what goes with what. So with that in mind, let’s get to work!

What are your at-home Valentine’s Day recs?
For me, Valentine’s Day at home is all about indulgence and texture. Using quality and luxury ingredients that make us feel posh is ok for a day—we all deserve a little something extra! It’s not necessarily about experimenting or trying something outside of your comfort zone, but more importantly adding in that extra something to make you and your loved one or ones feel special. And I’ve tried to work with different price points so that everyone can find something they can try.
  1. Champagne & Caviar
    • There’s a reason this is a go-to, so even for those who like to buck tradition, don’t knock it til you try it. And by try it, I mean really try it. Start with really good caviar. There are a lot of brands of caviar but I’ve found Petrossian and more specifically Petrossian Royal Daurenki scratches that itch for when I want to level up my dinner with a sustainable, luxury product. (Also available locally at Calvert Woodley—be sure to call ahead so they can have this particular type ordered for you!) For me, this is the perfect intersection of quality and price. It’s buttery, creamy, and has a great snap to each egg. And it’s about 15% of the price of the most expensive caviars out there. Grab some crème fraiche, make some blinis (I’ve found D’Artagnan’s recipe works quite well), and you just might be on to something. As an aside, you can always grab some potato chips if you don’t have time to make the blinis. I like a very crisp, but (gasp!) unsalted chip so they won’t buckle under the weight of the caviar. And if you’re doing it right, the brine of the caviar will season the unsalted potato crisp plenty! Kettle Brand Unsalted is the best widely-available version I’ve found.
    • And what to pair with our oh-so-modest amuse-bouche? Champagne, of course! Since it’s Valentine’s Day, how about a pinker shade of what you may usually go with? We work with a ton of grower Champagnes at Prestige-Ledroit, where in contrast to some of the bigger house brands that purchase a lot of their fruit, the people who are growing and cultivating the grapes are the same people who are making the wines. In the case of our producers, this often means sustainable and organic viticulture, which is never a bad thing these days. Instead of farm to table, it’s farm to bottle. A really good entry point for this is L. Aubry Fils Brut Rosé NV. A blend of 6 of the 7 grape varieties allowed in Champagne, this represents tremendous value in a region that is not necessarily known for that. There’s enough fruit to work in concert with the brine of the caviar but also enough brightness, minerality, and finish to match that of the eggs. You can get this from Housebar. If you’re looking for a similar experience but could stand to save a little bit, try Hubert Clavelin’s Cremant du Jura from Weygandt Wines. Wines from the Jura in eastern France, right before the Swiss border, are Hansel-hot right now. And this lovely cuvée is made in the same traditional Champagne method as the Aubry above, but can be found for half the price.
  2. Oysters & Muscadet
    • There are a ton of different wines that make for a great pairing with oysters. For this one, I’ll go to a classic pairing from one of my favorite parts of the world—northwestern France. If you’ve ever spent any time in this remote part of the world, every pile of pristine, local bivalves seems to be followed by a bottle of a savory, mineral-laden white wine from the far western part of the Loire Valley. Right above where the Loire River empties into the Atlantic Ocean is a small area where you can find arguably the best oysters in the world—Belons. And nearby is the wine region where you can find arguably the best pairing for these mollusks—Muscadet. I always check in with BlackSalt Fish Market when I’m looking for special-occasion oysters. If you like them salty and tender, Malpeques from P.E.I. are a great go-to. And if you like a little fleshier feel, West Coast Kumamotos are always delicious. Occasionally I’ve seen Belons at BlackSalt, but I recommend giving them a call to see what’s available. From there, it’s a quick drive over to Georgetown Wine & Spirits to find a bottle of Domaine Gadais Muscadet Navineaux Amphibolite. You won’t even have to spend $20 for this bottle and it’ll make you consider why you would spend much more on many other types of white wines out there. 
  3. Steak & Red Wine
    • If I were going all-in, I’d throw out something about a Kobe A5 Wagyu Tomahawk. But I’m not suggesting anyone decide to throw a mortgage payment into this meal so let’s continue with the theme of luxurious texture and go with at last halfway-in and get a beautiful a rib steak from Flannery Beef. The California Reserve Dry-Aged “Jorge” Ribsteak, named after acclaimed Spanish wine importer Jorge Ordóñez, is basically a ribsteak from the chuck end of the rib with a large amount of the ribeye cap, making for extra marbling. It’s USDA Prime and dry-aged for 30 days, so it melts in your mouth AND has the extra complexity from the dry aging. (And for the record, I’m team reverse sear. Honestly, however you can get the temp perfect and the crust crispy, you do you. But I’ve had the best results at home with a reverse sear, finishing in a cast iron skillet.) If you don’t have time to get that shipped to you and/or want to support a local business, Wagshal’s in Spring Valley has always worked for me. Harvey’s in Union Market, The Organic Butcher of McLean, Georgetown Butcher, and Stachowski’s are all good options as well.
    • But let’s say you go with one of those beautiful “Jorge” Ribsteaks from Flannery Beef. Why not drink what its namesake would and go with a Rioja from one of the iconic names not only in that region, but in the entire wine world—Muga? Take a trip over to MacArthur’s in Palisades, grab a bottle of Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva, and tell your partner that this is how a guy who had a steak named after him would indulge. Energetic red fruit along with floral and spice scents take on a minerally aspect in the glass. Silky and seamless on the palate, it’ll finish as long as the dry-aged notes of your steak. I tend towards wines that are more about finesse and elegance rather than power and structure, but this is one Rioja that can battle in either arena.
  4. Dessert & (Dessert) Wine
    • There are so many different directions you can go with dessert. But if you’re like me, you’ll go to the pros for something sweet at the end of a big, savory meal. Going back to my culinary school days, I’d inevitably skip a step or omit an ingredient and we all know what happens when you’re careless in baking. So instead of paying more attention, I just let one of the many talented local bakers take care of the area where I’m most deficient. One easy find is the Basque Cheesecake from Nido in Mt. Pleasant. Surprisingly light and beautifully textured (no, I did not forget the theme), this is a not-too-sweet, grown-up version of what used to go untouched on our Thanksgiving dessert buffet. Don’t adulterate the purposeful burnt top-flavoring with any sauces—it simply doesn’t need anything. Except, perhaps, something to drink with it…
    • Often fortified wines are an afterthought and something to try occasionally, but maybe not frequently enjoyed. I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb to say that most people look forward to dessert more than the wines that can be paired with them. And it’s a shame because there’s a whole world of outstanding, delicious, and sometimes remarkable wines out there that are left undiscovered. One option that is relatively unknown and would make an exceptionally delicious pairing would be Château de Saü Rivesaltes Rancio. Yes that seems like a mouthful of words that seem unfamiliar, but what I can tell you is that a bite of that Nido cheesecake and a sip of this Rivesaltes Rancio could have a grudge match with Champagne and caviar and I’m not sure which pairing would come out on top. It’s the perfect match for the slightly sweet, creamy, bitter basque cheesecake. Pick it up at Domestique. Just ask Saman while you’re there—he’ll tell you that’s what he’d pair it with.