A Glass of PureWine with Judd Fruia

A Glass of PureWine with Judd Fruia

Plus, manly game-day party tips and wine pairing ideas

Judd Fruia’s influence on the Dallas restaurant scene over the past 25 years can be likened to his taste in wine and steak – big and bold. His restaurants have helicopter pads, his wine lists are perfectly curated and his staff is remarkably trained under his detailed approach to food and wine pairings. And that’s just the beginning.

A few weeks prior Judd represented Texas and The Ranch at Las Colinas (where he has been the Director of Operations since 2010) on Fox & Friends. The Sunday morning segment featured tailgating tips from six US restaurants, chefs and football fans. True to form, Judd adorned himself in a black Stetson and cowboy boots, borrowed the Dallas Cowboys’ tailgating tent, flew to NYC and “did it big,” serving-up wild boar sausage links, Texas bone-in cowboy rib-eyes and roasted corn on the cob like only the Lone Star state can.

As an Italian, wine is in his blood. He’s a native Texan and grew-up in Houston. He graduated from the University of Texas, and is a transplant Dallas Cowboys fan. Not only does he love football, he loves the camaraderie that erupts in the city when any Dallas team does well.

So, who better to ask about all things wine, steak and football? After a sit down I mentioned my preference for medium-bodied red blends and lighter cabs, Judd recommended we try Domaine Serene Pinot Noir, the #3 wine in the world this year and a Willamette Valley darling. We poured a glass and let the conversation roll.

Me: When did your love affair with wine begin?

Judd: I grew-up with an appreciation for wine. It was always around. I’m Italian. But, it was during my time at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse that I really got to try some special wines, wines that many people don’t have the opportunity to try. I got to geek out if you will, and really fall in love with wine. Now I’m a certified sommelier. I recently got back from Napa. I’m planning a trip to Bordeaux. My passion continues to grow. Wine really enhances most experiences.

Me: What’s the best wine you’ve tried in the past few days?

Judd: I recently had a 1982 Cheval Blanc that was spectacular!

Me: Tell me about the wine list at The Ranch.

Judd: I developed our wine list to match our style of food. The global wine list on the back of our menu features great wines that people recognize and enjoy, like Jordan, Caymus, Stags Leap, Opus One, etc. Sometimes we bring in cult wines that are really hard to find. We have great relationships with our wine vendors here in town, so they reserve some special bottles for The Ranch.

Me: I hear you’re a fan of The Wand?

Judd: I really am. What’s cool about what David is doing with this invention is that he’s helping people enjoy all types of wine while also mitigating the unknown. Some wines have more histamine than I expect, or it can be a combination of things I’ve eaten or sipped over an evening that will build-up and cause a reaction. I like to offer The Wand to our customers for the same reason. It gives people the opportunity to be adventurous in wine without suffering for it.

Me: Let’s talk about football and wine. Are they a pair?

Judd: Of course. If you go to AT&T stadium now days, they have some really nice wine bars right there in the stadium. Games I’ve watched with friends from the suites have included a nice wine selection too. And you know, where there are men, there are women. Sometimes the women have to get it started, but quickly the men join in. Wine and football…it’s a thing.

Me: There are so many men out there who enjoy grilling out, having friends over for a big game, and serving great wine. What advice can you give them? Any menu ideas for a successful party?

Judd:  Sure, of course. First you need a plan. Figure out how many people you’re going to have. Make sure you buy enough food and drinks, and that your mise en place game is strong.  And most importantly, keep it simple so that you can watch the game and be a good host.

Me: And the menu?

Judd: This is what I would do…steak and shrimp on the grill. Guys love protein.

  • A nice meat and cheese board paired with a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay for the appetizer. Grill some sausages. Most nice grocery stores will plate your board too; you just need to pick out some cheeses.
  • For the shrimp, pick out some U10-U12 gulf shrimp. Season and grill them, and serve them with cocktail sauce or a remoulade.
  • For the steak, you’ve got to go with something manly, something with the bone in. The Cowboy rib eye is the way to go. The marbling adds so much flavor. For guests, consider Angus or Prime.
  • Sides can be simple, like grilled corn or baked potatoes. It’s nice that you can cook these on the grill too.
  • Serve crowd pleasing wine with dinner, definitely big reds and blends. Maybe Silver Oak, or Stags Leap.
  • Finish the meal with some fruit and chocolate, and offer your guest a glass of Port or Madeira.

Me: Wow, I’d like an invitation to your next party! And for those guys who are a little strapped for time, or a tad intimidated by this caliber of hosting?

Judd: Sometimes it’s really nice to leave the heavy lifting to someone else. At The Ranch, we will prepare a football watch party menu to meet your needs. Call ahead and let us help you plan, and then all you have to do is invite your friends. We have 19 TVs and you will be in good company – many people watch big games at The Ranch. We also do a ton of game day catering and take-out…people pick-up our ribs!

Me: As for the Dallas Cowboys this year?

Judd: I hope they go far into the playoffs, if not to the Super Bowl. I love seeing our team catch their stride. That offensive line has been our Achilles heel in the past, and now it’s a real strong point. Show us some wins! We’re a sports town and we are ready to rally.

Cheers, Judd! Thank you for your time.

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