A time out for wine: Jim Herrick

Published 8:27 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jim Herrick is the owner of Tolly's Time Out, an institution in Austin that boasts an impressive wine selection for visitors to the Italian steakhouse to enjoy. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Jim Herrick knows wine.

He can still remember the time his father pulled out a bottle of Bordeaux during Christmas dinner when he was 19 years old. He remembers the sight of it, the bouqet, swirling the wine in the glass.

“It was that first eye-opening, wow experience for me,” Herrick said.

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Since then, Herrick’s made a name for himself, most recently as the owner of Tolly’s Time Out Restaurant, which he’s run for almost five years. Herrick, who grew up in Austin, spent 12 years working in hotel management and then as a food seller before deciding he wanted to own a business in a small town.

“I wanted to own my own place,” Herrick said. He was speaking with his parents during Thanksgiving in 2004 when they mentioned Tolly’s was for sale. The following May, Herrick took over.

Aside from putting together an impressive wine list of more than 120 varieties, Herrick’s been busy updating, remodeling and finally switching the menu at Tolly’s. This past September, Tolly’s switched formats to an Italian steakhouse, as Herrick has heard how Austin needed a good Italian place for years.

“I didn’t do it initially because I knew that I was taking over an institution that had been around for 22 years,” Herrick said. However, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially Monday night’s half-price wine bottles.

Herrick’s love for wine has turned him into a connoisseur. He says his love for wine grew as most other aficionados do: He enjoyed white wines at first, then warmed up to the softer reds before hurling himself at the stronger tasting red wines. His wine palate has become quite vast as a result.

“I’ve recently rediscovered the beauty of white wines, of chardonnays and sauvignon blancs,” Herrick said. “There’s so many other white wines that I’ve started to open myself up to.”

He can now describe the subtleties in rieslings, can extol the virtues of a good cabernet, and can recommend the right wine for the right food, the right mood and the right kind of company.

“It’s just an enjoyable experience both on an intellectual and tasting level,” he said.