Top 10 Wine Lists in Houston

Categories: Top 10, Wine Time

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Photo by Troy Fields
Uchi.
7. Uchi and Kata Robata (tied)

Along with Kata Robata, Uchi sets the bar in Houston for pairing sushi with wine -- a difficult task, as noted above. At Kata, you'll find a section of Steven Salazar's wine list devoted entirely to solid sushi pairings with what Vann calls "legendary choices like Domaine Sigalas Santorini, or Huet Sec Vouvray." And at Uchi Houston, Vann notes: "David Keck is an invaluable resource. He convinced the restaurant group to participate in 'Summer of Riesling,' which is genius for sushi joints."

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen
Steven McDonald, the new sommelier at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.
6. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

"When you've got a billion dollars, you'd better have a great wine list," jokes Turner. The famously wealthy wine cellar at Pappas features more than 40,000 bottles -- or roughly $5 million worth of wine. "When you want to spend serious money on a bottle of red wine, this should be your first choice," says Vann. "It's really quite simple: a massive, cavernous cellar, tended to by some of the best sommeliers in town. Their markups are beyond reasonable. And even in the absence of Drew Hendricks, who helped push the list over the edge into Spectator Grand Award territory, they are savvy with geeky wines too, not just the classics."

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Photo by Paul Sedillo
Justin Vann of Oxheart.
5. Oxheart

"Oxheart's list is great, and especially when you start talking about a list that lets its own ego go," remarks Turner. Chef Justin Yu's dazzling food is never overshadowed by the wines that Vann picks, although the wines themselves are typically unusual choices. Right now, for example, Vann is doing a daring all-white pairing with Oxheart's four- and seven-course dinners. "It stays very much in line with what they're doing in the kitchen, which is what a wine list should always do," says Turner. "It's just the wonderful frame in which that food is shown."

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Photo by Paula Murphy
Sean Beck of Backstreet Cafe and Hugo's.
4. Backstreet Cafe

Backstreet Cafe has two heavy-hitters backing up its wine list in Marc Borel and Sean Beck, and it shows. Beck's motto there is that "wine is not an extra or a luxury, but a necessary part of healthy living and a critical ingredient in helping food taste its best." To that end, the list has something for everyone -- perfectly geared toward the diverse clientele that crowds the old River Oaks house and its lush patio. "Backstreet's list is great in that if you and your wine geek buddies want to go and have something to eat, and drink something really new and cool and groovy, [Beck's] probably got it," says Turner. "If your aunt from Kansas City comes to town and all she wants to drink is Cakebread, they've got that too."


Location Info

Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse

1510 Texas St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

Divino

1830 W. Alabama, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Cafe Rabelais

2442 Times Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Hugo's

1600 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

5839 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Oxheart

1302 Nance St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Backstreet Cafe

1103 S. Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX

Category: Music

Philippe - CLOSED

1800 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Pass

807 Taft St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

13 Celsius Wine Bar

3000 Caroline, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
csoakley
csoakley

Wine, shmine. Who's the girl in the pic? She's cute.

ChristopherM
ChristopherM

Wine and food aren't about 'objectivity', blackjackdavid and Hungriterri. Love isn't objective, and neither is food, nor vacations, nor art. Your call for some sense of 'objectivity' strips the romantic mystery and personality from life like a bow-tied George Will waiting to weigh in about the exact amount of marrow in a delicious appetizer of bones.

Make a case, but pls not a clubfooted one, not one that lacks the very thing that we celebrate in great nuanced wines. Read Kermit Lynch before Robert Parker, and don't take Parker's numbers so seriously.

adriennebyard
adriennebyard

13 Celsius not only has one of the best wine lists in the city, I'd defend it to say it has one of the best wine lists in the country. I'd rather sit at 13 Celsius than 95% of the wine bars in New York City.

And to those saying this isn't "objective" enough because Oxheart and Backstreet are on the list, you're clearly not versed enough to realize that those choices are obvious - with or without sommelier input.

mern721
mern721

I can't believe The Glass Wall wasn't even an honorable mention! Shepard Ross has introduced us to many fine wines through the years and was one of the first to make a wine pairing suggestion under each offering on the menu!

pirandello
pirandello

I think Olivier at L'Olivier has assembled a thoughtful list with the help of James Watkins. They have a wide range, from stuff on tap to the famous big name impress-an-oil-guy-lawyer type of wines (for about 35% less than Tony's!!).

Also harbor a warm place for Feast's tiny, but well-chosen list, with it's nod toward Spain. 

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

This was a fascinating read. I've never really studied wine or given thought to how well it pairs with food (Stag's Leap is my gold standard), but now I want to!

Hungryterri
Hungryterri

Sorry this smacks of wine bro's patting each other on the back. Needs a soupçon of objectivity and a healthy dose of end-user input.

blackjackdavid
blackjackdavid

Nice list, but your panel needs work. You've got two out of the four "experts" who work at some of the restaurants that were rated. Need more objectivity than that.

mfsmit
mfsmit

So many "best wine list" lists only take the left-hand column into account when judging a great list, so it's refreshing that this top-10 considers the right-hand column as well.

That said, I'd give places like Reef, Brasserie 19 and Underbelly high marks for pursuing a low-markup strategy that allows diners to enjoy excellent wines at near-retail pricing, instead of paying $50 for a bottle that can be had for $15 at the supermarket.

Wade Woodard
Wade Woodard

Your list is fine if dining on an expense account.  For the rest of us, I'm surprised that Ibiza, or Coppa, or Brasserie 19 failed to make the list.  They are all owned by same group, have great wine selections  and by far have much more reasonable markups on their wine prices.

blackjackdavid
blackjackdavid

@adriennebyard Chill – don't let NYC turn you so defensive. I agree that Oxheart and Backstreet would be on anyone's rankings of top wine lists in town. In the original article, however, there was no indication that those sommeliers were objective. It read as if this was the panel's rankings. Katharine clarified in her comment below that this is merely her own personal ranking, with comments from the panel added as color commentary. That's more than fair. Only wish it would have stated that at the top.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editortopcommenter

@mern721 Good call. I also like the list he's put together at Brooklyn Athletic Club, too.

Daphne26
Daphne26

@Hungryterri  

What does objectivity have to do with wine? I'd say very little, beyond the basics. Otherwise, everyone would just stock their cellar with "the Best", corresponding to Parker or Wine Spectator scores. Which is what some dull somms actually do. 

End-user input? Like a soupcon of impressions contained on Yelp or B4UEat....like Brio Tuscan Grille! Or Carrabba's! Or Rudi Lechner's. No thanks to soupcons and end-users.


kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editortopcommenter

@Hungryterri The end-user input was me. I assembled the list and I chose the positions of the restaurants on the list. The input from the sommeliers was color commentary. I apologize if it comes across as "bro's patting each other on the back," but in my opinion it was simply industry professionals giving credit where it's due to other professionals.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editortopcommenter

@blackjackdavid I apologize. I should have specified very clearly above that NONE of the sommeliers I polled mentioned their own places of employment. Not a single one.

pirandello
pirandello

@Wade Woodard

Yikes! I'm not crazy about any of those "value" choices, especially since they're all owned by the same duo. For value,  I'd go with L'Olivier, Haven, Poscol, hell, even Sorrel.

adriennebyard
adriennebyard

@blackjackdavid I don't know who you are, but I'm perfectly calm, thanks.

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