Houston's French Country Wines Set to Help You Comprendre le vin français
Photo by Joanna O'Leary Lindsay, Phyllis and Tim of French Country Wines
The easiest way to get to French Country Wines, oddly enough, is by way of a giant metal armadillo. Located on an unassuming side street off the increasingly garish Kirby Drive, the wine store and tasting room may be easily missed in the presence of larger businesses (e.g., Armadillo Palace). "Easily missed," however, is not to say that French Country Wine is overshadowed by these other commercial establishments.
There is something very cool going on in this shop, which is technically mom-and-pop, though to describe its owners, Phyllis and Tim Smith, in such a fashion seems a disservice to this chic yet approachable couple. Since 2006, Phyllis and Tim have been introducing the Houston community to select affordable wines from small, family-owned vineyards in France. It's a second go-around for both of them professionally, each having enjoyed successful careers in the scientific research and financial worlds, respectively. I never spent time with Phyllis and Tim when they were engaged in their previous jobs, but watching them at work now nevertheless suggests wine is their true vocational passion.
They speak enthusiastically but without pretension about biannual trips to France, where they seek out new clients as well as visit old ones, some of whom, Phyllis says fondly, have gone from being mere acquaintances to "very good friends" over the years. The camaraderie extends to their domestic team in Houston, which includes wholesale manager Jean-Phillipe Guy (formerly of Bistro Provence) and their zealous associate Lindsay Montreuil, whom they tease for selling bottles too quickly.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary Bottle line-up for weekly Wednesday evening tasting
Phyllis and Tim's mission is quite simple: to bring quality affordable French wines to Houston. Oh, yes -- they also want to rid Americans of the belief that French wines are "too confusing" as well as show how varietal blends, even inexpensive ones, can wonderfully complement all types of cuisine.