Houston's 10 Best Destinations for Wine
Photo by Jeremy Parzen Samantha Porter's Italocentric list at Osteria Mazzantini was a welcome arrival in Houston, where Italian wines have struggled to maintain a foothold.
Although Houston wine lovers will forever mourn the demise of Antonio Gianola's superb Italian list at the now defunct Catalan, a new Italian star has been born with Samantha Porter's Italocentric list at Osteria Mazzantini, which opened earlier this year. Even as French wines -- classic and funky -- have begun to make inroads into Houston's still California-dominated wine scene, Italian wines struggled to find a champion until Porter and her bold list entered the scene. Her program scores high marks in theme, affordability and food-friendliness.
Matthew Pridgen's tight, focused list at Underbelly excels despite the enormous challenge it faces: The intense flavors and richness of Chris Shepherd's melting-pot menu can easily overwhelm lighter-bodied and minutely nuanced wines. Pridgen works around this obstacle by featuring wines from the Rhône (a brilliant pairing for Shepherd's eclectic cooking). The bold, earthy, savory umami notes work superbly with the heat, char and rub of his counterpart in the kitchen. A smattering of intelligently selected Californians -- wines with food-friendly acidity and judicious alcohol content -- help to provide options for guests who look westward. And his list -- with its colorful illustrations and philosophical (and often hysterical) musings -- is a true original. This is another one to chalk up in the je ne sais quoi category.
The Pass and Provisions
The Pass and Provisions' wine director, Travis Hinkle, may have inherited his all-over-the-map list from his predecessor, but he's done a wonderful job of keeping it fresh and relevant and maintaining the level of service that made it stand out in the first place. From Lebanon (a region that few Houstonians look to for fine wine) to Greece, Hinkle's program is perhaps Houston's most equanimous in its breadth. It also has a wonderful selection of Sherry, not to mention some value-driven Loire sparkling wines. Even the most jaded wine drinker cannot help being impressed when leafing through the list's maps; in addition, the enthusiasm of the servers at The Pass and Provisions, and their level of knowledge, are refreshing. A number one choice in the education and service categories.
Camerata at Paulie's
Master Sommelier candidate David Keck and his team at Camerata at Paulie's have undeniably shaken things up with their constantly changing by-the-glass program and their thoughtful selection, which has a heavy focus on "wine geek" wines but never loses sight of approachability and food-friendliness. So much has changed in the Houston wine scene during the past five years, and Keck, perhaps more than any other of the city's wine directors, has embraced the availability of esoteric wines and Houstonians' newfound thirst for wine knowledge. And there is no other destination in town where the servers arrive tableside with such a wealth of knowledge about the wines they pour. In terms of education, with a bit of je ne sais quoi thrown in the mix, Camerata is at the top of the list.
3755 Richmond, Houston, TX