Houston's 10 Best Destinations for Wine
Long before Houston's wine awakening began to take shape, the all-French list at Café Rabelais stood apart as an anomaly in the city. Its sheer depth, combined with the range and fairness in pricing, makes it one of Houston's most impressive by anyone's measure. To leaf through the vertical flights of Bordeaux and Burgundy is to revel in the glory that is le vin français. Selections from the Loire Valley help to balance the sticker shock that follows lots from the great domaines of France, however moderately priced. And this list, in terms of its splurgeability and affordability for the quality, simply cannot be beat in Houston (Deutz Champagne for $85, Bruno Paillard Champagne for $105 and an ample allocation of large-format wines are just a few examples of this).
Photo by Jeremy Parzen With its heat and sour flavors, the shrimp cocktail at Hugo's might appear to some to be an impossible wine pairing.
Like Chinese and Italian cooking, Mexican is one of the "mother cuisines" of the world. But it's also one of the most challenging gastronomies when it comes to wine pairing: Intense spice, ubiquitous acidity from red tomatoes and green tomatillos, raw onion and garlic, and an abundance of rich and often overpowering flavors are enough to intimidate nearly any self-respecting wine drinker. Luckily, Houston is home to Sean Beck, one of the most admired wine professionals in the city. And his thrilling wine list at Hugo's is nothing less than heroic in its approach to matching wines with the menu. On a recent evening, a Houston Press contributor found himself faced with the conundrum of what to pair with the shrimp cocktail, a dish in which chile spice, acidic tomato and the fatty mouthfeel of the crustaceans compete to dominate the palate. The solution: a fresh, acidity-driven Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley, with just enough roundness and unctuousness to wrap its arms around the heat of the dish and contain it. The food-friendliness of the Hugo's list (including a healthy offering of Champagne, an ideal wine for Mexican food) excels despite the obstacles posed by the menu.
Backstreet Café wine director Sean Beck is the only Houston wine professional to appear twice on our list, and that fact should come as a surprise to no one. Long before the new wave of wine connoisseurship began to emerge here, Beck's catalog was a go-to for wine professionals and laypeople alike. As if by sorcery, he somehow manages to incorporate nearly every criterion used to compile our list: Affordability, service and food-friendliness are the tenets that guide his approach, and with his brilliantly annotated yet easy-to-navigate list, he also scores the highest marks for education. And his keen interest in German-speaking wines makes him a great source for lovers of the Teutonic, delivering a high score in theme as well.
3755 Richmond, Houston, TX