Wine Insider: Pricing Extremes, Good and Bad, at Marco Wiles's Dolce Vita and Vinoteca Poscol

Categories: Wine Time

italian_wine_houston_texas.jpg
Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
An Italian wine insider's wine, like this rare and gorgeous Riesling from the Oltrepò Pavese appellation in Northern Italy, is aggressively priced at Dolce Vita. A more common wine like the Pieropan Soave, also a favorite of mine, is marked up far above Houston standards.
In October, when Eating...Our Words published "Houston's 10 Best Destinations for Wine," a number of readers complained in the comment section that none of Marco Wiles's restaurants had been included (his Da Marco was excluded, as were all "trophy wine" destinations; see the intro to the post for the explanation of criteria).

Some -- anonymous commenters, of course -- even had the gumption to suggest that I was biased against Wiles and his restaurant group.

My response (see the comments) was: hogwash. I promptly offered to meet any and all takers for a glass of wine and a nosh on the following Saturday evening at Wiles's Vinoteca Poscol on Westheimer (at the aperitivo hour so that the appointment wouldn't encroach on anyone's dinner hour). Please meet me, I wrote. I'm buying.

No one came. And so I sat alone at the bar, munched on Prosciutto and Montasio (a cheese from Friuli), and ordered a bottle of Pieropan Soave, one of my favorite white wines from Italy and a wine considered by most industry observers a "value-driven" bottle.

The wine was delicious and the Prosciutto a little dry and yellow around the edges but wholesome nonetheless. The cheese wasn't exactly sliced the way they do it in Friuli. And it didn't seem to be "aged," though the menu claimed it was. But it was fresh and tasty.

The only problem was that the markup on the Pieropan was egregiously high.

At one point, I noticed that a waiter was decanting a bottle of Planeta Nero d'Avola, also a (presumably) value-driven wine. I was curious as to why such a humble -- however lovely -- bottle was being decanted. The bartender told me that "every bottle over $60 is decanted" at Poscol. Go figure.

He also confirmed that all the stemware at Poscol is made of glass and that crystal or otherwise fine stemware is not available.

In light of this, I'm going to stand by Poscol's omission from the "Houston's 10 Best Destinations for Wine" list.

Location Info

Vinoteca Poscol

1609 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

500 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Da Marco

1520 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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11 comments
DoBianchi
DoBianchi

wow, I didn't realize this was such a sore spot for everyone out there (whoever you are). Yes, i do work with Tony Vallone (and all are aware of this) but I am unaware of the epic feud that you're referring to.

The only point of this post was that I stand by my decision not to include Poscol or Dolce Vita in the top 10 destinations piece. That's it.

And if you read the piece in its entirety, you'll note that I have glowing words for the evolving wine program at Dolce Vita. 

Next year, when we do another top 10, I'll be sure to look carefully at both venues (Dolce Vita is on its way to get back on top, imho).

Kagan, you'll note that both the wines I mention at Dolce Vita are Doug's wines! 

And Marina, whoever you are in real life, take a look at my blog and you'll find that I've written extensively about Gaja and Giacosa (and have tasted with the winemakers at both wineries).

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone. And thanks for reading the post and the kind words. 

For anyone who wants to come out from behind the cloak of anonymity, I'd love to buy you a glass of wine at Dolce Vita. I'm serious about that... Just be in touch via the blog or email me at jparzen@gmail.com

You know who I am. I'd love to learn more about who you are. And a glass of wine at DV would be the perfect way to do that. 

marina
marina

I must confess that I find Jeremy Parzen to be a whining prima donna here. I took his link-bait back to the original commenters and actually googled his name with Tony Vallone, as someone suggested. It's clear that he works for Tony Vallone, and if he claims he has no bias when reviewing a competitor (or never reviewing them, as the commenter says), well, I guess I'm as shocked as he is when someone calls him out for biased 'overlooking'. 

Maybe in Jeremy's mind he can work for Gaja and review Giacosa, and consider himself objective. Not in my mind.


Kagan
Kagan

As much as I like your writing this column, I don't recall you nitpicking about wine prices much in the past, so I was surprised here to see you single out the Pieropan Soave, which is one of my favorites. I'm not sure why you think it's overpriced at Poscol which sells it for $36. Paulie's sells it for $42, Oxheart for $49, and Arturo's for $33. Nothing egregious about this to me--you know something I don't?

Also, one of the things I like about Poscol are the offbeat, smaller selections from local guy Doug Skopp. You've written about him previously to applaud what he's doing here, so I find it odd you didn't mention his stuff at Poscol.


KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

You know I'll always meet you for a glass, Jeremy!

delVolpe
delVolpe

I think maybe the commenters' befuddlement was justified given a few facts: 1) that you have a professional relationship with Tony Vallone and his restaurants 2) that you have never deigned, until now,  to mention any of the Wiles' restaurants (Da Marco, Dolce Vita, Poscol), nor that of another former Vallone employee, Chef Olivier Ciesielski. 3) Tony Vallone is known to have a rather cool, you-are-dead-to-me disposition toward break away employees who start their own ventures.

So who knows, maybe it was mere co-incidence that you overlooked commenting on these otherwise celebrated places, a capite ad calcem. Or, not.

Jamie69
Jamie69

@DoBianchi  

Sounds like you're a super guy Jeremy, and know the wine scene left and right, even here in Houston, but I get the gist from the past commenters that they're agog about great Italian wines, and that you missed a competitor of the gent you work with, whether intentionally or not. And then, when finally mentioning this competitor in whatever context, you seem to go out of your way to disparage with faint praise, claiming something is good, but overpriced, when maybe it's not, and emphasizing that Poscol draws on two big suppliers, while leaving unsaid the two wines you're praising are from a small vendor. Tonal, dude, as we'd say in my biz. But rock on with the great writing, I've learned a lot from your blogs!


DoBianchi
DoBianchi

@Jamie69 @DoBianchi so should I never write about any of Marco's restaurants and their wine programs ever again? I also wrote about my experience at DV on my blog and nobody complained there (for obvious reasons, I don't want to post the link here but my post is easy to find). I just wanted to address the questions of why I didn't include Poscol or DV in my top ten wine destinations post in October. The logic that Marco is a competitor of my friend/client doesn't really hold water here: if that were the case, every restaurateur in Houston would be off limits. I write about Houston restaurants and their wine programs regularly here and on my blog. I don't know what the whole story is about Marco and why this is such an issue for a handful of readers. In any case, Jamie69, thanks for the kind words about my other posts. You must be in the recording arts. I'm with you, man.  

DoBianchi
DoBianchi

@PietraS @DoBianchi @Jamie69 please read the original post: Da Marco was excluded because it's a "trophy" list and I just don't think that DV and Poscol are among "Houston's top 10 destinations for wine" right now. They may very well become that (again?). But I stand by their omission from the list. Now, it would seem that I am the one who should start believing in conspiracy theories. And I have very openly stated that I think that Nathan Smith is doing a great job at DV and that I love the values on his list. It's just an uneven list, that's all. Now, after all of these nasty ridiculous comments. No one seems to remember that I am the one who has been spending my money at both places (yes, my money; and I'm a very generous tipper). When is the last time any of you bottle of wine at either place? And my offer still stands to share a bottle with whomever would like to meet me at either place.

PietraS
PietraS

@DoBianchi @Jamie69  

C'mon Jeremy....The previous criticism pertained to two places that you ignored, both with pretty solid wine programs (one started by Antonio Gianola, the other James Watkins), both restaurants headed by very capable kitchen guys who left Tony Vallone's nest to start their own enterprise, Wiles and Ciesielski. 

So no, we're not talking every restaurant in Houston, or even every Italian restaurant in Houston. Just two very good ones that escaped your attention, and happen to be former  Vallone employees. Thanks, that's all.


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