"Summer Riesling" Grease Parody Brings Down the House at Camerata

Categories: Wine Time

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YouTube screen capture.
You had to be a wine nerd to get all the inside jokes but the video's general hilarity brought down the house last night at Camerata.
There was brio in the air last night at Camerata, as co-owners David Keck and Paul Petronella wrangled an ornery projector and guests sipped Riesling selected especially for the wine bar's "Summer of Riesling" microlist.

The occasion was the debut screening of "Summer Riesling - A 'Summer Nights' Parody," a video produced and performed by Mark Collado, a musical theater enthusiast and amateur singer, and Ryan Cooper, a Camerata sommelier and chef-about-town (he is the founder and owner of R&D Barbecue, a Houston-based catering company). The two became friends and musical collaborators after meeting at the wine bar, where Mark is a regular guest.


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An "Unoaked" Chardonnay Hits the Spot at Grotto

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
When choosing among white wines that they never tasted before, diehard wine fanatics often go for the "unoaked" Chardonnay.
It was difficult to find a seat Monday night at the bar at Grotto, the popular Houston mainstay.

Between a couple of very friendly ladies dressed in bright blouses and a queue of middle-aged traveling businessmen who seemed eager to share a cocktail with them, two Houston food and wine professionals considered themselves lucky to find a bar stool at 6 p.m.

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Austinite Joelle Cousins Wins "Best Texas Sommelier" Competition

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Alfonso Cevola.
Joelle Cousins, center, was the winner of the 2014 "best Texas sommelier" title at Texsom in Dallas yesterday.
Austinite Joelle Cousins (above, center) took home the "best Texas sommelier 2014" title at the conclusion of the annual sommelier conference Texsom in Dallas last night.

Cousins competed against 24 Texan sommeliers, including seven Houstonians, for the honor.


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Houstonians Compete for "Best Texas Sommelier" Title

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Many of the Houstonians competing in this weekend "Best Texas Sommelier" event attend the weekly wine education seminars held by the Houston Sommelier Association.
Competition will be fierce this weekend at the annual "Best Texas Sommelier" to be held at the Texsom conference in Dallas.

Of the 25 competitors, seven are Houstonians: Paulina Avendano (Granduca Hotel), Andres Blanco (Caracol), Jarrett Buffington (The Capital Grille), Brett Forsberg (currently unaffiliated but part of the Camerata at Paulie's circle), Matthew Garcia (The Capital Grille), Dario Najera (Arturo's Uptown Italiano), and Whitney Seng (River Oaks Country Club).


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Competitive Wine Prices at Coltivare Pair Well

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
The D'Orta-De Conciliis Falanghina sells for just $38 at the Italianate eatery Coltivare on White Oak Drive in the Heights.
Back in 2009, when the Houston wine scene was just beginning to take off, then-sommelier Antonio Gianola asked a visiting wine writer to cast his gaze across the dining room of the now defunct Catalan.

"Look," he said with evident pride, "there's a bottle of wine on every table."

It was a seminal moment in Houston's evolution as a wine-hip city: Antonio's aggressive pricing, then a novelty, became the model for many of the restaurateurs and wine directors that would open new venues in the years that followed.

The wine list at the Italianate eatery Coltivare on White Oak Drive in the Heights seems to have borrowed a page from Antonio's much-missed wine list.

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Fluff Bake Bar's Rebecca Masson Secures a Space for Her Brick & Mortar Bakery

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Photo courtesy Fluff Bake Bar
Rebecca Masson sometimes goes by the moniker "sugar hooker," because she brings sweets to the masses. And she's sassy.
Back in December, the "sugar hooker" Rebecca Masson launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to help build out her dream bakery. Hundreds of Houstonians donated more than $53,000 to the cause, but then Masson got back to work, and we didn't hear much more about the upcoming bakery. Until now.

Today, Masson announced that she's secured a space at 304 Gray in Midtown, the former location of Sweet Lola Yogurt Bar, for her bakery Fluff Bake Bar. She anticipates spending the next three to four months turning the space into the ideal dessert bar and opening late this fall.

"Every person who graduates from culinary school says 'I'm going to open a restaurant or bakery,' and out of 5,000 people, maybe five of them do," Masson says. "So I've been saying this since I graduated culinary school. It's time to pull on my big girl panties and do it!"

When it opens, the bakery will be the first of its kind in Houston, thanks in large part to Masson's experience in professional pastry kitchens across the country and her notion that everything tastes a little sweeter with some bubbly (and beer) to go with it.

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Rockstar Winemaker Pax Mahle Takes Houston by Storm

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Samantha Porter, left, who recently quit her position as wine director at Osteria Mazzantini, tasted with rockstar winemaker Pax Mahle yesterday at Caracol.
A Houston wine writer considered himself fortunate to get an audience with rockstar winemaker Pax Mahle yesterday while the charismatic sommelier cum winery owner was in town to show his wine to buyers and speak at a sold-out wine dinner at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.

That's not to say that Mahle is pretentious or stuck up by any means.

But his two handlers -- like rock band tour managers -- were quick to whisk the "talent" to his next gig after a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am pre-dinner tasting with said writer and a handful of top Houston wine professionals.


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Where Are Houston's Female Sommeliers?

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo courtesy Adele Corrigan
Vanessa Trevino-Boyd, left, and Adele Corrigan, two of Houston's handful of female sommeliers.
Quick, name all of the female sommeliers in Houston.

OK, if you can't name all of them, name at least ten.

Trick question. Here in Houston, we have only a handful: Vanessa Trevino-Boyd (60 Degrees Mastercrafted), Samantha Porter (freelancing), Annette Amaya (Cru Wine Bar), Angie Chang (Sonoma Wine Bar) and Cathy Nguyen (Mark's). There's also Adele Corrigan of 13 Celsius, who many people consider a sommelier, but who hasn't actually taken the test because, as she says, "I just don't need it right now."

"I feel like the word "somm" now days is to describe the position you have, not necessarily your certification," Corrigan explains. "There are so many different schools now that sommelier has become a generalized term. You can call me whatever you want: Sommelier, beverage director, wine lady."

Whatever you choose to call her and her fellow "wine ladies," it's a fact that there are far fewer women in the industry than men. This is true nationwide, but the numbers are particularly startling here in Houston.

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Proposed Go Texan Wine Labeling Changes Don't Go Far Enough

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Lewis Dickson, owner of the Cruz de Comal winery in the Texas Hill Country, is one of the handful of Texas winemakers who bottle Texas-grown grapes exclusively.
On Thursday of last week, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) released the text of a proposed amendment to its Go Texan licensing rules for Texas wines.

Go Texan is a TDA marking program that helps to promote awareness of Texan agricultural products (including wine). It allows approved growers and producers of Texan foods and wines to add the Go Texan logo to their labeling.

Currently, the TDA allows Texan wine producers to use the logo as long as the wine is "produced" or "processed" in the state of Texas. In other words, even if none of the grapes are grown in Texas, a winemaker can still label it using the Go Texan logo.


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Chilean Winemaker Delivers Surprising, Refreshing Food-Friendliness

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Leading Houston wine blogger Amy Gross (left) was one of the guests at an intimate tasting hosted by Chilean winemaker Felipe Tosso (right) last night at Churrascos on Westheimer.
"When I was younger," said Chilean winemaker Felipe Tosso last night at an intimate tasting of his wines at Churrascos, "I made big and bold, intense, tannic wines. But now that I'm older [in his early 40s] and now that I'm a father and more mellow, I make more food-friendly wines. I want to have fun drinking my wines."

I rarely accept invitations to tastings like the one held by Tosso last night. But at the urging of a wine colleague from New York, I was inspired to attend.

"You might find that they surprise you," she told me.

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