First Female Takes Home a Prize From Iron Somm, But Bubbles Still Win

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Steven McDonald of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (center) proudly holds the Iron Sommelier trophy.

Female sommeliers have competed in the annual Iron Sommelier Competition for years, but last night marked the first time that one has taken home one of the major award categories. Vanessa Treviño-Boyd of 60 Degrees Mastercrafted scored the Best Presentation award last night. She succeeded in the intimidating task of presenting her wine and wowing an elite group of dozens of event underwriters in a private room.

Treviño-Boyd used a creative theme called "Expressions of America's Leading Ladies," specifically referring to wines she felt were reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep and Scarlett Johansson. What does her win mean for other female sommeliers in Houston? "The Underwriter Room was the high-stakes room. You were put on the spot, you could either hang or not and there was no real hiding it. So, I think it means women here can hang, stay calm, cool and collected and then shine."

What did she present to win over the underwriters? "2009 Elderton 'Command' Shiraz, and Australia is not my strong suit either!" Well, you'd never know it.

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Controversial Pinot Noir Festival Slated to Come to Houston in 2015

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
California grape grower and winemaker Jasmine Hirsch led a guided tasting of her wines last night for collectors at 60 Degrees Mastercrafted.
In yet another sign that Houston is becoming one of the leading "wine destination" cities in the United States, California winemaker and festival co-founder Jasmine Hirsch (above) revealed yesterday that the controversial "In Pursuit of Balance" tasting will be held in Houston on March 30, 2015. It's the first that the event has been held outside of San Francisco or New York.

Borne out of a "conversation" with celebrity sommelier, winemaker, author, and In Pursuit of Balance co-founder Rajat Parr, the annual festival, now in its fifth year, features California producers of Pinot Noir who favor a leaner, high-acidity, low-alcohol, "old world" style in their wines.

Since the 1970s, the California wine industry has been dominated by a richer, fruit-forward, low-acidity, and high-alcohol approach to winemaking -- the so-called "modern style."

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A Wine Competition for a Cause:
Iron Sommelier 2014

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Iron Sommelier 2014 is just a few weeks away!
Iron Sommelier, the annual wine competition and fundraiser, returns on October 2nd from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Houstonian. The event benefits The Periwinkle Foundation, a non-profit organization which helps seriously ill children and their families. It's also an opportunity for Houston's top sommeliers to go out and demonstrate their deep knowledge of wine.

The somms come up with a theme and present wines for attendees to taste that best represents it. The theme may be about a particular grape, region or style of wine. There are also plenty of small bites and snacks, overseen by The Houstonian's executive chef, Neal Cox.

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Sip on Wine During Taste Around Town Houston, and We Have the Discount Code

Categories: Wine Time

Photos courtesy of Bottlenotes
Taste Around Town arrives in Houston September 15.
Houston Restaurant Weeks just came to a close, but there's another foodie event, more specifically, a wine event, happening in our city in less than two weeks. Taste Around Town Houston is similar to restaurant weeks, except participating restaurants will feature wine specials, such as flights and dinner pairings. The two-week event lasts from September 15 until September 28; all of the participating restaurants will feature wines from Chateau Montelena, Penfolds and selections from France.

Taste Around Town is hosted by Bottlenotes, the same company that brought 80 Sips Around the World to Houston, and this will be the first time Bottlenotes hosts Taste Around Town in our city.

"It's intended to drive awareness and traffic to participating restaurants while offering new and existing customers a chance to discover new wines," Devin Parr, senior program manager at Bottlenotes, says. "It's an exciting experience for people who may not have visited a particular restaurant in a given market and it's also a way for current customers of a particular restaurant to experience new wines they might not have tasted before, or regions that they might not have explored before. It's a wine experience that's very similar to restaurant week, we're just focusing on wine."

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

Categories: Wine Time

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

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

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

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

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

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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