Houston’s Finest Wine Lists
As the first demonstrably serious wine bar in the city (so-named for the temperature at which it stores its inventory—crucial in the hot Houston atmosphere), 13 Celsius remains exalted among oenophiles for its broad yet deep portfolio of Old and New World wines as well as for providing an education with each glass. Not that 13 Celsius is stuffy—far from it, especially on Sunday afternoons when all open bottles are 50 percent off and a party-like atmosphere transforms the normally romantic space, spilling out onto the patios.
Vanessa Treviño Boyd is rightly regarded as one of the city’s top sommeliers, so it’s fitting that she should be dazzling the dining room at 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, Fritz Gitschner’s palace of haute cuisine. Her well-curated wine list features sections like “Global Treasures to Take a Chance On,” which is heavy on unusual Barbarescos and Blaufränkisches. Don’t be fooled by the ritzy River Oaks location: the wine here is surprisingly affordable, with 16 by-the-glass selections. And check out the bottles of 1998 Bandol Rosé for only $74.
Beverage director James Watkins has his work cut out for him handling the wine list not only at Américas, but also the other restaurants in the Cordúa group’s portfolio (including Churrascos and Amazón Grill). But it’s his visionary list at Américas that makes the biggest impact, with 26 wines by the glass and a number of rarely seen South American selections—most at remarkably reasonable prices—to complement the South American–inspired food. We like the small-production Ikal 1150 wines from Argentina, especially when they’re only $49 a bottle.
Sean Beck is well known for his work at both Hugo’s and Backstreet Café (and now Caracol, too), where the sommelier’s wine lists are as innovative as the food created by chef Hugo Ortega. At Backstreet Café, look for his monthly red- and white-of-the-month specials for more eccentric selections not often found elsewhere, or just head to the main list for a vast selection that will match any palate and price point.
Not one to be overshadowed by newer, flashier restaurants, Brennan’s remains as elegant and refined as the day it opened, just like its wine list. Sommelier Jason Sherman’s list contains high-roller wines, to be sure, but also a self-explanatory section called “Wines of Exceptional Value.” Regardless of what you choose, you can be assured that his selections will pair perfectly with Brennan’s rich food—and that’s what matters most.
David Keck’s Montrose watering hole is a place to kick back, read a book, meet up with friends, and watch the world go by. And that chill vibe comes paired with a wonky wine list—something that won’t surprise anyone who’s followed Keck since his days as Uchi’s sommelier. “SOMEONE loves EVERY SINGLE ONE of the wines on this list,” the menu promises. Camerata also serves an excellent selection of beers and ciders and meats and cheeses. Still hungry? The adjoining Paulie’s—a friendly neighborhood Italian joint—serves lunch and dinner.
Ibiza is well known for being a pioneer of well-priced wine in Houston, choosing not to mark its bottles up to normal restaurant levels and instead encouraging diners to explore a selection that’s equally noted for its breadth as it is for its fair price. Wine director Marcus Gausepohl’s enthusiasm for his trade shows in the robust offerings, from rarely seen Greek Agiorgitiko to even scarcer Bandol rosés from 1988 that were “found in the back of the caves.”
The unusual wine selections at The Pass & Provisions—twin restaurants occupying a single building—mirror the unusual dishes from chefs Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner. You won’t find a single Pinot Grigio or a Stag’s Leap label on the list; instead, look for an extensive by-the-glass selection of fortified wines, half-bottles of bright Rieslings and juicy Grenache, and full bottles that cover a wide range of terrain from Lebanon to the Loire Valley.
Like Ibiza, Underbelly keeps its wine prices reasonable—especially at happy hour, when its 25 wines by the glass are available for half-off. Wine director (and general manager) Matthew Pridgen alerts fans to new bottles added to the effusively entertaining wine list via Twitter, where his handle is the entirely appropriate @wineherder. In the restaurant, he’ll happily talk your ear off about the best pairing for your meal, or you can pick from chef Chris Shepherd’s current selection of favorites.