The nominees for the 2016 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Sommelier of the Year comprise some of the most knowledgeable spirits professionals in Houston. Rather than tout their various achievements, we opted to put them to work by asking them to share some thoughts about a recent addition to their wine lists that they're particularly excited about.
Since affordability is almost as important as flavor, none of the wines listed below cost more than $70. If these selections don't sound appealing, fear not. Our nominees are quite capable of selecting something that suits almost any palate. Feel free to put them to the test.
Sean Beck, Backstreet Cafe/Caracol/Hugo's
07 Bevan Cellars ‘Dry Stack Vineyard’ Syrah Bennett Valley, California ($62): Syrah is probably destined to be the brilliant underground band that never achieves mainstream success. The silver lining is you can buy great versions for way less than their worth like this brilliant American version. It's got endless length, subtle smokiness, alluring brambly berry and wild flower. The nose is a billowing cloud of aromas and the incredibly supple tannins reveal a texturally perfect wine.
Matthew Pridgen, Underbelly
I recently added the 2006 Quinta Boavista "Terras de Tavares" ($53 restaurant or $32 retail) from the Dão region of Portugal, which is a 50/50 blend of Jaen (Mencia) and Touriga Nacional from organic vineyards. The wine is aged extensively before release, spending three years in oak and five in bottle, resulting in a complex wine full of floral notes, red and black fruit, herbs, earth and a distinct minerality from the granite soils in which the grapes are grown. .
Jeb Stuart, Coltivare
Domaine de l'Ecu, Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine ($40): Muscadet de Sevre & Maine has long been considered the perfect wine to pair with shellfish. Domaine De l'Ecu offers up effusive minerality and salinity on the nose, followed by pure melon fruit and beautiful citrus-driven acidity that makes it a perfect pairing with all shellfish. It is also a delightful sipper during a long Houston summer.
Evan Turner, Helen Greek Food & Wine
For this spring I am in love with Domaine Glinavos Debina from Zitsa ($14/glass; $50/bottle). A gloriously mineral driven wine from the Debina grape grown in the remote northwest corner of Greece, this stunning wine is perfect as a companion to spring dishes and the increasing heat and humidity here in Houston.
Justin Vann, Public Services Wine & Whisky
I'd emphatically recommend the 2014 Olivier Cousin "Pur Breton" Cabernet Franc from Anjou ($55, half-off during happy hour from 4 to 6:30 pm). It is a decidedly old world wine that has lots of feral, funky flavors in addition to tart black and red fruits. I believe it's worth dying for, but, instead of sacrificing your life, you can get it at Public Services.
James Watkins, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse Downtown
Domaine Faury St. Joseph 2012 ($70): The terraced, steeply sloped vineyards of the Northern Rhone represent around five percent of the total production of the Rhone Valley. St. Joseph produces wonderful Syrahs that complement our cuisine at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse to perfection. They’re a small, family owned venture that pays meticulous attention to detail, which at this price is quite rare!
Celebrate our nominees and learn who won at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards ceremony May 18 at Asia Society Texas Center. Tickets are on sale now.