There's no shortage of wine gurus in Houston — the talent nominated for Best Sommelier/Beverage Director in the CultureMap Tastemakers Awards proves as much. But how about some practical advice for the less wine certain among us?
We asked Houston's best sommeliers what wine they're recommending this summer.
Just to keep things reasonable, all of the recommendations adhere to a couple of basic requirements. First, the wines should be available now and throughout the summer at the bar/restaurant the person works at. Also, the prices should be reasonable — no more than $12 per glass or $50 per bottle. Beating the heat shouldn't break the bank.
Sadly, people who drink everything on this list won't receive a T-shirt or other prize — the satisfaction of having consumed a lot of really great wine will have to be reward enough.
Mike Sammons, 13 Celsius
"This summer I will be drinking and suggesting Sherry . . . a lot of Sherry. It's always been one of my favorite things to drink in the summer. Especially great is a nice Fino chilled down until it's almost right at regular white wine temperature.
It's pretty affordable too — $24 will get you a half bottle which is just about the perfect amount for two to share over a long conversation.
"The Santiago Fino from Jerez de la Frontera is light and crisp, slightly lemony and carries that sense of "moreness" that demands another sip. It's pretty affordable too — $24 will get you a half bottle which is just about the perfect amount for two to share over a long conversation."
Shawn Virene, Brasserie 19
"One of my favorite roses is Rimauresq Cru Classe Cotes de Provence ($28/ bottle). A properly Mediterranean scented rose with a beautiful pink complexion. Ultra pale in color, clean and fresh on the nose and the palate.
"The flavors are full of character and charm with just a hint of spice and good length."
Adele Corrigan, 13 Celsius
"When I think of summer wine, I think bubbles. Most recently I’ve been loving this Charles Bove sparkling cabernet franc/gamay rosé from Touraine in the Loire Valley of France. It’s a super refreshing pink sparkling wine with lots of concentrated bubbles and great acidity that finishes dry with lovely little hints of ripe red berry fruits.
"We serve it at the bar for $10 a glass and $34 a bottle, total steal!"
Steven Salazar, formerly of Kata Robata/currently at Anvil
"Chrysanthemum Meadow" Yamahai Daiginjo, ($42/bottle): This is a rare, distinctive, and unique style of sake from the coastal prefecture of Ishikawa sold at Kata Robata.
"Yamahai sake differs in the yeast starter when lactic bacteria is allowed to add gamier, herbal, wild flavors not often found in most sake. This daiginjo is light and refined and excellent to drink chilled on a patio all summer long. Enjoy with light foods such as salad, seaweed and sashimi (especially abalone)."
Samantha Porter, Osteria Mazzantini
"Bengoetxe, Getariako Txakolina, Spain 2011 ($45/bottle): Organically grown by a husband and wife team, this wine is primarily dominated by the grape Hondarrabi Zuri with a touch of Gros Manseng . . . Lots of zesty citrus, briny minerality, a hint of beeswax and enough lightening acidity to be the perfect patio “chug wine.”
"A deeper, more developed wine than most found in the Basque Country, this bottle is a hidden jewel on the wine list. A wine to quench the thirst on even the most miserable days in the Houston sun!"
David Keck, Camerta, Tastemakers Best Sommelier winner
"For summer in Houston, Riesling is always a strong move, but to mix it up a little, Vincent and Tania Carême’s “Spring” Chenin Blanc ($12/glass, $39/bottle) from the Loire Valley is an outstanding choice. Bright and balanced with beautiful acidity, this Chenin Blanc comes from one of the only natural winemakers in Vouvray.
It’s amazing on a patio by itself, or paired with light summer fare.
"In the glass it has all the stone fruit and flinty earth that one can expect from a good Vouvray, but also has savory, dried herbs and a distinct vegetal, almost pea-shoot aroma. It’s amazing on a patio by itself, or paired with light summer fare."
Matthew Pridgen, Underbelly
"If you're not drinking Rose right now, you're doing it wrong. The 2013 Onward Rose of Pinot Noir from the Hawkeye Ranch in California's Redwood Valley is about as pretty as they come. Delicate aromas and flavors and bright acidity make it the perfect accompaniment for lighter cuisine, or a lazy afternoon on the porch.
"A decidedly dry Rose, made by a very sweet woman, Faith Armstrong."
Vanessa Trevino-Boyd, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted
"I am smitten with Catherine Breton's pet Vouvray project, 'Dilettante' ($23.99 at D&Q). It has lots of concentrated stone fruit like peach and apricot on the mid-palate and then finishes brisk and fresh. Take it to Crawfish & Noodles or simply enjoy it on our patio on its own."
"Luli Rose ($11/glass, $44/bottle): What? Rose of equal parts, Pinot Noir and Grenache. Where? Central Coast/Santa Lucia Highlands. Who? A joint venture between Master Sommelier, Sara Floyd and esteemed winemakers, the Pisoni family. Why? Aromas of wildflowers and strawberries. Pomegranate, plum and ripe peaches on the palate.
"Nice and juicy up front, dry and crisp at the finish line. Great little sipper on a hot summer day. Perfect pairing with Glass Wall's paella or Nueske's bacon-wrapped shrimp!"
Juan Gil Monastrell ($8/glass, $32/bottle at Hugo's): While we love our whites in the summer time, occasionally the setting calls for a red. In Houston summers that means an all out barbecue. When your plate overflows with brisket, ribs and sausage you want a playful red.
"The Juan Gil is a "sexy, barbecue wine" full of salacious fruit that makes for a fun carefree time. Similar to old vine zinfandel, it has less alcohol and is bursting with blackberry fruit, smoky bacon, heady spice and supple tannins."