Two lifelong friends are ready to share their passion for natural wine with Houstonians.
For the past several months, Steve Buechner and John Glanzman have been working on building a new bottle shop and wine bar called Light Years. Located next to Good Dog Houston’s Montrose location at 1304 West Alabama St., Light Years Natural Wine Shop + Bar provides a dedicated home for a specific style of wine making that’s becoming more popular around the world.
“Our inspiration is a different approach to wine,” Buechner tells CultureMap. “Going as far back as before we worked in hospitality, we never felt comfortable with how the wine world projected itself upon the average consumer. You basically had Wine Spectator and the whole Parkerization of the world projecting a specific style of wine through the specific lens of point scores, very expensive, highly marked-up bottles, that we never felt as customers produced the best way to enjoy it.”
As its name implies, Light Years represents a break from that world. The shop’s approximately 200 different bottles follow the natural wine ethos of being made from grapes that are grown without pesticides and that use natural yeast fermentation. Originally started in France’s Loire Valley, the movement has spread across the winemaking world, Buechner explains. When it opens later this month, Light Years will stock wines from France, Italy, Australia, Chile — even Texas.
They see Light Years as another addition to Houston’s wine community. Oenophiles have likely been drinking these wines at places like 13 Celsius, Camerata, Nancy’s Hustle, Theodore Rex, and Vinology. The new shop gives them a dedicated home where people can either buy a bottle to-go or hang out while snacking on a limited food menu that, at least in the beginning, will be focused on meat and cheese plates sourced from high-quality options like Houston Dairymaids and a few from out of town that the duo enjoyed during their travels.
“I think that this world is growing, and I don’t think there’s a finite number of people who want to go to a wine bar,” Buechner says. “I also think the interest in natural wine is growing, and that there will be more people going to all of our places. I don’t think it’s a pie with a limited number of slices.”
Buechner says that the two friends fell in love with natural wine during a six-month stay in France’s Jura region, a hotbed for the movement. “[We] felt and continued to feel [these wines] are more expressive and delicious and alive and electric than most wines that people are drinking back here. Perhaps more importantly, the people that surrounded and presented those wines and how straightforward, down to earth, and normal these folks were.” he says.
Towards that end, they’re only selecting wines they have a personal connection to, which means they’ve either met the winemaker or visited the winery. Keeping the selection relatively small ensures that their staff will know all the wines and can help customers pick someone that suits their taste. Pricing will be at a normal retail markup; those who want to stay will pay a small corkage fee. By-the-glass options will change every day.
Turning a doggie daycare into a wine bar hasn’t been easy, but the process has produced a casual, comfortable space that should draw fans. Light Years offers a variety of both indoor and outdoor spaces to hang out and sample its wares. With fall weather coming (hopefully soon), the prospect of hanging out on a patio sipping something delicious certainly sounds enticing.