When it comes to buying wine, most people have trouble knowing what to choose beyond their personal favorites. Trying to rely on ratings in publications, shelf talkers (those little blurbs that hang from shelves), or which label looks most appealing can offer mixed results.
Wouldn't it be great if a wine shop offered tastings as its primary method of guiding people what to buy? If a trained sommelier picked the bottles and led the tastings, that would be even better. Thankfully, the chef and sommelier at one of Houston's most wine-obsessed restaurants had the same thought.
Divino, the Montrose-area restaurant known for its classic dishes and extensive, all-Italian wine list, will spin off a combination wine bar and bottle shop that will be led by chef-owner Patrick McCray and sommelier Thomas Moësse. Dubbed Vinology, the new concept will open in West University in December.
"For the past sixteen years, while running a busy restaurant, we have also created a highly successful retail program," said McCray in a statement. "Since we feature wines that are often unfamiliar to most diners, we have learned that offering a small taste of an unfamiliar wine is essential to ensuring a pleasant dining experience. We will use this same strategy in Vinology’s retail program, which will features both fun and casual retail events and more educational, seminar-style tastings. This concept is common in Europe and in cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco. We think Houston is long overdue for something like this.”
Although Moësse is well-regarded for his knowledge of Italian wine, Vinology's 300-plus selections will span the globe. Customers will be able to decide on what to purchase by speaking with the store's employees or browsing tasting notes on an iPad. A concierge service will assist customers in sourcing hard-to-find vintages.
Still, tasting will be at the core of the buying experience through pop-up events hosted by wineries, bi-monthly wine flights, and use of the Coravin device that allows wine to be poured from a bottle without pulling its cork. A wine bar with full and half-glasses will also allow patrons to sip through the store's selections.
"I am certain our tasting bar wine will become a destination for both experienced oenophiles and those simply eager to taste something new,” said McCray. “What better way to shop for wine for dinner parties, weddings or holiday gifts than to taste through our current flight program and enjoy bar snacks like bruschetta, marinated olives or a monthly cheese board created by Houston Dairymaids? The place is going to be a lot of fun, and there will always be something special going on. Not just a bunch of wine on a wall."