The Heights will soon welcome a new wine shop and tasting room. Reata Cellars will open July 6 at 633 West 19th St.
A Spanish word that refers to the leather rope carried by Mexican vaqueros — and also the name of the ranch in the classic film Giant — Reata unites wine industry veteran Mary Dodson with Sandy Epps, a former music industry star who also operated a wine bar in Columbus, Texas. Together, they’ve transformed a former insurance office into an intimate space where people can experience wine — primarily through drinking it, of course, but also by talking about it.
“We wanted to make it more like if you were walking into a Spanish winery, but when we gutted it and discovered the bohemian, ’70s industrial vibe, we decided to go with it,” Epps says about the space, which has exposed brick walls and concrete floors. “It gives it a charm.”
Adding to that charm are furniture pieces built by Epps’ daughter Allison and art that both women have collected over the years. Epps’ history in the music business also gets a nod courtesy of the framed gold and platinum records she earned as the manger for legendary Texas bands the Butthole Surfers and the Toadies.
Dodson assembled the opening selection of approximately 60 bottles by selecting wines she knows well from her time as a wine distributor. The list is on smaller producers that customers won’t find at any of the nearby grocery stores. It comes everything from Italian sparkling wine to domestic producers and the wine produced by Houston master sommelier Guy Stout.
“The wine selection is playful. It’s supposed to not have one direction,” Dodson says. “It’s going to come from my past and the people we love. The people who bring us what we’re looking for, which is [wines] that aren’t everywhere, that we can support.”
“My philosophy is there’s a story in every bottle of wine,” Epps adds. “That’s our tagline. I wanted a space that was small and intimate, where we could talk about wine, share stories, and become friends.”
Reata holds a winery license, which allows it to both import wines and make its own vintages. Those plans are still a little fluid, but Dodson sees the potential to use grapes from both Texas and other parts of the world, adorned with labels designed by Epps’ artist friends. “Any person or estate that’s affected us over the years that we’re able to be part of, we will be,” she says.
For now, Reata plans to be open Wednesday through Saturday. With a rotating selection of five wines by-the-glass, it's an ideal pre-dinner option for people heading to nearby restaurants like Squable, Harold's, and La Lucha. Customers may snack on cheeses from Houston Dairymaids or charcuterie boards from Gourmet Foods. Over time, they plan to hold tasting events with visiting winemakers and create a buyers club for regulars.
“Hopefully people want to hang out with us,” Dodson muses. “Other than that, it’s being playful. It’s having fun with what you’re doing. Understanding that working hard dosen’t mean not having fun. It means understanding what you’re doing and being passionate about it.”