Houston Tastemaker Awards 2020
wine program of the year

Houston's 10 best bars and restaurants to sip and savor a glass of wine

Houston's 10 best bars and restaurants to savor a glass of wine

Georgia James wine pouring
Enjoy a glass of wine at Georgia James.  Photo by Julie Soefer

Let’s be honest. Many Houstonians are spending their quarantine with an extra glass of wine or two at the end of the day.

One of the only good things about the coronavirus pandemic has been the ability to purchase wines to-go from some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. While diners might not be able to enjoy a bottle inside all of this year’s nominees for the 2020 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Wine Program of the Year, at least people can benefit from the expertise of Houston’s top sommeliers.

As our nominees demonstrate, our panel of former winners has selected establishments that go deep within their respective categories. Stocking the most bottles available isn’t as important as having perspective.

Who will win? Find out August 6 at the Tastemaker Awards — Virtual Edition. In lieu of our live tasting event, guests will receive an exclusive Tasting Tote. And, of course, attendees have access to the star of the show: our awards ceremony hosted by Bun B and streamed on CultureMap August 6 at 7 pm.

A limited number of tickets are still available. Don’t miss out.

13 Celsius
With over 300 selections, including 75 by-the-glass, this Midtown wine bar remains a staple for Houston’s oenophiles. Led by general manager Adele Corrigan, the bar offers a deep list of European wines, with a focus on French and Italian varietals. While it’s limited to to-go only, wines are currently discounted 35 percent off their normal prices.

Avondale Food & Wine
As a combination wine shop and restaurant, Avondale offers customers both the ability to purchase a bottle to take home or to pair with chef Olivier Ciesielski’s market-driven menu. Guided by the principle of “thoughtful wines from around the world,” the selection always changes, but the quality remains high. In lieu of in person wine dinners, the Montrose restaurant has been focused on Zoom tasting classes with sommeliers and producers from across the country.

Camerata at Paulie's
Owner Paul Petronella and wine director Tim Martin work together to maintain Camerata’s status as one of Houston’s most thoughtful wine bars. The list has a global approach that allows both newcomers and experienced drinkers with the opportunity to find something that suits their palates. Currently only serving to-go, the bar still hosts a range of online classes and tastings.

Beverage director Sean Beck’s wine list features countries known for their coastal wines like Greece, Italy, and New Zealand as well as the wines of Mexico’s Valley de Guadalupe — all of which pair well with chef Hugo Ortega’s seafood-oriented menu. By pairing the food with wines made by well-known producers and from classic regions (Barolo, Champagne, etc), Beck drives home a point that Houstonians have learned throughout Ortega’s career — fine Mexican cuisine pairs well with world-class wines.

Georgia James
Like any steakhouse, Chris Shepherd’s Montrose restaurant has a wide selection of red wines from around the world, but wine director Matthew Pridgen has also found room in the cellar’s almost 500 selections to include whites, sparkling wines, and even a drinking vinegar. “I like that we have a unique list that not only has off-the-beaten-path, small producers but also varietals such as Mencia, Blaufrankisch and many others that often see little to no representation on wine lists,” Pridgen tells CultureMap. Best of all, they’re priced below the typical steakhouse markup.

How to Survive on Land and Sea
When Mike Sammons opened his East End wine bar last year, he told CultureMap everything people need to know about his approach to creating a wine list.

“I have everything from France to Tuscany to Italy to Greece. It’s a small menu, but there’s a lot of representation,” Sammons said. “The main thing is it’s extremely affordable and constantly changing. It’s always going to offer cool shit at an affordable price.”

Nancy's Hustle
At our reigning Tastemaker Awards Restaurant of the Year (for a few more weeks), wine drinkers can start their meal with Sherry and end their meal with Sherry. In between, explore co-owner Sean Jensen’s passion for natural wines from both the Old and New World. Nancy’s remains in to-go only mode, but diners can still buy bottles to pair with their meals.

Public Services Wine & Whisky
As far as we know, only one bar in Houston has a neon “Sherry” sign, and that’s this elegant downtown establishment. In addition to fortified wines (and Sherry barrel-aged whiskys), patrons will find an eclectic selection of international wines: whether that’s Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley or classic Spanish varietals.

Rosie Cannonball
With a wine list that’s overseen in part by master sommelier June Rodil, Rosie earned a semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Wine Program in America from the James Beard Awards. Most of the list comes from France, Spain, and Italy, with a few Portuguese, Greek, and American bottles to round things out. Prices run the gamut, but all of them deliver excellent value for money and are designed to be food friendly.

Although its barely a year old, this Heights restaurant has quickly emerged as one of Houston’s top dining destinations, earning a semifinalist nomination for Best New Restaurant in America from the James Beard Awards. Sommelier Justin Vann has stocked the list with both classic European styles and a few more adventurous varietals. The list covers a range of price points, making it easy to have a glass a burger at the bar or open something memorable for a special occasion.