wine guy wednesday
CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd cracks open the must-try wine list at Houston's hottest new oyster bar
Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.
In this week's column, he shares his favorite new restaurant for having a glass of wine. Take it away, Chris.
There is a new place that is not too far from my house that I have been patiently watching and waiting to open — it’s so close that my wife and I can ride our adult tricycles and enjoy a meal. That spot is the new Little’s Oyster Bar on Shepherd. (Full disclosure: Shepherd’s wife, Lindsey Brown, is a publicist who represents Little’s Oyster Bar.)
Little Pappas Seafood House was a classic in its time before it closed back in 2020. I’d go for oysters and fried shrimp, and damn, was it good. The city was sad when it left us, but wipe those tears away and move your backside to the revamped spot with a patio with a retractable roof (just like NRG and Minute Maid Park!) for those nice days.
The chef, Jason Ryczek, is already clicking on all cylinders with a stunning menu. Trust me, it’s delicious and very well thought out with some very cool offerings. Make sure you get the caviar service, which Jason himself has helped make at caviar camp (yes, it’s a thing). Don’t miss the seared yellow edge grouper with caper radish brown butter or the chicken fried snapper. Gone are the days of the fried shrimp and some of the classic dishes, but I am a true believer that change is a good thing.
The wine list is impressive. Longtime emerging concept wine director Robert Smith knocked this out of the park. What makes it different than most restaurants? It is overly (in a fantastic way) restaurant-specific. Meaning this list is perfect for this specific restaurant and wouldn’t make as much sense anywhere else. It’s like a love letter written to the food. SO MUCH CHAMPAGNE AND CHABLIS! I got giddy!
The list features bright, crisp, and clean wines to highlight the delicate flavors of seafood. Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs Millésimé Grand Cru Brut and wild Gulf shrimp with pomegranate cocktail sauce. Vilmart & Cie ‘Grand Cellier’ 1er Cru Brut and caviar. Don’t threaten me with a good time with Moussé Fils Spécial Club ‘Les Fortes Terres’ Meuniers Brut. Did someone say SPECIAL CLUB???? I digress.
The list is strong with an abundance of Premier Cru Chablis which pound for pound is one of the best value categories you can have. Clean and crisp Chardonnay at its finest. These wines are what gives the Chardonnay a great name! Did I mention the sheer amount of Emmerich Knoll? This producer makes an outstanding Austrian Riesling and Gruner Veltliner at all sorts of price points.
The wine list also has a thoughtful collection of red wines. Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and Gamay run through the list like chihuahuas at a dog park — small but energetic with a loud bark! You want a big Cabernet list? They only have four, which confirms my ongoing conversation that it’s not Cab season yet!
All in all, it’s a not a giant list but it’s small and mighty with price points that are good for any budget. I’m really glad Robert put that time and effort into this love letter. We all get to share the love. If you see a couple of tricycles in the valet, stop in and have a glass with LB and me.
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Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. Last year, he parted ways with Underbelly Hospitality, a restaurant group that currently operates four Houston restaurants: Wild Oats, GJ Tavern, Underbelly Burger, and Georgia James. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $10 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund.