Austin City Limits Festival/Facebook

Austin already had a lineup at the ready, but now the Austin City Limits Festival schedule is live and the real planning can begin. With a few tough-to-pick slots revealed, here are CultureMap's first impressions. The biggest priority: picking a side of the park and sticking with it.

This year there are tons of artists that will only play one weekend (either October 6-8, or 13-15), which used to be a rarity. For instance, of the 38 Friday artists across the entire festival, only 16 — less than half — will perform both weekends.

Some that might be worth basing a decision on are: the funky-but-indie Half Alive, electro-funk duo Chromeo, and super dramatic rock group The Mars Volta during Weekend 1; and R&B family band We Don't Ride Llamas, iconic indie pop duo Tegan and Sara, violinist Sudan Archives, and French electronic savants M83 during Weekend two. Tennesee rapper GloRilla plays different days each weekend, but will still be here for both.

One very notable exception are Shania Twain (Weekend 1) and The 1975 (Weekend 2), which sure sound like a generational divide. We don't anticipate seeing too many broken hearts about having to make this choice, discussed below.

Headlining decisions should be pretty easy for most attendees, especially because there is sort of a small headliner and a big headliner each night — the latter playing slightly later. If you're okay with missing parts of the later show, it's a very common move to migrate over a little late.

Between Kendrick Lamar and the Lumineers, in 2023, it feels like a pretty obvious choice. The Lumineers have some good tunes, but Kendrick Lamar is one of the greatest innovators in hip-hop, at least, if not the whole industry. But it'll all come down to mood: how do you want to feel at the end of the first day: inspired to make a difference in the world or held in a folksy hammock of harmonies?

It might be more important to look at who's coming first, and the festival did a good job dividing the physical space by genre. On Weekend 1, The Mars Volta might override everything, and they're much closer to the Lumineers, so it'd at least be worth a drive-by viewing on the way to Kendrick, who will much better match the energy of the earlier band.

For both weekends, fans of Maggie Rogers — who Jane Fonda just praised as the next big thing — and Portugal the Man will be in just the right place to keep the mellower vibes going with the Lumineers. But people who want to catch Lil Yachty will also be able to stick around for Kali Uchis — who has been increasingly recognized as an extremely charismatic performer — while hoping to be towards the front for Lamar.

In those earlier slots when the sun is blazing, consider checking out folk group Bailen. This grounded group will be great to listen to while transitioning into festival mode, and are sure to give a versatile performance (that sometimes dips into Fleetwood Mac territory with stacked vocals and strong bass lines).

This is when festival-goers give it their all; They've got a day off from work, youthful optimism, and only a one-night hangover. Shania Twain and Foo Fighters headline on Weekend 1, and The 1975 and Foo Fighters will headline Weekend 2. And there's nothing wrong with seeing Foo Fighters twice, especially after the new album, But Here We Are. It's also the first opportunity for many to experience the band with their new drummer, Josh Freese.

Between Shania and The 1975, it looks like the older girls are going country and the younger girls are...kissing Matty Healy? Not to cancel the English singer — since fans did ask — but Miss Twain is going to be feeling like a woman, and probably not feeling women.

The bands slotted before are similarly well-matched (compared to Friday), except for the insane decision to put famed country singer Tanya Tucker before the Foos and not Twain. But given the strength of the lineup on the Foo's side of the festival — starting with the young and cool Declan McKenna, moving through Mt. Joy, Alanis Morissette, and the meteorically successful Noah Kahan — it feels like a no brainer to spend the day over there.

If you do feel like changing locations, Dripping Springs-based artist Ben Kweller will be a great starting point, followed immediately by rising queer icon Rina Sawayama, whose fashion and stage presence can't be missed for avid pop fans.

An underrated day at ACL; Folks are satisfied enough with what they've already achieved for the weekend, but still have a little fire left in them. Sorry to tell you this, but there is someone worth getting there for before 1 pm. Madison Cunningham, a versatile and semi-jazzy singer-songwriter is critically acclaimed for being smart and surprising, but still strongly listenable. This restraint will do wonders kicking off a relatively relaxed day, without trigging that here-in-the-sun-again exhaustion.

Sunday's headliners are pretty solidly in opposition: Americana, courtesy of Mumford and Sons, and EDM via Odesza (stylized ODESZA). The latter, despite a more niche level of name recognition, will probably put on a more broadly appealing show. Not everyone is into the banjo (although they should give it a strong chance), but Odesza is known for having an incredible live act. It'll be a lot more danceable, too, for shaking off that long, hot weekend.

This writer feels agnostic about which side of the park to stick around. On one hand, the aforementioned M83 should put on a really fun show on Weekend 2, which will lead nicely into a high-energy festival favorite, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Next up would be Cigarettes After Sex — formed in El Paso, but based in Brooklyn — but the energy might not hold up through the dream pop set. Death Grips, though, the experimental rap group, should fit right between those two more energetically demanding sets if you want to make the trek all the way over to the Barton Springs stage.

On the other hand — more literally, on the other side of the park — Niall Horan (formerly of One Direction) and Hozier are forming a little Irish alliance that sounds perfect for a relaxing Sunday cool-down.

Whatever choices a festival-goer makes on paper, the beauty of ACL is that it'll all fall apart the moment you hear something weird going on at the Tito's Stage. Stay tuned for recommendations more along those lines — once we've had a chance to take a good, long listen.

Ticketing alerts straight from the official announcement:

"Most 3-Day Tickets to ACL Fest are now On Waitlist. Limited Friday and Sunday 1-Day GA, GA+, VIP and Platinum Tickets remain… while supplies last!

Heads up: 1-Day GA Tickets for Friday, October 6 will be sold out soon!"

See the full schedule at aclfestival.com.

Photo courtesy of Stevie Nicks

Rock legend Stevie Nicks extends bewitching tour with new Houston date

see your gypsy

It's not witchcraft, it's just Stevie Nicks' magical charm; The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is extending her 2023 "Live In Concert" tour with 13 more performances. If the rumors are true, that includes here one at Toyota Center on August 12.

One of rock's greatest legends, Nicks is famous not just for her key role as a singer in Fleetwood Mac, but for her inimitable fashion sense and sharp-edged yet sweet rock vocals that she later applied to her own solo projects.

She has built on the mysterious rock and roll lore brilliantly. Now 74, she's just as recognizable as ever, and a whole new generation knows her primarily for appearances as a witch in two seasons of American Horror Story, not to mention a wealth of artsy merch, which is eternally fashionable.

The second leg of the tour starts in Milwaukee on August 8, and ends in Palm Desert on December 5. Along the way, Nicks will also stop at Austin's Moody Center on August 15.

A general sale for additional dates will start on Friday, May 19, at 10 am on livenation.com and toyotacenter.com.


  • Tue May 16 – Knoxville, TN – Thompson-Boling Arena
  • Mon May 22 – Atlanta, GA – State Farm Arena
  • Thu May 25 – Orlando, FL – Amway Center
  • Tue Jun 20 – Toronto, ON – Scotiabank Arena
  • Fri Jun 23 – Chicago, IL – United Center
  • Tue Jun 27 – Louisville, KY – KFC Yum! Center
  • Tue Aug 08 — Milwaukee, WI — Fiserv Forum
  • Sat Aug 12 — Houston, TX — Toyota Center
  • Tue Aug 15 — Austin, TX — Moody Center
  • Wed Sep 27 — Pittsburgh, PA — PPG Paints Arena
  • Sun Oct 01 — New York, NY — Madison Square Garden
  • Wed Oct 04 — Buffalo, NY — KeyBank Center
  • Sat Oct 28 — Memphis, TN — FedExForum
  • Wed Nov 01 — Savannah, GA — Enmarket Arena
  • Sat Nov 04 — Allentown, PA — PPL Center
  • Tue Nov 07 — Detroit, MI — Little Caesars Arena
  • Wed Nov 29 — San Diego, CA — Viejas Arena
  • Sat Dec 02 — Inglewood, CA — The Kia Forum
  • Tue Dec 05 — Palm Desert, CA — Acrisure Arena
  • Tue Dec 12 – Sacramento, CA – Golden 1 Center
  • Fri Dec 15 – San Francisco, CA – Chase Center
Photo courtesy of Live Nation.

Global music icon Lionel Richie says 'Hello' to Houston on new tour with legends Earth, Wind & Fire


This legendary singer’s new tour will have Houstonians partying "All Night Long.“ International timeless music superstar Lionel Richie has announced his 2023 Sing A Song All Night Long tour alongside pioneering band Earth, Wind & Fire.

Lionel Richie has sold over 125 million albums to-date, was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last November, won the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress, and earned the Icon Award at the 2022 American Music Awards. Earth, Wind & Fire have won a staggering nine Grammys and sold over 100 million albums worldwide. The Sing A Song All Night Long tour will also feature some unnamed special guests.

The 20-city arena tour begins in Minnesota in early August and includes three stops in Texas, with the first being in Austin on August 29 at the Moody Center. Lionel and co. will continue their journey through the Lone Star State with a show on September 1 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, and a September 2 show in Houston at the Toyota Center.

The full tour date itinerary includes:

  • August 4 – Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota
  • August 5 – United Center in Chicago
  • August 8 – Scotiabank Arena in Toronto
  • August 9 – Bell Centre in Montreal
  • August 11 – TD Garden in Boston
  • August 12 – Madison Square Garden in New York City
  • August 15 – Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
  • August 18 – Capital One Arena in Washington, DC
  • August 19 – CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore
  • August 22 – State Farm Arena in Atlanta
  • August 25 – FLA Live Arena in Fort Lauderdale
  • August 26 – Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida
  • August 29 – Moody Center in Austin
  • September 1 – American Airlines Center in Dallas
  • September 2 – Toyota Center in Houston
  • September 5 – Ball Arena in Denver
  • September 8 – Chase Center in San Francisco
  • September 11 – Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle
  • September 12 – Rogers Arena in Vancouver
  • September 15 – Kia Forum in Los Angeles

Tickets for the Sing A Song All Night Long tour will begin on March 13 at 10 am, with a special Citi presale beginning at 10 am on March 7 until 10 pm March 12. Tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com. VIP Packages can be found at vipnation.com.

Photo by Tye Truitt

SXSW's best and biggest free series takes the Outdoor Stage with lineup including The Zombies

play music, be free

Finding free events during South by Southwest is sometimes as simple as bookmarking a social media post or walking down the street, but those strategies are hit-or-miss to say the least. The easiest free music plans to commit to are always at the Outdoor Stage, one of the only official SXSW venues that welcomes visitors for free, and sets clear plans well in advance.

This year, the festival has seamlessly transitioned to naming the event rather than just the stage, using "Community Concerts at Lady Bird Lake." These public concerts from March 16-18 transform Auditorium Shores into one of the biggest venues of the entire festival, using the Austin skyline as a backdrop while both local and nationally celebrated acts play. The lineup in 2022 featured both well-known and local bands including Mt. Joy, Heartless Bastards, and Golden Dawn Arkestra.

On Thursday, March 9, KUTX takes over programming as it has done on and off since 2007. This year's theme is ska, but the island genre only influences each set — performers from several genres including the blues, chiptune rap, and "billingual indie music for kids," will play their own music, plus at least one ska-flavored tune. This will be interesting when celebrated Austin guitarist Rosie Flores adapts her rockabilly style. Thao, an eclectic, folksy but funky solo artist from Oakland, closes out the night.

Fridays's shows are without theme, and only showcase three artists compared to Thursday's six. Afrobeat progeny Baba Kuboye (American nephew of Nigeria's late, great Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti) opens the day in a danceable way, followed by pop artist AJ Smith and vibes that couldn't be more different save for the general upbeat overlap. The Zombies — yes, those psych rock 60s icons — are currently touring with Smith, and will play Austinites home or onto their next plans (since all outdoor shows end at 7 pm).

Saturday is the last of the three-day mini-series, hosted by Honk TX (stylized HONK!TX), an Austin non-profit that brings street and brass bands to the Live Music Capital for free. This rowdy series will feature another six bands, this time all Austin's own, including the "undead" costumed Dead Music Capitol Band and the 25-person collective Minor Mishap Marching Band.

The full lineup for 2023's Community Concerts at Lady Bird Lake is as followed:

Thursday, March 16

  • Lucky Diaz
  • Mega Ran
  • Red Yarn & Aaron Nigel Smith
  • SaulPaul
  • Jonny Langford and the Silver Sands Roustabouts, and Rosie Flores
  • Thao

Friday, March 17

  • Baba Kuboye
  • AJ Smith
  • The Zombies

Saturday, March 18

  • Blowcomotion!
  • Dead Music Capital Band
  • Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour
  • Minor Mishap Marching Band
  • Moon Tower Brass Band
  • Yes Ma'am Brass Band

Attendees may bring a picnic or purchase food and drinks from local food trucks and a Beer Garden. More information about set times and other logistics is available at sxsw.com. Lineups are subject to change.

Mohawk Austin/Facebook

Austin's Free Week Music Festival returns with 12 rockin' spots for tunes, bites, brews, and more

Free the Music

As great as it is to get out there and support local music, the cost can add up — especially if you’re adding new bands to your must-see list. From January 5-7, 2023, Red River Cultural District (RRCD) is taking on the financial responsibility so more Austinites can go out and experience more new music, without burdening their wallets.

In addition to the return of Free Week (formerly more of an actual week, but who’s counting), nearby restaurants and bars will be running promotions. That means discounts and freebies from Central District Brewing, Hoboken Pie, Marinara Miracles, Pelon's Tex-Mex, Shawarma Point, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Vaquero Taquero, and Wanderlust Wine.

This laissez-faire festival welcomes walk-ups, and the layout of venues makes it easy to pop into each venue when it’s time for a change of scenery. The farthest walk from end to end — if high-energy visitors want to turn it into a crawl — is less than half a mile. One venue, 13th Floor, is making its Free Week debut.

Participating venues from south to north are:

  • Flamingo Cantina
  • Mala Vida
  • Vaquero Taquero
  • Swan Dive
  • Chess Club
  • Empire Control Room & Garage
  • Elysium
  • The 13th Floor
  • Valhalla
  • Stubb’s Bar-B-Q
  • Cheer Up Charlies
  • Mohawk

Although it’s a relatively short festival, this weekend will put more than 100 local artists onstage. A lineup is coming soon, but as of December 12, no announcement has been made.

This mini-festival started nearly two decades ago, in 2003, at the original Emo’s on Red River Street. The team used the shows to drum up business, and other venues started joining in. This is one of many decentralized festivals that moves through Austin every year including South by Southwest, Levitation, and Oblivion Access.

RRCD gets the funds to host Free Week from corporate partners and individual donors. Although it is free for fans, performers are still compensated for their work. More information and donation links are available at redriverculturaldistrict.org.

Photo by Daniel Cavazos

Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivers his 'best' in rousing, final State of the City address

leaving it better

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has garnered a reputation locally, regionally, and nationally as a calm, measured civic leader. But during his final State of the City address on September 27, the two-term mayor sounded more passionate preacher than politician, trading podium for pulpit.

"We are diverse, yet inclusive,” Turner fervently declared to an energetic crowd of some 1,500 at the Hilton Americas hotel ballroom downtown. “We are greener, more compassionate, more united, and more forward-moving than we ever imagined, but at the same time, we work every day to be inclusive. We are greener, more compassionate, more united, and more forward-moving than we can ever imagine.”

Turner drew several ovations, but none more rousing and zealous than his final line: “What I can say to Houstonians is that I have given you my best,” he said, his voice momentarily breaking with raw emotion, “and I am proud of the city that I shall pass forward.”

It’s not hyperbole to say Turner’s eventful time in office could fill a book; each luncheon table received a copy of A Winning Legacy, a new book chronicling his eight years as mayor.

“Not anxious to leave...”

Boasting an eight-year run that saw seven federally designated natural disasters in eight years, a Super Bowl, and two World Series championships — to say nothing of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown and the local fallout from the George Floyd murder — Turner was unapologetically proud of his record and showed no intention of departing.

“Let me just be clear: I am not anxious to leave,” he said flatly, “and if I could run again, I would,” that line also eliciting lively cheers. To the next mayor (Turner joked that he switched channels when watching the recent mayoral candidate debate), he warned: “Be careful of what you promise. Be careful on how you criticize, because you haven’t looked under the hood.” He also reassured the next mayor of Houston that it’s occasionally okay to “U-turn” on a campaign promise if the situation calls for it.

He roused the audience by reminding them of the many trials Houston faced over his two terms. Putting it in perspective, Houston First chairman David Mincberg described 2016 when Turner took office as, “pre-hurricane, pre-COVID, pre Beyoncé setting Houston aglow this past weekend,” adding that when disaster struck, Tuner was known for “calling early and often.”

A bright future

His sense of accomplishment was evident when he described the city he will leave for his successor — especially the long-disputed budget. “I will hand to — whoever the next mayor will be — instead of $160 million in the hole, we’ll give you a surplus of nearly $420 million,” he said to rousing applause.

Pension liability, another fiercely contested issue, was another proud accomplishment Turnter touted, noting that the City's pension liability is now $2.2 billion, considerably lower than $8.2 billion when he took office.

Always an advocate for expansion and development, Turner noted that Houston will receive nearly $2 billion in the coming years to transform the convention center, surrounding district, and the downtown area, a project that he says will “re-stitch neighborhoods” and serve as a “keystone” for future development. The Sunnyside Solar Farm — the only one of its kind in the U.S., will be operational in 2024, he added. A new, cutting-edge Solid Waste Northeast Transfer Station will open in 2025, and the North Canal Stormwater Project and the Lake Livingston Flood Water-gates in Kingwood are in initial design stages.

Another key city project, the I-45 Expansion Project, is moving forward as Houston’s expansion continues to boom.

A pro-business champion of innovation, Turner also harked to The Ion, a hub of innovation. “Houston is a smart city,” he said of the explosion in innovation here. In a nod to Houston’s unmatched diversity, Turner noted that the Ismaili Center, just the seventh in the world, will soon open its doors to all.

His one regret? “I would’ve loved to have the bullet train moving.”

Build forward

To build a city, Turner later said during a Q&A session, leadership must “build forward, not backwards.” Turner credited his daughter, Ashley, in his future-minded approach. “Dad, don’t build a city for people your age and older,” Turner recalled his daughter advising, “build a city for people my age and younger.” The proud Dad also noted that Ashley told him that “Houston needs pop and sizzle,” though both are certainly evident. “You have to be futuristic in your thinking,” the mayor advised.

The fast-paced event saw Turner recognize a host of city employees, cut a birthday cake, and grin as Houston-born comedian Mo Amer led the crowd in a “Happy Birthday” singalong. Amer, whom Turner gifted with a recent Mo Amer Day honoring the success of his smash Netflix show, cracked to Turner that he was “the greatest mayor we’ve had the last eight years.” When Turner quipped that he’d like a guest starring spot on Mo, Amer assured him of a role: “Oh yeah, you’ll be Guy No. 4.”

Wrapping a farewell keynote address that spanned myriad emotions, Turner was reflective when asked about his next move. “That is in God’s hands,” he said, adding that “I’m going to take the time to soak it all in.”

While his term ends on December 31 this year and his future has yet to crystalize, Turner said savored each and every day of his term — and he is satisfied.

“Whatever comes next for me will be icing on the cake.”

Meet the dynamic duo behind the MFAH's French fine dining restaurant, plus our visit to Balboa Surf Club

What's Eric Eating Episodes 316 and 317

On this week’s interview episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” chef Alain Verzeroli and Felipe Botero join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Le Jardinier. Developed by Verzeroli, the French fine dining restaurant celebrates vegetables with seasonal menus that draw upon local ingredients.

The conversation begins with Verzeroli explaining how his first meal at a two-star Michelin restaurant inspired him to enter the world of professional cooking. Ultimately, he came to be employed by legendary French chef Joël Robuchon where Verzeroli would earn three Michelin stars as the executive chef of Le Restaurant de Joël Robuchon in Tokyo. He tells the incredible story of how he came to work for Robuchon, and, as he explains in the interview, how spending almost 20 years in Japan inspired him to create Le Jardinier.

“What I learned in Japan is respect for nature. They celebrate the sakura, the cherry blossom, the autumn leaves falling from the trees,” he says. “They have a sense of having a picnic to celebrate the cherry trees that only lasts a couple of days at most. Pausing the crazy rhythm of life just to be in tune with nature. For me, it was something I was discovering, this link to the rhythm of nature. That’s the reason I created Le Jardinier — to be more in sync with nature.”

Le Jardinier Felipe Botero Alain VerzeroliChefs Felipe Botero and Alain Verzeroli are this week's guests.Photo by Alex Montoya

Listen to the full interview to hear Verzeroli’s opinion on whether the Michelin guide should begin evaluating Texas restaurants. Botero offers insights into the restaurant’s day-to-day operations and previews its newly launched happy hour menu.

On this week’s news episode, Sandler and co-host Felice Sloan discuss the following topics: the Houston restaurants included in the New York Times’s latest list; the closures of Kim Son’s Stafford location and Pho Binh by Night; and the latest delays in the reopening of Montrose staple Baba Yega.

In the restaurant of the week segment, Sloan and Sandler share first impressions of Balboa Surf Club, the new seafood restaurant from the Dallas-based restaurant group behind il Bracco. After discussing their favorite dishes, they weigh in on when they would choose to dine at Balboa versus Navy Blue and Little’s Oyster Bar.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Sunday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd on a must-attend dinner at March toasting French wines

wine guy wednesday

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 tells us about a special wine dinner at one of his favorite Houston restaurants. Take it away, Chris.

March restaurant chefs and Jon Bonn\u00e9

Photo by Zach Horst

Chris Davies, Jon Bonné, and Felipe Riccio review the dishes at March.

Here we go! Have I got a wine dinner for you!

This Tuesday, October 3, the team at March will host renowned wine writer Jon Bonné for a one-night dinner celebrating the release of his amazing new book The New French Wine. If you don’t have this book, drive illegally fast to the nearest place to buy a book and get your hands on this one. If you work in a restaurant, a wine bar, or just frequent either of those places, you should have this book on the shelf.

Over the past few years, we are seeing a change and an influx of new wines coming from France. Wines are becoming more available and even more approachable. Trust me, I love the houses and vineyards in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, and Loire, but now we are seeing this deep rooted love of different areas and some new winemakers that are embracing that as well. History wasn’t wrong. It’s just as Jon Bonné writes, “C’est Compliqué,” or “It’s’ complicated.”

I’m going to share a paragraph from his book that says a lot to me. Jon writes:

The state of wine in France matters because France is (and, with luck, forever will be) the soul of the global wine industry. Its grape varieties remain benchmarks around the world. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, Gamay, and so on are the base materials for so many other wine regions, whether it be California or the Adelaide Hills, or even Tuscany. And reference examples from France remain just that: precedents by which other places measure their progress.

I personally agree with all of this— history tells us this. When I spoke to Jon today, he told me, “I would argue that nothing this big has happened to the French wine business since Phylloxera over 150 years ago.”

We’re seeing the newest winemakers and lesser known regions everywhere now on wine lists, in shops, and even at the grocery stores. We’re seeing sections for Beaujolais, Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence and even the Jura.

This book took Jon over either years to write, and it’s a masterpiece. It breaks down the whys, the whos, and the wheres from region to region. France has been hard to discover forever, but this book has it all laid out for you. You want to know more about the new and the old producers of Champagne, yep! I feel like the dog that had been chasing the car forever, and I finally caught it. Thank you for that, I was getting tired.

Now, on to the dinner. It’s no secret that the folks at Goodnight Hospitality are good friends of mine. I love what they do at Montrose Cheese and Wine, Rosie Cannonball, March, and I can’t wait for Marigold Club to open. They just get me — delicious food and beverage in a very thoughtful way.

Felipe Riccio, who is the chef/partner at Goodnight, is a young, very smart chef. And he truly understands wine. Believe it or not, there are not many chefs out there that focus on wine as much as food — Erin Smith at Feges BBQ, Terrence Gallivan at Elro, Felipe. I’m sure there are a few more but not many. It takes work and passion to learn wine but once you fall into it, it’s on!

Felipe and his team at MARCH are in the middle of the Sicily menu right now but are planning this one-night, amazing dinner. Master sommelier June Rodil, Mark Sayre, Gillie Dougherty, and Felipe sat down and picked the wines for this dinner by region and then dove into the deep end of the pool to work the menu. You want to talk about special? Yeah! You need to get this ticket, I already did because it is going to be one for the memory books. I would suggest if you want a killer experience then head on over to the MARCH website and book your seat. Everyone involved is just over the moon with excitement.

June told me, “Rather than being in constant search for the same old icons, Jon is discovering new French wine icons and unlocking their history and culture while sharing with us what we should be collecting for the future.”

I know that collecting is just as important as being able to enjoy now. In this book you will find both, and that’s pretty amazing. I hope you join Jon, Felipe, June, me and the rest of the team on Tuesday. Let’s raise a glass of Champagne and have an amazing conversation and dinner! See you there.


Contact our Wine Guy via email at chris@chrisshepherd.is.

Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $11 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund. Catch his new TV show, Eat Like a Local, every Saturday at 10 am on KPRC Channel 2.