Photo by Daniel Ortiz

A cherished annual sale is back with some serious discounts for savvy shoppers. Houston fashionistas are ready to flock to the Sale for gorgeous finds for a fraction of their original price.

The ninth annual shopping extravaganza features Houston's premier boutiques, all at one location, with discounted merchandise this weekend at Bayou City Event Center.

Discounts start at 20 percent and reach up to 75 percent from more than 50 of Houston's most popular boutiques, including Bumble and Brim, Christy Lynn Collection, Frock Shop, J. Landa Jewelry, Pomp & Circumstance, Clorinda Antinori, Emilia Collection, Kendra Scott, Hunter Bell, Saint Lo Boutique, Two Tequila Sisters, and more.

Photo by Daniel Ortiz

The 2022 Sale Leadership team: Dee Dee Robinson, K.D. Askins Jones, Lindsey Miller, and Courtney Baker

Adding to the feel-good vibes, proceeds from this year's "shop to cure childhood cancer" benefit a pediatric cancer research project at The University of Texas MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital. the Sale is presented by Houston Tri Delta Philanthropies, Inc., the fundraising arm of the Houston Tri Delta Alumnae Chapter, and has raised more than $1.6 million since its inception in 2015.

"Each one of us has all been affected by cancer whether personally or a loved one. We are so lucky to live in a city with world-class hospitals like MD Anderson leading innovative and life-saving research. Our alumnae are committed to helping doctors find a cure to pediatric cancer," says Bridget Melancon Hoffman, the Sale's Marketing Chair.

The Sale runs 10 am-4 pm Friday and Saturday, January 6 and 7 at Bayou City Event Center (9401 Knight Rd.) A special kickoff event runs Thursday, January 5, with a VIP Cocktails & Couture preview party; tickets are $250. Friday and Saturday, the Sale is open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm with tickets available for $30 or a two-day pass for $50.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd uncorks the best bottles at Houston's top 10 programs

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 visits the nominees for Wine Program of the Year in the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards(buy tickets here).Take it away, Chris.

You hear every year that it’s a great time to drink wine in Houston. You know what? It’s always a great time to drink wine in Houston! Why? Houstonians drink a lot of wine. Which means we get a lot of badass allocations from wineries and distributors from around the world.

The CultureMap panel of experts have selected this list of restaurants and wine bars as Houston’s best wine programs 2023, and they’ve asked me to write my thoughts on each. Luckily, I frequent many of these spots to drink wine!

Here’s the common theme — each of these lists have such amazing choices that I traditionally will let the sommelier pick because I want to try something new, something I haven’t had, and something they are truly loving. Not only are the wine lists so darn good right now, so are the people writing them and working the floor.

13 Celsius
13 Celsius is a staple wine bar in this city and has been a fixture for a very long time (since 2006!). Their extensive — let me say again…extensive — wines by-the-glass selection is so large because the Coravin system keeps their wines fresh. Last time I visited, I had a fantastic bottle of Bruno Paillard “Assemblage” Extra Brut 2012, but they can also tempt me with their natural reds. Don’t sleep on the Hayu Wine Farm. You don’t see a lot of this, and it’s always delicious. They also have a great selection of reds from Piemonte. Nebbiolo is one of the greatest grapes around.

While you’re sitting there, don’t miss out on the mortadella panino. It’s legendary.

Bludorn is one of my favorite places to cozy up at the bar, order a cocktail from Fabio, and eat a few snacks. When it comes to wine, I always ask Molly Austad and her team to narrow it down to her favorite three bottles at the moment, and we’re never disappointed. It’s a really well-rounded list with a little bit of everything.

Last time I was there, I drank a really earthy Cru Beaujolais. It was perfect with the black truffle chicken — their pairing suggestions are on point. They have a fantastic selection of wines by-the-glass, and there is always an excess of Southern Rhone wines on the list that make my wife and me smile.

Lees Den
I visited Lees Den recently not knowing what to expect. I was so pleasantly surprised. I think owner Benjy Levit, sommelier Chrisanna Shewbart, and the team really have this place humming. The list is chock full of wines I want to drink with some of the best pricing I’ve seen in Houston in a very long time. The space is warm, and the staff is friendly.

I had a bottle of Comte Lafond Grand Cuvee—I haven’t seen this bottle since I was buying wine at Brennan’s. It made me almost giddy. And at $65, it was an absolute steal. You can find steals on almost any list if you know what to look for. Lees Den has an entire list of steals! It’s a playground. Even better, it shares a floor with a killer bottle shop.

Light Years
I’m glad I live in Montrose because I have a wine bar/bottle shop like Light Years near me. During the pandemic, my wife and I ordered cases and rode our tricycles over to pick them up!

Light Years is a natural wine bar, and the best part about natural wines is that I don’t know nearly enough about them. But I am learning, and that’s the fun of going to Light Years. The team is always helpful and walks me through everything. I’m always introduced to something new. Another thing about natural wine? The large format selection is always really good and affordable. And you know I love a magnum.

The March wine list is full of the allocated and the hard-to-find. To say this list has reach is an understatement — full of the producers you want to be drinking. It’s powerful without a lot of filler. Just gander at the selection of bérêche & fils! Champagne not your thing? Hopefully Burgundy is. Or Italian. Or California. Or Spain.

The March team has done a great job of accumulating back vintages of really cool wines. You want some Jordan back to 1984? They have it.

Funnily enough, I rarely look at the list when I’m at March, because the pairings with the tasting menus are so stunning. I do order from the list in The Lounge or — little known fact — when I’m downstairs at Rosie. While Rosie Cannonball has its own fantastic list, the March wine list is also available. This is something you should take advantage of.

Nancy's Hustle
What an absolute fantastic job Justin Vann has done with this wine list. A huge congrats on being named a James Beard finalist! Fun and funky, from sherry to orange wines to cider, the focus here is natural for sure.

Nancy’s Hustle doesn’t just create a list — they create a list for their menu. The wine list is curated to match the style of food they’re serving. That’s really unique and very cool. You’re not going to see some of the bigger names you know, and that’s quite all right. This is Justin and team working hard to curate wines specifically for their menu and what they like to drink. The homepage of their website says it all: “We like butter, natural wine, cider, and cocktails that pair well with food.” And they nailed it.

I’m a huge fan of Nobie’s. The menu is fun, the bourbon list is expansive, but I really love to go to Nobie’s because of the list Zeb Ulon has put together. When I go in, I tell him what I’m feeling wine-wise, and let him roll. He always brings a bottle he is truly in love with — many times lesser known, giving these wineries a voice.

Again, this list is built to go with the food. The team at Nobie’s always brings the party (if you’ve been to Southern Smoke, you know their booth is the party booth every year!) and their wine list is no exception. It’s fun, it’s joyous — always ready for a party. And it’s really smart.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
If you want to talk about an amazing list with depth of vintages, selections, styles, and all-around “oh my gosh, they have that on the list!”, this is the spot. If you know enough about wine, you can have fun looking through the list for that steal. Or, be very frank with the somms and tell them your price point and what you like, and they’ll find you the best bottle at the very best value.

If you want to go all-in, saddle up! This is the place to do it. They’ve been purchasing and collecting wine for 25 years. They have it!

Just last week, they hosted a multi-vintage Chateau Lafite Rothschild dinner and pulled every bottle from their cellar. I really wish CultureMap would have picked up a ticket for me to attend this once-in-a-lifetime dinner—maybe next time! (hint, hint) Their commitment to wine education and training is so good here that I’ve run into former Pappas Bros. sommeliers in restaurants all over the country.

State of Grace
I think State of Grace has one of the most helpful wine lists in Houston. Every single bottle has tasting notes, so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you order. The Sparkling section is very well laid out with amazing choices (is it obvious I love sparkling wine?). Their Pinot Noir selections are outstanding — a good selection of price points with the best selections at each price point. Their Italian section is very extensive — lots of Barolos, which is one of my favorites. Any time I see Paolo Scavino, I’m in!

Street to Kitchen
Much like the restaurant itself, the wine list at Street to Kitchen is unassuming and overachieving. It’s a funky little space deep in the East End. Everything here is small and mighty. Co-owner Graham Painter has done a good job of pairing unique, interesting, and approachable wines with chef Benchawan Painter’s food.

It’s unabashed but still very playful. Unapologetic but fun. Street to Kitchen shows you that not every wine list needs to be giant to be great.

March restaurant wine cellar
Photo by Julie Soefer

March has a deep list.

Contact our Wine Guy via email at chris@chrisshepherdconcepts.com.

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.

Sweet shepherd mix Mason could be your ultimate dream dog

Adoptable Dog

Think of your perfect dog: loves walks, plays gently with other pups, curious and cuddly, and — most important of all — house-trained.

Meet Mason, a two-year-old shepherd mix who checks every box.

This easy-going guy has been with the Houston SPCA for about two months, having previously come from a home that took the time to train him from having accidents indoors and jumping up on people.

He's also been well socialized, as he's thrilled to see other dogs but knows enough to play within their comfort levels.

Mason is also a rockstar on a leash — no tugging or tying you up, which is impressive for his young age.

And did we mention he's also adorable? His black and white coloring gives him a "superhero mask" over his eyes, and his long tail tips everyone off on what a good time he's always having.

If you think you'd have to meet Mason to believe all his incredible attributes, well, he's more than ready to meet you too.

Adoptable dog Mason Houston SPCA

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

Come meet this happy guy.

His adoption fee is only $55 and that includes a microchip, neuter surgery, up-to-date vaccinations, a free sample bag of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and a free post-exam from any VCA Animal Hospital.

Stop by the Houston SPCA, which is open every day from 11 am-6 pm, to spend some time in the play yards with Mason and many other adoptable pets.

Houston's Stages spotlights Broadway hits and world premiers in new season

On stage

Exploring human connection through storytelling has always been a hallmark of Stages ethos as a Houston arts organization. Its 2023 - 2024 arts season highlights that mission, with a slate of plays that include Broadway hits, world premieres, and fan favorites.

The organization's 46th season begins with an encore of Always...Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley, which premiered at Stages 35 years ago. It's been delighting audiences ever since, telling the story of the groundbreaking country music superstar's life and incorporating 27 of her songs including "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces." Previews begin July 21 and the show runs through October 29.

When POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive played on Broadway in 2022, Variety called it a "delicious feminist farce." It's the story of how seven women on the president's staff step up to save his reputation — and the world — when his PR nightmare becomes a global crisis. Stages brings the comedy to the Bayou City with previews beginning September 1. The play will run through October 8.

Up nest comes the psychological thriller Switzerland by Joanna Murray-Smith. Stages favorite Sally Edmunson plays Texas-born murder mystery writer Patricia Highsmith, living out her days in solitude in her home in the remote Swiss Alps. Then, a young emissary turns up, encouraging the writer to continue her Tom Ripley series, and it begins to be clear that things are about to get sinister. Previews begin October 6 and Switzerland runs through November 12.

For the holidays, Stages teams up with TEATRX for the world premiere of Panto Alicia in Wonderland, giving the Lewis Carroll classic a decidedly Houston spin. Alice (not Alicia) is about to make her quinceañera, and finds herself rejecting her culture. When she falls down the rabbit hole, however, she enters a world that celebrates all that makes her Alicia. Expect Ricky Martin and Selena parodies in this rollicking edition of Stages' panto tradition. Previews begin December 1 and the show runs through December 31.

2024 opens with Sister’s Irish Catechism: Saints, Snakes, and Green Milkshakes!, the latest iteration of Stages' popular Sister's Catechism series and another of the season's world premieres. The irrepressible Sister, played by Denise Fennell,gets back in the habit for a show that turns the theater into a classroom and the audience into her students. Laughs and improvisation are on the lesson plan. Sister's Irish Catechism begins previews on January 26, 2024 and plays through March 17. Of course.

Othello: The Remix features a book and music by the Q Brothers and was a New York Times critic's pick. This reimagining of Shakespeare's classic tale of love, jealousy, suspicion, and tragedy is a high-energy adaptation, with an overlay of unforgettable beats. Previews begin May 3, with the show running through June 9, 2024.

Stages' seventh series of Sin Muros: A Latinx Theater Festival is May 23 through 26, featuring a weekend of readings and workshops celebrating Latinx artists and creators.

The 2023 - 2024 season closes with A Case for the Existence of God by Samuel D. Hunter, which explores the unlikely friendship formed by two men sharing an office cubicle, as they navigating banking, parenthood, and human connection. Previews begin May 24, 2024 and the show runs through June 30.

“I think of this season as gentle, with shows that explore connection and ask probing questions about human nature,” said artistic director Kenn McLaughlin in a statement. "The shows move through complex meditations on love, life, family, traditions, notions of power, and history — there are so many ideas packed into very intimate stories. I love the juxtaposition of these concepts, and this is the kind of storytelling that our audiences love as well — intimate and epic all at once.”

Season subscriptions are currently on sale, beginning at $150. Details can be found at www.stageshouston.com.