Houston's 10 Best Destinations for Wine

While Houston has rapidly become one of the nation's top locales for creative and innovative dining in the U.S., the rest of the country still thumbs its nose at the city's wine programs. That's about to change.
While Houston has rapidly become one of the nation's top locales for creative and innovative dining in the U.S., the rest of the country still thumbs its nose at the city's wine programs. That's about to change.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen

For decades, the Houston wine scene has been dominated by the California powerhouse: "California Chardonnay," "Napa Cab" and "Merlot" (in quotes because it denotes Merlot from California) have long been been Houston's go-to wines. And in many circles, they still are the most frequently ordered wines within the city's ever growing mosaic of restaurants.

But in the late 1990s, as wine awareness began to evolve in the U.S. and more and more wines from Europe and other parts of the world became available here, the Houston wine scene started to grow and expand with the rest of the country. By the late 2000s, the city's wine culture had firmly established itself as a leading destination for fine wine, however unknown that development may have been outside of Texas. Today, no wine industry observer can deny that we are in the thick of a genuine wine awakening in south Texas.

Many wine drinkers first experience new bottles when they dine in restaurants or sample a few glasses at a wine bar, either through a sommelier's recommendation or because a label intrigues them. They taste, they drink and they then buy a case of what they like. They become demanding wine drinkers, and the local wine world becomes all the better for it. So one great way to discover new and interesting wines is to look for restaurants and wine bars with diverse and competent wine lists.

Here's our list of the "Best Houston Destinations for Wine," in no particular order, chosen because they won't disappoint when it comes to a glass or bottle to pair with your food. And a visit to any of them will definitely be a learning experience.

(One note: "Special occasion" and "power dining" restaurants have been purposely omitted. Places like Tony's, Brennan's, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, RDG/Bar Annie and the more recently arrived Phillipe have and will always have some of our country's best wine programs. We will visit them at a later date.)

The criteria for this list (which will be updated periodically) are as follows:

Affordability

Does the wine program offer selections for "everyday" wine pairing?

Splurgeability

Does the list include "special occasion" bottles for a Saturday-night anniversary celebration?

Food Friendliness

Does the wine selection work well with the menu? Does it offer an ample selection of "ready to drink now" wines?

Education

Does the wine list teach the guest something new about wine?

Style

Does the wine list express a theme or an aesthetic?

Service

Is the overall wine experience enhanced by the skill of the sommelier and the servers?

Je ne sais quoi

Does the list make the guest feel sexy?



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