"The thing I like about the Houston wine scene," says the Houston Wine Merchant's Marcy Jimenez (above), "is the Gulf Coast attitude. We're a little more relaxed than the folks to the north of here." Marcy was born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, New York. But she cut her teeth in the New Orleans food and wine scene, where she lived and worked in her twenties.
When she and I met earlier this week, she had just returned from New York City, where she had traveled especially to taste with one of the hipster circuit's hottest young winemakers, Raúl Pérez, scion of one of Spain's leading wine families and now a top producer in his own right. But don't look for these "highly allocated" wines on the store's shelves: They sell out quickly after Marcy offers them to a select group of clients via her e-mail list (all you need to do to get on the list is to ask).
I've been so impressed with her often esoteric and eclectic selection that I once let her talk me into buying a Merlot from Piedmont, Italy, despite my diametric opposition to international grape varieties raised on Italian soil (it was delicious).
Marcy is one of a growing number of Houston wine professionals who think globally and act locally. And her knowledge of the international wine scene makes her one of the top resources for both European and domestic wines in our market. I wasn't surprised when I bumped into her in April at the Italian wine trade fair in Verona, Italy, just one of the many international events and tastings she attends each year.
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She's a big fan of Italian wines, but the Loire Valley, France, is where her expertise really shines. And she always seems to have a surprise up her sleeve, even for wine nerds like me: This week, when she showed me an under-$25 white wine from Chinon -- an appellation known exclusively for its reds -- I just had to have it.
But the thing that really leads me back to visit Marcy is that somewhere between the ubiquitous tattoos, the New York swagger, the infectious laugh and the dissertations on the virtues of biodynamically farmed Chenin Blanc from the Loire, she always reminds me that wine should be fun -- whether a $12 Vermentino from Lodi, California, or a $80 Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. Somehow wine, no matter where it's from, just tastes better when paired with a touch of Gulf Coast attitude via the Bronx.