Wine Time

Sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd Doesn't Kiss and Tell

Philippe sommelier and wine director Vanessa Treviño Boyd is not one to name-drop. But even if she were, you really couldn't fault her for it.

In conversation with her, once the ice is broken, she can rattle off a who's who of Burgundy and French-wine elites whom she counts among her most intimate friends.

But that's to be expected of someone who has worked in the upper echelons of the New York wine scene. One of her most recent gigs, before moving to Houston, was at Adour, the Alain Ducasse restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel. (Ducasse redefined fine dining in Manhattan in 2000 when he brought his Michelin-starred brand to the city, long before the little red book devoted a guide to the U.S. dining mecca; "Alain Ducasse at the Essex House was intended to ravish," wrote William Grimes in The New York Times in late 2001. "It was more expensive, more sumptuous, more ritualized -- more everything -- than any other restaurant in Manhattan, where the worship of fine French food is an organized religion.")

But despite her impeccable credentials, Boyd isn't one to kiss and tell. When she and I sat down to chat this week, she was more interested in talking about a $12 by-the-glass Txakoli than the $400-plus bottle of Chave (that I wish I could afford) on her list.

"People in this town are afraid of acidity," she lamented. So much so, she said, that she often finds herself euphemizing the word itself. "When I'm talking about a wine like the Txakoli I'm pouring by the glass, I'll avoid using the word acidity and say things like vibrant or verve. People think that sour is bad. But once you get it in their glass and you get them to pair it with food, they see how good it is."

(Amen, sistah, you are preaching to the choir! Here at Wine Time, we like to pair our Txakoli with east-Texas-style fried okra.)

Despite our city's renown for dick-wagging collectors, fine wine playahs and oil execs who like their wines as thick as their pomade, it seems that Vanessa is still looking for her sea legs in her new home along the Gulf Coast.

"I still don't get the obsession with Napa Valley Cabernet during summertime," she lamented good-heartedly. "I understand that it's what people know. But there are so many other interesting wines [in our market]."

Vanessa appeared much more at home pitching me a bottle of Aligoté (Burgundy's unsung white quaffer) than the petrol-textured Darioush "Napa Valley Cab" that her clients ask her for and that she no longer carries on her list.

There's no doubt in my mind that it's going to be an uphill battle for Vanessa, despite the string of stunning accolades she's garnered since becoming a big fish in our not so little bayou (earlier this year, Vanessa was named a 2012 "sommelier of the year" by Food & Wine).

It's a wide gulf between Burgundy and the bayou. But our town's lucky to have her, and I, for one, am looking forward to the wines she'll be sharing with us.

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