The Wine Spectator awards for 2015 are out and 51 of the Houston-area restaurants that entered the competition were deemed to have some of the best wine lists in the world.
Restaurants from more than 75 countries and territories entered for consideration. Of those, ten Houston restaurants landed second-tier awards given to only 1,054 entrants. One Houston restaurant received the coveted top ranking given to only 80 other restaurants.
There are three types of rankings. The Award of Excellence is the most basic level, based on a restaurant’s list of at least 90 different types of wine that are “a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.”
The middle tier is the Best of Award of Excellence, reserved for “lists [that] typically offer 350 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions.” Ten Houston restaurants won this category.
Only Pappas Bros. Steakhouse landed the prestigious Grand Award. To achieve this top ranking, a restaurant must have “1,000 selections or more, and feature serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu and superior organization, presentation and wine service.”
Examining the list reveals a few surprises — and a few things that are not surprises at all. First, the majority of restaurants on this list are steakhouses, like Del Frisco’s, Perry’s, Sullivan’s and Vic & Anthony’s. Steak and red wine go hand in hand, and it’s traditional for steakhouses to have large and prestigious cellars. Second, Houston is still madly, deeply in love with California wine. After all, steaks and California Cabernet are a solid match.
Houston’s love affair with cabs, though, means that there are places that have to carry a California-heavy list when it doesn’t entirely make sense, such as Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão. South American reds are still underappreciated, even while representing great value. Convincing Houstonians to embrace wine from other countries is demonstrably still a work in progress.
For that matter, even some acclaimed domestic regions are underrepresented. Glass Wall is one of the few cited for its wines from other wine-producing parts of the United States, specifically Oregon and Washington.
Some restaurants that are not steakhouses still manage to pull off the kind of bottle inventory needed for the diversity that Wine Spectator looks for. The 2015 awards include big wins for establishments that restaurateur Tracy Vaught has some level of involvement with, including Backstreet Cafe, Caracol, Hugo’s, Trevisio and Prego. That’s a big feather in beverage director Sean Beck’s cap as well, as he manages the lists for the first three of those restaurants.
It’s also refreshing to see restaurants cited for other strengths, especially ones that don't usually get much media buzz. El Meson was cited for its Spanish selection, while Noe Grill’s focus on Italy and Texas and Mark’s American Grill’s French- and Italian-heavy lists helped land their accolades. Other interesting places include Brix Wine Cellars in far northwest Houston, Via Emilia in The Woodlands and Ristorante Cavour in Hotel Granduca.
The complete list of the Houston-area Wine Spectator award winners is below, along with the regions cited as each restaurant’s strengths.
- Pappas Bros. Steakhouse: California, France, Australia, Italy
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Best Of Award Of Excellence
- Backstreet Café: California, France
- Brennan’s Of Houston: California, France
- Brix Wine Cellars: California
- Caracol: International
- Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House: California, Bordeaux, Italy
- Mark’s American Cuisine: France, Italy
- Ristorante Cavour: California, Italy, France
- Smith & Wollensky: California
- Sullivan’s Steakhouse: California
- Tony’s: California, Bordeaux, Burgundy
- Vic & Anthony’s: California, Bordeaux, Australia
Award Of Excellence
- Américas River Oaks: California, Argentina, Chile
- Brenner's Steakhouse: California
- Brenner's Steakhouse On The Bayou: California, France
- Carmelo’s Ristorante: California, Italy, Bordeaux
- Churrascos (Memorial City location): Argentina, Chile, Spain, United States
- Del Frisco's Grille: California
- Eddie V’s Prime Seafood & Steaks (Upper Kirby): California
- Eddie V’s Prime Seafood & Steaks (Memorial): California
- El Meson: Spain
- Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (Upper Kirby): California
- Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: (Memorial): California
- Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: (The Woodlands): California
- Fogo de Chão: California, Chile
- Glass Wall: California, Oregon, Washington
- Hugo’s: California, France
- Kiran’s: California
- Mo’s A Place For Steaks: California, France
- Noe Grill: Italy, Texas
- Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille (Memorial): California
- Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille (Clear Lake): California
- Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille (Champions): California
- Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille (The Woodlands): California
- Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille (Sugar Land): California
- Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille (Katy): California
- Prego: California, France, Italy
- Seasons 52 (River Oaks): International
- Seasons 52 (Memorial): International
- Shula’s Steak House: California
- Sonoma Retail Wine Bar & Restaurant (Upper Kirby): California
- Sonoma Retail Wine Bar & Restaurant (The Heights): California
- Taste Of Texas: California
- The Capital Grille (Galleria): California
- The Capital Grille (Memorial): California
- The Steakhouse (Galveston): California
- Tradição Brazilian Steakhouse (Webster): United States
- Trevisio: California, Italy
- Truluck’s: California
- Via Emilia (The Woodlands): Italy, California
- Willie G’s Seafood & Steak: California