Back in 2009, when the Houston wine scene was just beginning to take off, then-sommelier Antonio Gianola asked a visiting wine writer to cast his gaze across the dining room of the now defunct Catalan.
"Look," he said with evident pride, "there's a bottle of wine on every table."
It was a seminal moment in Houston's evolution as a wine-hip city: Antonio's aggressive pricing, then a novelty, became the model for many of the restaurateurs and wine directors that would open new venues in the years that followed.
The wine list at the Italianate eatery Coltivare on White Oak Drive in the Heights seems to have borrowed a page from Antonio's much-missed wine list.
Yesterday evening, a table for six discovered that the restaurant's wine pricing is highly competitive. A bottle of D'Orta-De Conciliis 2011 Falanghina (above) sells for just $38, a price that reflects a "retail + corkage" formula ("corkage" is a modest fee charged by BYOB establishments).
The D'Orta-De Conciliis, a radically organic wine from Campania (Southern Italy), was just one of a wonderful spattering of well-priced selections on this organic-, biodynamic-leaning list.
For lovers of natural wine, the Occhipinti 2013 Tamì Frappato weighs in at just $40 while the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay -- one of the most famous expressions of Napa Valley -- was just $68 (the average retail price for this celebrated Californian wine in Texas is $44 according to a search on WineSearcher.com).
Domaine du Closel Savennières for $40 and Venica Collio Friuliano, also $40, were a few other standouts. And the by-the-glass pricing was also wallet-friendly.
Although there are also a few of the usual suspects on this evenly priced list, the majority of selections will have appeal to wine connoisseurs in search of "real wines" that "speak of place" as the au courant jargon goes.
The only disappointment, pined one guest, was that the prosciutto was sliced so clumsily. When an order arrived, it was too thick and not properly trimmed.
For a restaurant that prides itself in its salumi, this is a grave oversight.
If only the owners corrected this, Coltivare would be a slice of heaven paired with a fantastic glass of groovy Falanghina.