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Five Blind Wine Pairings, Five Sommeliers and One Fantastic Dinner at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge

Five courses, five sommeliers, two bartenders and a Master Chef of France. As far as wine dinners go, last week's Guest Sommelier Wine Dinner at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge was nothing short of a tour de force.

The dinner marked the finale of sommelier Vanessa Treviño-Boyd's wildly successful Sommelier Tasting Series at Phil's Wine Lounge. For the series, guest sommeliers from around town were invited to present four wines to a small group of 15 wine enthusiasts. I attended one by Christian Varas of River Oaks Country Club, tasting four wines made from 70-plus-something-year-old vines, and found it completely fascinating.

For the finale dinner, Treviño-Boyd made things even more interesting: Each guest sommelier was assigned a course, selected a wine for that course, then worked with chef Philippe Schmit to create a wine pairing that would be served "blind" to all the dinner attendees. In other words, guests would be served the food and the wine first, and the wine would be revealed after each course.

"The wines that have been chosen have nothing that would attract your attention on paper," Treviño-Boyd said in her introduction. She went on to say that there would be no big names from the likes of Montrachet, Burgundy or Bordeaux, but that each wine had been chosen for a characteristic that mimicked a much more expensive wine, sans the big-name price tag.

The evening kicked off in the wine lounge downstairs, with a trio of cocktails created by "Ladies of Libation" bartenders Laurie Sheddan and Leslie Ross. Each was distinct, with cool names like "How does your garden grow" for a cucumber and Hendricks gin-infused cocktail with vanilla tomato jam; "Riesling Rendezvous" for a Riesling liqueur cocktail with rosemary-infused gin and orange blossom water (my favorite of the three); and "The Oaxacan 75" for an artisanal Vago Espadin mezcal, lime, agave champagne cocktail.

Treviño-Boyd was behind the first course pairing, pouring a champagne to complement a masterful rendition of lobster bisque with poached quenelles made from a recipe dating back to 1979, when Schmit was at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Luxembourg. When the course was finished, she revealed that we'd been served a grower's Barnaut non-vintage blanc de noirs, made with grapes from a Grand Cru vineyard, asserting, "I believe a champagne should always start a dinner."

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham