Wine Time

Houston's Loire Fest: Where to Drink in the French Wine This Month

Inside State of Grace
Inside State of Grace Photo by Mai Pham
Now returning for its third year in Houston, Loire Fest brings a month of tastings, seminars and more events to town, happening now until the end of July. Created by mastermind and Master Somm David Keck — formerly of Camerata and with a new Montrose honky-tonk, Goodnight Charlie's, and more top-secret projects on the way — the low-key fest brings attention to a region quite popular with wine nerds, especially at this time of year: the Loire Valley. That's because a wide range of grapes, from Sancerre to Muscadet, with reds, whites, pinks and bubbles hailing from its various sub-regions, are perfect for the heat.

"It's great for the summer here in Houston," Keck tells the Houston Press. "Even the reds."
Master somm David Keck started Loire Fest in 2015. - PHOTO BY PHAEDRA COOK
Master somm David Keck started Loire Fest in 2015.
Photo by Phaedra Cook
The Loire Valley is considered to be one of the world's greatest producers of natural wine as well. "It's the region where the natural wine movement first began to take shape," Keck notes. That means you'll find everything from extremely organic-to-the-point-of-spiritual biodynamic wines or ultra-hip, fizzy pét-nats with crown caps like you'd find on bottled beer.

The expansive region isn’t rife with cash like Bordeaux or Champagne, so it doesn't always get a lot of hype, but right now is a better time than ever to drink these wines, as the region suffered a pretty big loss last year owing to inclement weather — including hail and frost — that made for a "horrendous vintage," Keck says. "There wasn’t a lot of wine. Everybody is a bit nervous. Two thousand seventeen is not that great either." But Keck actually points out that these are the very reasons people in Houston should drink wines from the Loire right now: To support the region.

You can find Loire Valley wines at Central Market, Kroger (11th and Shepherd location), Spec's (Midtown) and Whole Foods, and wine-focused bars and restaurants around town, including Public Services Wine & Whisky, Camerata, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and Sonoma. On top of that, there are some cool events and special pours going on around town to drink in as well.
click to enlarge Sec Symbole? Only if you drink wines from the Loire. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VINOLOGY
Sec Symbole? Only if you drink wines from the Loire.
Photo courtesy of Vinology
Vinology, 2314 Bissonet

If you want to learn what the oenophiles are drinking, this is the place to be on Thursdays for the next two weeks, with seminars and tastings that will walk you through the coolest wines from the sub-regions of the Loire.

Today, July 13, at 6:30 p.m., the West U wine shop hosts the seminar "Natural Wines of the Loire Part Un" with two of the nation's top natural wine importers, Zev Rovine of Zev Rovine Selections in New York and Corey Cartwright of Selection Massale. The duo will also take over the by-the-glass menu and flight offerings with selections from famed natural sparkling wine, Sancerre and Chenin Blanc producers, along with "glou-glou" (i.e., refreshing and crushable) reds and more. If you want to learn what the hipsters are drinking, this is the place to be.

On Thursday, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. "Wines of Anjou, Savennières and beyond" will feature Sebastien Ramuscello of Serendipity Wines, and the wine bar's available flights will include méthode traditionelle sparkling wines of the Loire, Savennières and Saumur Champigny.

On Thursday, July 27, at 6:30 p.m. the "Natural Wines of the Loire: Part Deux" will feature Bill and Byron of Goat Boy Selections. Flights will include Cour-Cheverny, Vouvray and Bourgeuil pours.

State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer

Sommelier Matt Crawford and team will offer special off-menu wines by the glass in the $14 to $22 range, and by the bottle from $56 to $88, for those in the know at River Oaks's beloved neighborhood eatery. Highlights include Domaine Philippe Tessier, Cour-Cheverny, Romorantin 2011 with notes of oxidized apples, pears, citrus, aromatic spice and a high acidity that lends itself to food pairing; Damien Laureau, Le Bel Ouvrage, Savennières, Chenin Blanc 2013, a rock star wine from the Anjou-Saumur sub-region with loads of fruit, minerality, and even sheepy flavors with lots of food-friendly acid as well; and The Catherine & Pierre Breton, Vin de Pays, Grolleau 2015, a glou-glou red with strong black and red berry notes that will actually be served chilled.

13 Celsius, 3000 Caroline

Sommelier Adele Corrigan and her team host an all-Loire Valley summer wine sale at this Midtown wine hub on Saturday, July 29, from noon to 2 p.m. with numerous intriguing pours from the region. Entry is $13 and includes wine samples, a pretty great deal considering how incredible many of these wines are. The bar is also serving up numerous wines from the Loire nightly, so it's a great place to visit all month long for a refreshing glass.

Art of Cellaring, 2301 Portsmouth

Also on Saturday, July 29, from 3 to 6 p.m. Loire Fest founder and Master Sommelier David Keck, who started the  event back in 2015,  teams up with somm/chef Erin Smith Feges and her husband/chef Patrick Feges for a whole hog feast, including Asian cucumber salad, pit beans and coleslaw, and sliced bread and buns along with tons of wine.

 Importers, distributors and wine makers will all be onsite to share their best bottles with guests, including Bill Fitch and Byron Bates from Goatboy Imports and lots of wines to purchase and sample from the portfolios of JD Headrick, Louis Dressner, Kermit Lynch, Vineyard Brands and more.

Entry is $30 and tickets can be reserved online.
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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.