The Houston wine scene is exploding -- literally.
Between the newly launched Houston Sommelier Association, the growing number of local Master Sommelier and Society of Wine Educators candidates, and the flood of new and groovy wines reaching our market thanks to a new wave of independent wine distributors, there's never been a better time to taste in this city.
Master Sommelier candidate Ben Roberts (above) has been instrumental in driving Houston's new wine culture, in part by inviting top wine industry figures to speak at the HSA meetings (author and celebrity sommelier Rajat Parr and Peter Wasserman, scion of the famed Burgundian négociant, have been recent guests).
Masraff's on Post Oak, where Roberts oversees the beverage program, isn't exactly the first place that comes to mind as one of Houston's top destinations for fine wine.
During a recent visit at happy hour, the petroleum crowd was mostly adorned in business attire and orders for margaritas, Merlots, "Napa Cabs," and Chardonnays were overheard at the busy bar.
But a perusal of the wine list revealed a fantastic selection of classic French and a number of wonderful values like a half-bottle (375ml) of Billecart-Salmon Champagne Rosé (one of my favorite special-occasion wines) for just under $100.
One wine that will really thrill old school wine lovers is the 1996 Château Lanessan by the glass for $24. Rarely do Houstonians get the opportunity to drink well aged Bordeaux, a category that the dick-waggers often dive into before the wines are ready to drink.
This seventeen-year-old is showing beautifully right now and it has that lightness in body, balanced by mature tannin, that makes Bordeaux (in this case, "left bank") such a unique expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine paired brilliantly with the happy hour Lamb "Lollipops," which weighed in at just $12.
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There were so many other wines that hipster wine lovers would be thrilled by, like the 1993 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay from Oregon. It wasn't cheap at $271 (in fact, out of my price range) but a value and a gem of a wine nonetheless.
Roberts is planning "to sit" for his final Court of Master Sommeliers exam next year and it's likely that he'll pass.
A braniac among Houston wine professionals, he embodies the new vinous spirit of the city. As he recently wrote on the HSA site, "the more we share, the more we educate, the more we learn, the more we grow."
And that attitude pairs nicely with some well aged claret!