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Middle Eastern Wine for Xenophobic Times

Let's face it: Texas is often the butt of our nation's jokes. Nearly every day, The New York Times shares some of our less savory idiosyncrasies with readers across the country. Today it's voter discrimination by our state's legislature. Yesterday it was Lubbock County Judge Tom Head's plans to rise up against the United Nations troops that he believes President Obama will deploy to Texas if re-elected.

In the light of the often racist and bizarrely xenophobic attitudes that pervade and prevail here, I was all the more impressed by Master Sommelier Drew Hendricks's bold choice to feature a flight of Lebanese wines on his flagship list at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse on Westheimer. (Drew oversees wine programs for the Pappas restaurant group, including more than 90 franchises. Although Robert Smith is the wine director at the flagship steakhouse, where he's responsible for "95 percent of the list," as I was told by one of the restaurant's sommeliers last night, Drew is the author of the vertical flight by Musar.)

Here at Wine Time, we've often discussed the ideological nature of vinography (i.e., wine writing). A wine list is one of the most technical expressions of vinography but, like all writing forms, it is always imbued with ideology -- whether conscious or not.

Knowing Drew, I doubt that he sees his wine list as politically or ideologically charged. I know for a fact that he just digs the wines. Nonetheless, in a town where "Napa Cab," Caymus and Silver Oak are the go-tos for dick-wagging oil executives who get their drink on at Pappas to the tune of $49.95 for a 22-ounce bone-in rib eye, I salute Drew for making such a bold statement.

Bold because it's not what you would expect to find on the first page of such a prestigious (and expensive) list. Bold because it draws the restaurant's guests beyond the often short-sighted conventions of the Texas wine canon. Bold because this wine is made by a Middle Eastern winemaker. Bold because the wines -- and I can say this from firsthand experience -- are superb (although I'm a bigger fan of the whites than the reds).

Click here for the list. The 2003 white, even at $80, is not a bad deal and is absolutely delicious (one of the only wines within my financial reach).

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I asked two of the sommeliers about their guests' interest in the wines. "I've only had one guest order any of the wines since we added them," said one of the wine professionals who works the floor of the restaurant nightly.

I'm thrilled that Drew is sharing this (literally) extraordinary wine with Houstonians (or at least the rich ones). But I also know that Gloria Steinem was right when she said that the personal is political.

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