Antonio Gianola is no stranger to the Houston wine scene. In fact, you've probably read multiple articles on him and his restaurant, Catalan. So, how did this former medical biller and coder become the talk of the town? One glass of wine at a time.
"I was good at medical billing and coding, but I didn't like it," Gianola explains. "Instead, I decided to start waiting tables at the Sierra Grill." A few years later, he took over Sierra Grill's wine program. "I spent hours and hours studying wine and learning from the sommelier," he says. "When he left, I took over the program." Being a sommelier sounds much better than medical billing and coding.
Since then, Gianola has continued his education through the Court of Master Sommeliers certification process. He recently completed the second of four levels.
After Gianola left Sierra Grill, he moved to the Rainbow Lodge and then Da Marco. "Da Marco's was an amazing education in wine," says Gianola. "I knew very little about Italian wine when I started, and it is one of the most difficult regions to grasp." But now, Italian wines are some of his favorites.
Until recently, Italians focused more on the production of their red wines instead of their whites, resulting in a rather basic, boring white. However, the Italian whites have increased in quality over the years, especially in the Friuli region. "The Friuli region is my favorite region," Gianola told us. "We drink a lot of white wine at home, and the Ribolla Gialla grape is one of the best." Ribolla Gialla wines are usually citrusy and light-bodied. The Piedmont region also has some excellent white wines.
For Catalan, Gianola features 350 wines, with fun and different selections for both the novice wine drinker and the connoisseur. This list changes every Saturday. Gianola is always keeping us on our toes, which is probably why the Houston Press named him the "Best Sommelier" in 2005.