"From sparkling to dessert — and then by producer — and then the client was good with me organizing their Burgundy north to south," Charlotte Marshall thought to herself. Bottles lined in rows rested on the African blackwood dining table and waited to find their new place. The cellar was quiet and dim, but mostly just quiet in between song breaks of the low fi playlist humming off her Spotify. She stopped at a 1900 Châteaux Margaux, admiring it for several long moments before assigning it a bar code sticker and logging it into the Cellar Tracker app.
After hiring Marshall, owner of Houston Cellar Help — a private wine cellar consulting business that appraises, stores, transports, and purchases wine — clients now need only pick out a bottle to enjoy and, by scanning the handy sticker on the back, tasting notes will appear and the cellar inventory gets updated. Easy as that. Four cases of Keenan purchased from a recent trip to Napa's Spring Mountain District landing on Thursday? She’ll be there to unpack and tag them too.
Finished for the day, she looked to the three magnums of 1985 Château d'Yquem on display as she exited, pausing again. “There’s things I’ve been able to put my hands on that I never thought in a million years.…”
With her business off to a running start, many of her new clients she had known from her time working as beverage and operations manager under Matt Crawford at State of Grace in River Oaks. Marshall credits owner Ford Fry, and also Crawford, for having the biggest impact on her career to date. Working for the company in Atlanta at King + Duke and St. Cecilia, she started as a server and was developed into management through their training program. “They truly built me up.” Hungry to experience another part of the country and attracted to Houston because of its diversity and poppin’ beverage scene, she was transferred here in 2017.
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Born in New Jersey, her parents are actually British while she too spent some time growing up in the UK. Today, Marshall credits her father for her palate and how she reveres food and fine wine. “Dad loved Gordon Ramsay, so at home plates had to be hot, wine on the table, silverware down — that gave me a thirst for the industry and attention to detail,” she smiles at the gentleman lowering an ornate and frothy latte before her at a window table at Paulie’s.
“It’s been freeing and a lot of fun [to own and operate Houston Cellar Help], but I was a bit shell shocked going from seeing thousands of people a week and managing such a large team to spending the majority of my time by myself or working with a group.” She’ll probably pick a shift up later at Camerata where she now works part time to get her social fix as well as advance her wine knowledge. For her, Camerata felt like the perfect fit because of Chris Poldoian’s challenging program, unique wine list, and supportive leadership style. “Having most of my experience in classic producers, it puts me outside of my realm."
As for aha sips: Four years ago, working underneath beverage manager Clarke Anderson at St. Cecilia in Atlanta, Marshall remembers him bringing in a ’95 Château de Beaucastel from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. “It was so complex and interesting without being overbearing — my dad drank Napa cab’s my whole life. This wine— I wanted to dig into a little more.”
Also memorable, the Dauvissat Chablis from an entry level village to top tier grand cru, and with its heavy aromatics, she thought again, remarking on her preference for high acid wines. “The most impactful bottles for me are tasting these top producers who have done it so well for so long. I love biodynamic, organic, sustainable, but there is something really special about a perfectly made and stored classic producer.”