Wine Time

Inside The Glass: Vanessa Treviño Boyd

Vanessa Treviño Boyd in the wine cellar at TRIBUTE at the Houstonian Hotel.
Vanessa Treviño Boyd in the wine cellar at TRIBUTE at the Houstonian Hotel. Photo by Kate McLean
Both Stag’s Leap and Château Mouton-Rothschild immediately ceased hurling insults as Vanessa Treviño Boyd entered the sound proof wine cellar to the quiet undercurrent of violin strings and all appeared normal amongst the premier collection stacked within the walls like books in a library. The 750 milliliter volumes from Napa, Burgundy, and Bordeaux met in the middle to form a waterfall that pooled onto a dining table set for four with flocculent UGG blankets nearby to accommodate the 57-degree chill in the air.  But Treviño Boyd didn’t need one, she was accustomed to working in this environment.

A fixture on the Houston wine circuit since returning from New York City in 2010, she earned national acclaim in 2012 as one of Food & Wine’s sommeliers of the year for her work at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge. Now she can be found directing wine and spirits for TRIBUTE at the Houstonian Hotel where she procures a powerful list that’s weighty enough to satisfy the elite while at the same time accessible to all.

“1947 Laville Haut-Brion.”

Without a second thought, she vividly remembers the white Bordeaux that stood out during an epic BYOB meal shared between her and two others; Michael Wheeler, then part owner for Polaner Selections and Steve Plotnicki, food critic and founder of Opinionated About Dining. The setting: Megu, the Manhattan spot-of-the-moment where she also served as wine buyer. “It was my dream list—riesling, Champagne, Burgundy.” Wheeler and Plotnicki had plucked a handful of choices from their cellars, she from her wine list designed to complement the upscale Japanese fare. Open bottles and chicken necks off the robata, sushi and $30 edamame imported fresh from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market all covered the table.

“It was like beeswax, thick and viscous, toasted nuts—almonds on the finish, caramel, butterscotch, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.”

A blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc, 1947 was a legendary vintage for Pessac-Leognan, Graves, and Bordeaux in general. Her hands and expression re-lived that flavor as she described each note the unicorn wine had left her with years ago.

And then of course the four years she was asked to serve as one of 50 sommeliers in the country at the La Paulée® Burgundy Festival, Daniel Johnnes’ homage to the original La Paulée Mersault Burgundy fête. The festival culminates in a gala with a guest list including Burgundian winemakers as well as collectors from around the world, and a menu executed by several Michelin-starred chefs.

“Bottles are flying from table to table, it’s the most fun and challenging time a sommelier can have,” she describes guests arriving and handing off labeled boxes filled with trophy bottles to be decanted and tasted by teams of sommeliers before they’re returned to their owner’s side.

Her first year, with a senior sommelier looking over her shoulder, she remembers holding her breath and using both hands to open and carefully pour the magnum of 1971 La Tâche, $25,000 in her grasp.

“Yes, I wouldn’t be here now doing what I’m doing if I had not spent that ten years in New York City.”
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