Wine lovers will find a lot to love at the nine finalists for the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Wine Program of the Year.
Our nominees range from some of the city’s finest restaurants to intimate wine bars. From places that serve wine’s most famous names to boutique natural wines from faraway places, these establishments are devoted to wine in all its styles and flavors.
Yes, some of these places offer some bottles of wine that cost more than some people’s mortgage payments, but even people of modest means will find a selection that suits their taste. Best of all, the people who work at these places will engage their customers in a conversation to find something that makes the night memorable.
Who will win? Find out May 25 at the Tastemaker Awards party. We’ll dine on bites from this year’s nominated restaurants before emcee Bun B reveals the winners.
Led by sommelier and general manager Adele Corrigan Wade, this Midtown staple offers more than 50 by-the-glass selections with 400 different bottles. Among the city’s most popular date night destinations, look for a list of primarily Old World vintages from small producers and family-owned wineries with a broad range of natural wines and plenty of Champagnes. Ask the talented staff to guide you through newer additions from places like Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria.
Sommelier Molly Austad has the responsibility of overseeing a wine list that matches the diversity of chef Aaron Bludorn’s menu. That means over 30 by-the-glass choices and almost 500 bottles. As people might expect, the list is deep with French wines from the regions of Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux as well as Californian wines.
Asked about a new favorite, Austad cites Michael Malat’s ‘Crazy Creatures’ Gruner Veltliner. “I love it as a food pairing particularly with green vegetables, which is traditionally one of the hardest things a sommelier has to pair wine with. It’s super fresh and racy, with notes of green apple and an unmistakable white pepper note,” she writes.
How to Survive on Land and Sea
General manager and sommelier Cory Martin not only oversees the East End wine bar’s inventory he also curates the more than 2,000 records that provide the bar’s soundtrack. “We want to be able to get as deep and geeky as you’d like but keep it approachable for a casual drinker and with the lowest markup we can bear,” Martin writes about his approach to the list, which covers a broad range of domestic producers. Ask him about the “crushable” Skinner Vineyards “Native Red” from El Dorado County, California.
This industry favorite wine bar exclusively serves natural wine to the tune of 50 by-the-glass selections and over 300 bottles. Owner Steve Buechner describes the bar’s approach as follows:
“We travel the globe seeking out the most interesting, small-production, truly natural wines in the world (most of which have previously never been in the Texas market), and serve them in the most approachable, enjoyable setting in town,” he writes in an email. That means everything from French and Italian vintages to New World favorites. Try the 2021 Sirena Chardonnay Sonoma Mountain Marymor Vineyard from Marioni Wines.
Wine is such an integral part of the experience at Goodnight Hospitality’s Mediterranean-inspired fine dining restaurant that diners are connected with the restaurant’s sommelier team — Mark Sayre, Gillie Dougherty, Alex Faulkner, and Cody Vela — when they make their reservation. That allows them to guide diners through the cellar’s more than 1,000 options that heavy on European varieties. Passionate oenophiles should inquire about a tour of the restaurant’s cellar that’s designed to hold 17,000 bottles.
“Being able to have great wine is an amazing privilege but it means so much less if you don’t get to experience it with grace, warmth, and elegant service,” Goodnight partner and master sommelier June Rodil writes.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
Master sommelier Steven McDonald oversees the upscale steakhouse’s legendary wine program that includes 45 by-the-glass options and more than 5,000 bottles. Pairing with the restaurant’s dry-aged steaks means the list is particularly deep in California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Barolo.
“We want to have something for everyone in every style and price point,” McDonald writes. “We should be able to take you on a wine adventure of your choice anywhere in the world!”
Diners will find 18 by-the-glass and more than 200 bottles at this casual restaurant that’s influenced by France, Spain, and Italy. Overseen by sommelier Mark Sayre and bar manager Christian Tellez, all of the selections are designed to match the restaurant’s wood-fired dishes and housemade pastas.
“Rosie’s list is made to reflect the concept as much as possible: fun, immediately enjoyable, and a little something for everyone,” Goodnight Hospitality partner and master sommelier June Rodil writes. “Too often wine lists in casual restaurants are smaller and fast-paced, but we really wanted to have a sizable list for all walks to be able to find the right bottle for whatever occasion they may be in the mood for.”
The Post Oak Hotel
Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta tasks master sommelier Keith Goldston and advanced sommeliers Shaun Prevatt and Julie Dalton with creating a wine program worthy of his world class, Galleria-area hotel. Recently, the property added Stella’s Wine Bar to showcase 70 by-the-glass choices and the approximately 4,000 bottles available on site.
“Our approach at The Post Oak Hotel is one that shows classic wines, from classic regions, at all price points,” Post Oak general manager Steven Chou writes. “At Stella’s Wine Bar we do the same, but our approach is educational without being pontificative. We encourage exploration and comfort at the same time.”
Co-owner Sean Jensen oversees the list at this East End establishment. His 12-15 by-the-glass selections and 40-50 bottles are centered around sustainably-produced, Old World selections that are, in his words, “kill it with pizza and pasta.” Asked to recommend a favorite new addition, he cites the Ercole Pet Nat Barbera Rose.
“It’s a sparkling rose from Piedmont made from 100-percent barbera grapes, and it is great with our food and the patio weather,” Jensen writes.