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Dec 11, 2011 08:35 PM

ISO Great Wine List

The girl friend and I will be in Houston early this week for two nights. Looking for a restaurant with relatively inventive cuisine and a great wine list. Past efforts to fine anything other than better than relatively good wine lists in Houston have resulted in abject failure. Best list I've found so far is at Mark's, although it's strength seems to be in bottles under $125. I'd prefer a strong French list over one that has an emphasis on Italian, but I'll take either one.

No steak places, please. I know the list at Pappas Brothers, and it is exactly the sort of list that I'm looking for. But I'm not a fan of steak or the sort of seafood that they serve. If you could combine that wine list with a restaurant like Mark's or De Marco's, I'd be set.

The closer to downtown or the museum district the better, too. I'm not fond of long drives (or cab rides) in Houston.

Also any really good new French/American restaurants, preferably casual with an emphasis on fresh seasonal regional ingredients and very high quality preparation (sort of Houston's version of Chez Panisse/Cafe Zuni)?

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  1. Don't think much has changed on the landscape since you asked this question a few months ago. I noticed no one mentioned Chez Nous, then, but it's in Humble not far from Intercontinental Airport, so outside your geographic range.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Lambowner

      You beat me to it! I was thinking of Chez Nous, as well. But it's a bit of a drive from downtown.

      1. re: arashall

        Hey, Arashall, better than the person who wanted the BEST Houston has to offer, but in a 4 block radius of his/her choosing! Can you folks be any more pretentious? This right here is why we are not fond of Dallasites. "Abject failure?" Move on, seriously. Sorry, tolerated as long as I could! If you want great food, here's the thing, YOU go to IT! IT does not arrive at your doorstep. Move on, Mike C. Miller.

        Edit: for you and others reading: seriously, I hesitate to say bad things about restaurants, but here's the thing: I have regretted every meal I have paid for at Mark's. And that is three, over three years. The fish was actually turned the last time I went. That's the killer dinner. And who seeks bottles of wine that are priced over $250 and WHY?????

        Mike C. Miller, you need to learn about wine, and not only its price. You are so distracted from the prize.

        Holy moly pass the aspirin....

        1. re: Lambowner

          When I dine out, I seek wines that are at least of the same quality as I drink at home. Often something better that I cannot get at home. I have a collection of several hundred cases of wine to chose from at home. If that bothers you, I don't quite know what to tell you, but im not going to loose any sleep over you reaction. But thanks for the useless reply in any event.

          And if you want indicia other than price, I can gladly give it to you, down to the individual producers that I am fond of, and the vintages that I would like to see on a wine list. However that level of detail would be lost on many people. But since you ask, if you know of any Burgundy-centric wine lists with producers such as Dujac, Rousseau, Magnien, Arnoux, Chevillon, Roty, Burguet, or similar (for reds) with vintages drinking well now such as 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1995,1993, 1989, 1998, etc.; or F. Jobard, Ramonet, Comtes Lafon, Sauzet, Leflaive, etc (for whites).

          OK Lambowner, I've taken price out of the equation. I certainly hope that will now get some helpful feedback from you.

          1. re: Mike C. Miller

            I would look at the Brasserie 19 wine list online and see what it has on it. Probably solid but not stellar but the prices are usually awessome here.
            Tony's has a big time wine list.
            Phillipe's wine list is really nice but a bit small and focused on french. I had a nice Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape a few months ago.

            1. re: jscarbor

              Tried Brasserie 19 last time in town. List was only a notch above average. Had a nice enough economical white -- a Daniel Defaix Chablis in the $40 - 50 range. Nice and refreshing, if no terribly complex. Defaix is a good producer and is very good value for the money. Choice was much more limited on the red side. Weaker producers in Burgundy. Ended up with a Cote Rotie from Perrin (a mid-level negociant) So-so bottle. Hind sight being 20/20, we should have just had the Condulet de Beaucastle Cotes du Rhones. Food was OK, but not great. The wine list was OK, but much more in line with a good bistro list and a quality restaurant list. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it wasn't really anything to knock your socks off.

              1. re: Mike C. Miller

                I could be wrong but outside of a steakhouse, I don't know if youston has a GREAT wine list? There are some good ones for sure but not top end.
                Some other good ones worth checking out might be Cafe Rebelaise, small french bistro. I love this place despite how crowded it gets.
                Prego has a nice wine list, as do the other restaurants associated with prego, backstreet cafe and Hugo's.
                An alternative would be a place like Cova, the owner hand selects the wines for the store/restaurant/bar. Again, it leans toward the moderate priced wines. Really great selection in the $50-$100 range. Food menu is small.
                I think Cafe Rebelais is your best bet.
                Some other restaurants to check out that fit the french american bill would be Phillipe mentioned above, Chez Nous in Humble, Aura in Missouri City, Brasseri Max and Julie, Mockingbird Bistro(awesome happy hour and awesome bar menu). Cinq in the Hotel L Columbe D'or might be worth checking out. I have never been but it was reviewed this summer I believe and the review made my mouth water. I am pretty sure it was a Houston Chronicle review?

                1. re: jscarbor

                  Haven't found any good wine lists with older vintage/really ready to drink Burgs in Houston. Philippe will have a few (had a good Beaune 1er Les Sizies recently - 2007 I think?) and Cova will likely have a couple as well (mostly Chablis) though they seem to be thinning their stock.

                  Unfortunately Cafe Rabelais list is very limited and almost always they are out of anything you'd want to order.

                  Pappas Bros does have a good list, but if you don't like their food...

                  You might pick a place to eat then call to see if you can bring in your own bottle. Haven't looked at Brennan's list lately, but you might check online.

                  Let us know if you hit on anything yet undiscovered/unreported.

            2. re: Mike C. Miller

              "Especially looking for great selection of wines in the $100 - 250 range." "that level of detail would be lost on many people."

              Yup, I cut and pasted. Perhaps your preferred venue is a wine talk place. This is a food forum. And here's the thing...."wine lists in Houston have resulted in abject failure" will not result in favorable responses from Houstonians. I do not value wine on price, but on taste. Have you not tasted any wines under $100 that meet with your approval?

              1. re: Lambowner

                Sure, there are any number of good, but not truly great, wines under $100. I drink them all the time at home. But when you go out for a special dinner, you often want a special bottle.

                And for that matter, it would be nice to find a wine list (in Dallas or Houston) that carefully selected it's wines under $100. Far, far too many restaurants either don't or can't get the limited allocation wines under $100 that are special wines in their price range.

                Just to take one example, we've had several excellent vintages over the past few years in Burgundy and as a result, there have been some delightful Cru Beaujolais wines produced there since 2005. If a restaurant were to search out producers such as Folliard, Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thevenet, Dominique Piron, Thevin, etc. I would be delighted to order them. Unfortunately, I almost never see these wines on a wine list. The same goes for some of the better lower end producers in Chablis like Daniel Defaix.

                But to have a really good wine list, like anything else, you have to work hard at it. Not just put whatever you wholesaler will give to you and slap in on the list. You have to seek out better producers. Fight for allocations, etc. And store the wine properly. Most restauranteurs are just too lazy to do that. Perhaps because diners don't properly reward them or can't distinguish a good list from a bad list.

                And as for being from Dallas, I must say that the state of restaurant wine lists in Dallas is not much better than it is in Houston. And worse, the quality has fallen off noticeably in the past three or four years.

                1. re: Mike C. Miller

                  Cova hand selects their wines. try it out but its not a special place.

                  Tony's is your best bet when its all said and done.

                  1. re: jscarbor

                    Looks interesting. No list of wines available on the web site at the moment, but I'll come back when it's not down for maintenance.

                    How's the food. Menu looks basic, but if well executed, it's certainly acceptable.

                    1. re: Mike C. Miller

                      Cova's food is good. Simple. Have not been in a year though. Would lean to going ro the coca on kirby.
                      Have you been to Tony's?

                      1. re: jscarbor

                        Alison Cook of the Chronicle just gave Tony's a very nice review, although no mention of wine.


                        1. re: jscarbor

                          Haven't been to Tony's in years. Always a bit too stuffy and formal for my tastes. And I always thought that the menu was lacking -- nothing very adventurous. Sort of stuck in a time warp. The last time I ate there -- and granted, it was fifteen or twenty years ago -- I thought that the meal was moderately above average at best. But at that time, then brand new restaurants like Cafe Annie were much better than Tony's (and had a better wine list). But I'm not averse to going if the wine list is special enough and a good value.

              2. re: Lambowner

                Oy vey! I just got bored enough at the office to look at this again. Didn't know I had inadvertantly started a brouhaha. And I'm just a beginner learning about wine, with not that much money to spend.

                1. re: arashall

                  Cova is a great place to explore and learn. They have a lot of different types or "flight" tastings to choose from.

                  1. re: jscarbor

                    Thanks! I've read about it, but not been yet. You've encouraged me to make time.

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