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Culture / Foodie Events

Wine Talk

Opening Bottles and Minds With One of Houston’s Top Sommeliers

BY // 07.15.15
I never tire of drinking – and talking about – wine with this woman.
I never tire of drinking – or talking about – wine with this woman.

I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, and we trade stories about travel and winemakers and terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food pairings and cost. We recommend wines to one another, and we drink, and we learn a lot. In Wine Talk, I will introduce you to some of my friends and acquaintances — individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste and learn about it. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well. 

Vanessa Treviño Boyd cut her teeth in wine in Chicago. In 2000, she moved to New York, where she managed wine lists for Japanese and French restaurants, most notably Alain Ducasse at the St. Regis. In 2012, she was a Food & Wine magazine Sommelier of the Year, and in 2014, she took home the “Best Presentation” award at Houston’s Iron Sommelier competition. She moved to Houston in 2010 and is currently the beverage director at Lakeside Country Club. She also holds an advanced certificate from the American Sommelier Association. I met her not long after I arrived in Houston in 2013, and we have been friends ever since. We share a love of New York, adore adventurous wine lists and have little patience for poorly cooked food.

Tell me about three wines that are drinking well at the moment. What makes them worthwhile? How about a food pairing for each?
I like the 2013 Lieu Dit, specifically their Sauvignon Blanc, from the Santa Ynez Valley. This couldn’t be any more refreshing on Pool Day with my best friend. It’s zippy, racy, juicy and just fruity enough to pair with fresh watermelon, burrata and basil. Plus, it’s a sommelier-made wine. It’s about $27 at Houston Wine Merchant.

An Oregon wine to drink now.
An Oregon wine to drink now.

I’m also fond of a Pinot Noir from Soter Vineyards. It’s called Planet Oregon, from the Willamette Valley. It’s an upfront, open, generous and lively wine from a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir pioneer. Great bright fruit, aromatically compelling. Pair it with grilled vegetable skewers or pork loin. Houston Wine Merchant carries it as well, and it’s about $23 for the 2013 vintage.

Finally, we go to Italy, more specifically the Alto Adige. I love the Teroldego Rotaliano from Foradori. Teroldego is a relatively unknown variety, which is too bad given the wine’s ability to pair with just about anything. It’s a complete package — high-toned red fruit à la Pinot Noir plus the broad structure and tannin of young northern Rhône Syrah. Elisabetta Foradori, the winemaker, is another pioneer; she single-handedly restored one of Italy’s indigenous treasures to its glory. And Houston Wine Merchant can have you drinking the 2012 vintage for $30.

Let’s say that cost is no consideration: What’s the one bottle you would add to your personal collection?
That would have to be the 1979 Krug. A champagne worth its weight in coins. This is wine – it goes beyond the definition of champagne.

What is your favorite grape?
Nero d’Avola. Hmmm, and what a coincidence that my favorite winemaker in the world does it the best: Arianna Occhippinti.

How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years in anticipation of celebrating a birth, anniversary or other red-letter day?
I’d say a 1998 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay, if you can get your hands on it, that is. [Editor’s note: The best price we found for a bottle of this single-vineyard Pinot Noir beauty was $1,564.67 at Wein & Co. in Austria. The average price, as of July 15, 2015, was $2,047.]

What is the one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine?
Smile. Remember that real wine is a living entity, created by human souls like you and me. It’s made to be shared with others, laughed over, cried over, to even prompt heated discussion, perhaps — whatever reminds us that we are living in the same moment with this juice that represents other people from another time, culture and part of the world. Wine should bring people together.

Besides your own establishment, where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?
Pappa’s Steakhouse
. Service, service, service — it’s the name of the game here with a fantastic sommelier team, and not just because they know how to saber. They’re gracious, are happy to be doing what they do and understand the truth beyond the concept of “hospitality”— a business we all claim to be in. They really are.

An estate of importance.
An estate of importance.

What was your “wine eureka moment” — the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?
It was a 1947 Laville Haut-Brion, a white wine from the revered Château Haut-Brion. I had it at a dinner in New York right after I took a job as the buyer for a group of Japanese restaurants. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that wine or that position, or without having lived in New York for so long — the best wine market in the world, hands-down. I’ll argue the point with anyone.

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