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.
I met Nicholas Brooks when he came by the restaurant at which I was working, portfolio in hand, selling wine for Dionysus Imports. I was immediately impressed by his list and grew more excited when I learned that Dionysus was (and is) an exclusive distributor of Rosenthal Wine Merchant. (Rosenthal is a passionate supporter of family-led estates and imports many wines I love.) Brooks and I sat down and discussed the wines, and I liked what he said — so much so that I asked him to work with me on a dinner I was planning for The Brockhaus. He selected the wine pairings and served as sommelier for the evening, to the delight of the guests.
Brooks was born in Houston, grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and returned here in 2003 to study geology, landing a job in the oil-and-gas industry. A few years later, he began taking wine seriously and, after working in the retail and on-premise wine-sales world, decided to try his hand with Dionysus. Oil’s loss is the Houston wine scene’s gain.
Tell me about three wines that are drinking well at the moment. What makes them worthwhile? How about a food pairing for each?
The 2008 Franc-Patarabet Saint-Émilion is drinking very well right now. A cool start to the year and hail reduced the crop, but it had a lot of hang time with an extended warm end of summer. Rich, dark fruits, solid tannin mid-palate and decent acid lengthens the finish. You can find it for about $35 in local stores. I am also liking the 2014 Balandran Costières de Nîmes Les Mugues Rosé. Light floral, little red berries and tropical fruit. From southern France. Nothing is more refreshing for a Houston summer. Nothing. Look for it to cost you about $16. And finally, the 2013 Trisaetum Ribbon Ridge Estate Dry Riesling. It’s loaded with citrus, lychee, lemon zest, and full of creaminess. It is rich and juicy and lovely. Another Houston summer wine. The winery is sold out of it, but it is available at restaurants in Houston and Dallas, among other places. Retails for around $25, depending on location.
Let’s say that cost is no consideration: What’s the one bottle you would add to your personal collection?
This might be a unicorn, but I’ll take Henri Jayer‘s last vintage of Vosne-Romaneé Cros Parantoux, the 2001. Jayer was a trailblazing pioneer of Burgundy, shaping what we know today. He understood the potential that no one else could in a small 1er cru plot next to Richebourg. Would be a real treat to own the last wine he ever made.
What is your favorite grape? And why?
That’s like asking which is your favorite child! There are too many grapes and too many variables to choose a favorite. Time, place, company, food and setting come into play. My favorite grape is the one I’m consuming at the moment.
How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, anniversary or other red-letter day?
Let’s go with a 2002 vintage Champagne from a house like Krug or Salon. Perfect for any special celebration.
What is the one thing you wish everyone would remember when buying and drinking wine?
That’s easy: Keep an open mind. Be adventurous. Take chances and step outside of your wheelhouse. More often than not you’ll surprise yourself. It’s like a game; you play, you learn, you develop tastes and hone your preferences. Have fun.
Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?
If I’m on the Heights side of town, I’ll go to Plonk. Very comfortable neighborhood joint. Great wine selection and bistro food. Prices are good. (And there’s a truly special foot reflexology spa across the street.) If I’m in Montrose, it’s Pax Americana; it’s probably my favorite new(er) restaurant, and it’s got a local and all-American food and wine list and unique dishes. The bar there doesn’t get enough credit. If I’m down south, it’s the Chelsea Wine Bar in Seabrook, which is run by cool people; it’s on the water and has a great wine list.
What was your “wine eureka moment” — the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?
I was about two years into the business and liking well enough my chosen career path. For Christmas one of my best friends and I treated one other to a bottle of 1910 Sercial Madeira. I was absolutely blown away. I really can’t put it into words. The depth and character were like nothing I had ever experienced; you could taste the blood, sweat, tears, time and patience that went into the bottle before us. I got a glimpse of the dragon I’ve had the pleasure of chasing ever since.