A California dream team in Houston for In Pursuit of Balance

in pursuit of balance houstonThe stars came out for the In Pursuit of Balance preview dinner last night at Paulie’s, one of Houston’s most popular casual restaurants and the other half of its favorite wine bar, Camerata.

Above, from left, that’s winemaker Sashi Moorman, winemaker Pax Mahle, Houston energy exec (and investor in Sashi and Raj Parr’s Domaine de la Côte) Mark Stevenson, winemaker Steve Matthiasson and his son Kai, winemaker John Faulkner who works with Sashi, and San Francisco Chronicle wine columnist Jon Bonné.

Holy California wine celebrity, right, Batman?

It was great to see such a impressive wine brain trust gathered here: today, they’re pouring their wines for trade and consumers at the IPOB tasting and seminars. It’s the first time the event has been held in a U.S. city outside of San Francisco and New York.

raj parr houstonThe ever affable Raj Parr (left), IPOB co-founder, had been delayed by a travel glitch but he managed to make it in time for an excellent dinner prepared especially for the occasion by Houston Chef (and our good friend) Felipe Riccio.

And, of course, IPOB co-founder Jasmine Hirsch was there. She has such a great energy about her. She just lights up the room when she walks in.

It’s always interesting to be around wine superstars like these folks. And it was fascinating to talk to Steve about the ideological differences between European and American approaches to chemical-free grape growing.

He jumped right in when I asked him if organic farmers in California see their work as a “civic duty” like their counterparts in Italy and France, for example.

“The price of land is so high in California,” he said, “organic farming is really only happening at the highest end of winemaking there.”

“Except for the Sierra Foothills, there’s really nowhere you can make a $22 bottle of organically farmed wine. And so there’s really no one who’s saying f*%$ you to big commercial wine the way European wineries are doing.”

He said that he’s working on releasing an under-$25 organically farmed wine soon.

It was really interesting to talk to him and he’s a super cool guy (I really love his wines, btw; they should be available in Texas for the first time soon, he told me).

felipe riccio chef houstonChef Felipe’s food was outstanding and Pax, in his remarks, had high and well deserved praise for the wonderful and thoughtful pairings.

But the dish that really blew me away was the angel hair pasta, served cold with roast lemon, bottarga, and cured clams.

What a fantastic dish! It paired beautifully with a macerated but not oxidative Sauvignon Blanc by Piedrasassi. A very “geeky” wine as Sashi remarked.

All in all, it was a pretty great evening and happy crowd last night here in Houston, where, more and more, we’re seeing marquee-name winemakers roll through town.

Bring it on, California!

menu wine list camerata houston

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