Houston: Greek wine city, U.S.A. (just don’t tell the Big Wine Police)

From the department of “the Ph. in Ph.D.”…

evan-turner-greek-wineA funny thing happened the other day on my way to everyone’s favorite wine bar in Houston.

Well, it actually happened after I had sat down with roughly 30 other Houston wine professionals for a seminar and tasting of Greek wines with Canadian Master Sommelier Élyse Lambert and Houston restaurateur and Greek wine expert Evan Turner. They were presenting 12 Greek wines at a Houston Sommelier Association gathering (a twice-a-month affair where collegiality and liberal views on wine trump the Texas status quo).

The wines had been selected by them and shipped to Houston especially for the event. I’ve tasted a lot of Greek wine ever since the Greek wine wave hit the U.S. about 6 years ago, landing first in NYC. But I only knew three of the producers in the flight.

I could feel a bead of sweat roll down the side of my face as my fellow tradespeople and I tasted through the excellent pours: was it just a matter of minutes, I thought to myself, that the Big Wine Police would burst in like the Untouchables and arrest us all for our adventurous and Hellenic sensorial spirit? None of the wines on offer came through the major two channels of wine distribution in our state. Goodness gracious! It might as well have been a Planned Parenthood meeting where condoms were distributed!

Luckily, the Big Wine Gestapo was busy investigating reports of sommeliers picking their noses while decanting Screaming Beagle.

Oh, and that funny thing that happened, you ask, on the way to the forum agora?

christina-boutariWe must have been three wines into the flight when I received an email from my friend Christina Boutari, above, left, with Evan at his excellent restaurant Helen Greek Food and Wine.

“I’m in Houston and I am pouring our wines at Helen from 3-6,” she wrote. “Please come and taste with me.”

Boutari is one of the few top Greek producers who make it to Texas through government-sanctioned channels and so I knew it was safe to connect with her.

The 2007 Santorini Reserve Kallisti (in the first photo, above, a current release for this legacy estate) was thoroughly stunning, with nuanced layers of dried fruit and nutty character. Wow, what a wine! And so lovely to see Christina, one of her country’s greatest ambassadors for its superb (and value-driven) wines. She’s in town to pour her family’s wines this weekend at Houston’s Original Greek Festival, which turns 50 this year.

When I first moved to Texas eight years ago, I never would have imagined that Houston would become an epicenter for Greek fine wine in this country. In the face of our state’s wine oligarchy, Houston continues to expand its spirit of wine freedom, corrupting our wine youth in the best ways imaginable.

Buon weekend a tutti! Thanks for being here and thinking subversive wine thoughts. And in case you missed it, check out Louis Menand’s excellent essay on Karl Marx in this week’s New Yorker. “Marx is a warning about what can happen when people defy their parents and get a Ph.D.,” he writes.

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