Two extraordinary expressions of Sémillon in Houston & baby lobster with hazelnut sauce @TonyVallone

From the department of “there are worse jobs in the world”…

chateau lavilla haut brion

On Tuesday night, thanks to the generosity of a Houston collector and wine writer, I had the opportunity to taste one of the most extraordinary white wines I’ve ever had, the 2005 Château Laville Haut Brion blanc.

So many collectors generously taste me on their Italian lots but few bring out the French for me.

I was impressed by the delicate oxidative note on this wine, which was more pronounced when first opened but lingered gently as the wine opened up and revealed its stone fruit and sublime minerality.

What a thrilling bottle of wine!

brokenwood semillon

From the sacred to the profane…

After dinner, I headed to my favorite Houston wine bar, Camerata, where David Keck poured me another expression of Sémillion, this one from Hunter Valley, Australia.

I don’t remember where Jancis Robinson said that Sémillon is Australia’s great gift to the wine world but her observation leapt to mind as I tasted this fresh, bright, mineral-driven wine. And the even better news is that I can afford it!

David changes the btg list at Camerata on a daily basis but this is what he was pouring on Tuesday when I dropped by.

Camerata has swiftly become the Houston wine scene’s flash point for its renewal of learning. And I had a blast swapping stories with another one of my favorite Houston wine professionals, Sean Beck, whose lists at Back Street Café and Hugo’s are always winners for me (Hugo’s, btw, is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the country and Sean’s superb wine list there takes it from A to A+ for me; Champagne and ceviche, anyone?).

best lobster houston

Wednesday morning found me at Tony’s, meeting with my good friend and client Tony Vallone, who insisted that I try a new dish that he was debuting that evening: garlic basted baby lobster tail with orzo, creamed hazelnut, and an antelope jus.

The the combination of ingredients in this dish was as surprising as it was stunningly delicious.

The thought of hazelnut and seafood evoked Piedmont, where Ligurian and Langarola flavors often mingle.

Tony and his team are doing such cutting-edge work and I’ve had so many incredible, unforgettable meals there (and I say this as someone who dines regularly in New York, Los Angeles, and Italy).

And Tony’s encyclopedic knowledge of Italian cuisine always puts my own to the test (literally!). Our weekly kibitz is always a highlight for me.

tony vallone houston

The dude is a national gastronomic treasure, up there with Alice Waters, Darrell Corti, Danny Meyer, and Sirio Maccioni.

Why the local media there penalizes him for having been around so long (since 1965) and for his immeasurable success is a mystery to me.

But hey, what do I know?

Tony, I have the deepest respect for your gastronomic knowledge and I cherish our friendship… I love you, man.