Turning Tables: Houston’s casual wine bar with a large award-winning list

Turning Tables: Houston’s casual wine bar with a large award-winning list

A new wine bar is open at the Houston Post Oak Hotel. Located a few steps from the property Wine spectators Grand Award-winning Mastro’s Steakhouse, Stella’s Wine Bar serves the same list of more than 4,000 selections, but in a more laid-back environment.

“Stella’s is one of the only wine bars in the world where you can drink everything from lesser-known sommelier favorites to multiple vintages of first-growing Bordeaux,” said hotel wine director Keith Goldston, who manages the list of sommelier Julie Dalton. Goldston adds that while the wine bar is inside a larger upscale hotel, “it has the wonderful Texas vibe of friendly hospitality and accessible luxury.”

The wine program is supported by a 35,000 bottle cellar and covers 30 international regions with highlights in Burgundy, Bordeaux, California, Piedmont, Tuscany, Champagne, Loire and Madeira. More than 3,500 of these bottles are on display in temperature-controlled floor-to-ceiling wine racks in the dining room.

More than 60 labels available in glass contribute to the relaxed feeling. A section of wine flights covers themes such as “Grapes we love” and “Napa Valley Blue Chips”, plus an option to order a blind tasting aptly called “So You Want to Be a Somm?”

    A view of the outdoor terrace overlooking the indoor space of Stella's Wine Bar

Guests at Stella’s Wine Bar can choose between the bright indoor space or the outdoor terrace decorated with wine barrels made of recycled oak, overlooking the city skyline. (With permission from Fertitta Entertainment)

A highly trained staff is ready to help less experienced wine drinkers and guide experienced enophiles through the long list, according to Dalton. In a release shared with Wine spectators, she commented, “The combination of knowledge and availability from our sommelier team is what makes us a unique destination.”

Supervised by the property’s head chef, Jean Luc Royere, the menu offers a range of charcuterie items, light snacks and plates that can be shared. Although updated daily, the opening menu features items such as marinated olives, pretzel bites, beef sliders with bacon jam and mushroom flatbread with truffle oil.

As a personal touch, Stella’s is named after the pet pig of Tilman Fertitta, the hospitality titan who owns the hotel and its restaurant brands under Landry’s, Inc. According to the publication, “pigs are known for their great intelligence, curiosity and an affinity for the social enjoyment of others.” –Julie Harans

Upscale Omakase Spot Sushi Noz is expanding in New York


Junichi “Matsu” Matsuzaki developed the menu at Noz 17 together with Sushi Noz’s founder. (Courtesy of Noz 17)

The team behind Best of Award of Excellence winner Sushi Noz opened Noz 17 in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood in December. Like its sibling restaurant, Noz 17 (named after its location on West 17th Street) offers an omakase experience from chef Nozomu “Noz” Abe with a robust wine selection.

“Due to the limited amount of storage space and the number of seats at the counter, we decided to offer a curated beverage experience,” said Sushi Noz group beverage director Gene Sidorov, who oversees a frequently changing program with about 110 wines and 50 sakes. The list includes Champagnes, Burgundy and off-dry Rieslings from France and Germany, as well as additional selections from regions such as Napa, Sonoma and Oregon. This includes leading names such as Jacques Selosse and Patrick Piuze.

Sidorov wants the program to repeat the “slide of different flavors and textures” offered by Noz 17’s cuisine. When the meal begins, each guest receives a one-page list of sommelier-selected wines, including selected glasses, with the option to request the full bottle list. Sidorov says the best approach is to mix and match. “I suggest a combination of Champagne or sake and red or white wine over omakase,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to choose a single universal drink that suits the whole meal.”

There are only seven seats at Noz 17’s counter, where guests can enjoy a 30-course Edomae menu, an omakase style that uses traditional fish storage and fermentation techniques. For $ 400 per person, the meal is prepared by chef Junichi “Matsu” Matsuzaki, who trained under Abe at Sushi Noz. Matsuzaki uses ingredients imported from Japan and makes frequent menu changes based on seasonality and availability. Unlike at Sushi Noz, the chef alternates between sashimi, nigiri (thinly sliced ​​fish on rice) and otsumami (small plates) throughout the service, offering wild yellowtail, bottarga, sardine rolls, king crab and Hadate sea urchins. The wood-paneled, softly lit space designed by Kyoto-based company Sankakuya creates a traditional yet intimate atmosphere.

Looking ahead, the Sushi Noz team hopes to reopen its Upper East Side Noz market this spring with a new sushi counter and plans to open a Los Angeles location in early 2023.—Collin Dreizen

The winter edition of New York Restaurant Week returns

    Gramercy Tavern burger next to a glass of red wine

Gramercy Tavern is one of 15 Restaurant Award winners attending this winter’s New York Restaurant Week. (Francesco Sapienza)

The event of the tourism organization NYC & Company is Restaurant Week back to its annual winter season, which runs from January 18 to February 13. The event is part of a larger program called Winter Outing and coincides with Hotel Week and Broadway Week as an attempt to boost the economy and encourage both tourists and residents to enjoy New York’s attractions at a discount.

“We look forward to reintroducing visitors to our vibrant city during NYC Winter Outing this year and reminding locals of the incredible opportunities at hand,” said Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company, in a statement shared with Wine spectators.

Despite a series of temporary closures during the holiday season, more than 400 restaurants across the city are participating, including 15 restaurant award winners, such as Gramercy Tavern, Nice Matin and Masseria dei Vini.

Restaurants can offer two- and three-course prix-fixe breakfast or dinner menus at three price levels: $ 29, $ 39 or $ 59. Although wine is not included in the price, some restaurants may offer special Restaurant Week optional pairings or discounts on bottles or wines by the glass, and guests will still have access to the full wine list.—Taylor McBride

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