Last month, Wine Enthusiast named French restaurant Philippe as Houston's only representative to their 100 Best Wine Restaurants List. Credit for this achievement goes to Beverage Director Vanessa Treviño Boyd, who was also named one of Food & Wine's Top Sommeliers of 2012 in March. Boyd came to Houston after beginning her career in Chicago at North Pond Cafe. From there, she spent a decade in New York. She started at Bar Demi, before moving on to 1,500 bottle list of Morrells restaurant. She received a solid grounding in French cuisine from a stint at Adour Alain Ducasse before deciding to move to Houston.
Treviño Boyd spoke to Eater about the award, her decision to come to Houston and what makes the wine program at Philippe so special.
How does someone earn a Wine Enthusiast award?
I'm not really sure. All I know is someone forwarded me the link. I'm not really clear on how I won. Sometime last year someone asked me to fill out a questionaire with key questions about the restaurant. What one dish would customers throw up their hands for if you took it off? What's your favorite food and wine pairing, something from the menu? What food and wine pairing are you most excited about right now? I take it that they gathered information from that and put two and two together.
What do you think sets this wine list apart from other restaurants in town?
It's a petite list, but it's very well edited. I've got the best producers and the best vintages and the most exciting appellations. I've gone out of my way to find a couple of the greatest Vouvray producers and put them on the list. Same thing with Burgundy as well, I think. That's a real sweet spot for us. Going back to my experience working in New York for 10 years ... I can navigate through a distributor's portfolio and cherry pick what's gonna work for us. I think that's where my experience really comes into play.
What's the average price point of the bottles you serve?
The average bottle would be $80-100 per bottle, which is pretty high I think. We get people coming in wanting to spend money but also wanting to take a chance on French wine. I find that not a lot of people in Houston are exposed to a great French list. Being in a quote-unquote French restaurant, they feel they should have French wine. It's a great opportunity for me to show them a Bourdeaux with some bottle age or something from 2009 in Burgundy or something from Languedoc, a cool country red.
What aspects of the list are you most proud of?
Aromatic whites. There's a great Condrieu ... A couple great Rieslings. I think especially in the summer time that's what people feel like drinking. We've seen our sales of bottles of red go down with the change in weather. We're seeing a lot more people go for the aeromatic whites and dry, crisp minerally things. Also white Burgundy.
Why do you think rosé is so popular right now? What do you have for people that want to learn more about it?
It's pink. It's totally pink. I think that anything pink is really celebratory. People are attracted to colors. I think that right now we're pouring 11 different rosés by the glass. Some are magenta. Some are barely pink. Some have a green tone to them. I think that all those different colors reflect all the different flavors you can find in a bottle of rosé. There are great roses from the Provence region, which is very typical, classic rosé country: very dry, very crisp, very minerally. We've also got a couple rosés from Austria from the zweigelt grape, from the pinot noir grape, which are fantastic. [They] are round, a little riper than what you get from Provence, a little milder in terms of the acidity. Those are really, really friendly. People that don't necessarily drink rosé or wines that are high in acid – those wines are working really well for them right now.
There's also one that I'm really excited about right now.
Heights Heitz Cellars makes a rosé. Heights of the venerable Martha's Vineyard Heights Cabernet from a really obscure Italian varietal called Grignolino. Not very many people k now about it. I ran across it in a distributor's book when I asked for some rosés, and just couldn't believe that they made a rosé. It's got this wild strawberry quality to it.
What should people know when they come to Philippe and they want to get a bottle of wine?
I would say don't be afraid of champagne, especially to start. It's not just for celebrating. I think every day should be celebrated. It's the perfect thing to drink in the summer time. Because of the bright bright acidity it helps cleanse the palatte. In general, I think people think champange is for special occasions. I think it's for more than that. It's a great way to celebrate being with family, being with friends. I love champange.
· 100 Best Wine Restaurants: Philippe Restaurants and Lounge [Wine Enthusiast]
· Top Sommeliers of 2012 [Food & Wine]
· All Philippe Coverage on Eater Houston [-EHOU-]