In March of 2019, Austin’s food scene was rocked when June Rodil, a master sommelier and the mind behind some of the city’s most compelling wine lists, announced that she was leaving town. Her destination? Houston.
That year, Rodil made the jump down I-10 to form Goodnight Hospitality alongside her partners David Keck (who later left the company) and Felipe Riccio. Together, they opened three establishments — the Italian restaurant Rosie Cannonball, Mediterranean tasting menu destination March, and charming shop Montrose Cheese & Wine — that instantly made their respective marks on the city’s dining scene.
When it came time to make the decision to move to Houston, Rodil says she just couldn’t pass up the opportunity that Goodnight Hospitality presented. She was thriving in Austin as the owner of popular cafe June’s All Day, but wanted to think more broadly about expanding her role in the hospitality industry. “I love, love, love wine, but that’s not every part of who I am,” she says. “This was a great way to be able to start something from scratch and really grow it in a way that was thoughtful.”
Houston also made for a really great place for that evolution to happen. It’s obviously much bigger — and more diverse — than Austin, which allowed the restaurateurs the opportunity to create restaurants that could fit a wide variety of price points and tastes, especially when it came to building the wine lists for March, Rosie Cannonball, and Montrose Cheese and Wine.
“That’s what’s cool about Houston. There isn’t a dominant wine palate, the palates are as diverse as the people” she says. “If you’re all natural wine all the time, you have places to go. If you’re into the classics, there’s a list for you.” She adds: “I can really settle in and figure out who I am and what I can bring to the city.”
It also helps that Rodil has the ability to work across three different types of establishments, each with distinct needs. At Montrose Cheese and Wine, the focus is operating as a neighborhood resource that can suit pretty much any discerning wine palate. The list ranges from adventurous natural wines to easy-drinking rosés for a weeknight dinner.
For March, the process is much more challenging. She begins by sitting down with Riccio, who develops new menus for March seasonally, and doing intensive research on the regions that the menu will draw inspiration from that goes well beyond Googling the names of wine producers in Andalusia. Collectively, Riccio, Rodil, and the team spend weeks learning the region’s history, its culinary identity, and the roles that food and wine play in both before developing the wine list.
“For this menu, we actually created a research paper assignment for the team, asking them to look into the common flavors and agriculture from that part of Spain,” she says. “We looked at the ingredients and culture brought into those regions by immigrants from other parts of the world and how that shaped both the food and the wine.”
Rodil estimates that once the food menu is about 70 percent ready to go, the pairing process begins. Just as each dish is painstakingly crafted in the kitchen, the thought that goes into the wine is equally significant — and an ongoing process. “We touch base once a week on any adjustments to the menu, and think about how we can use the wines to punch up — or punch down — certain flavors,” she says.
That perpetual change has proven at least somewhat helpful in the context of the supply chain shortages that are currently plaguing the restaurant industry. From the beginning of the pandemic, sourcing wine has proven especially challenging thanks to delays in shipping from overseas producers, an ongoing labor shortage, and even the scarcity of glass bottles needed to contain the juice.
“Lord, it has been crazy. Because of COVID and isolation, timeframes got elongated. The logistics of getting containers from Europe to the United States has not gotten any better,” she says. “It’s forced us to be nimble and have a little bit more grace with our suppliers when our orders aren’t on time. It’s not just one person going through this, every person is going through it.”
Due to those shortages, Rodil and her team have leaned a little more heavily on wines produced in Texas. Diners will find at least one Texas bottle at each Goodnight Hospitality spot, including options from beloved Hill Country producers like Southold Farm and William Chris. “Texas pride pushes people to try things and experience something new on their palates,” Rodil says. “Texas is diverse when it comes to grape styles, and the wineries that are really doing well are pushing boundaries.”
Rodil clearly identifies with that “pushing boundaries” ethos — she’s been doing it her whole career, working continually to make sure the wine lists she oversees are as thoughtful and diverse as possible. She’s also deeply devoted to building teams that feel just as strongly about that level of care as she does. “It’s important that our servers and winemongers are just really subscribed to our ideas, and that we give them things to be excited about,” she says. “We want them to be part of the programs, not just cork-pullers.”
Rodil is also the curator for October’s Eater Wine Club boxes, and Houston drinkers definitely don’t want to miss out. This month’s theme is orange and black wines — a mix of inky, black-fruited reds plus skin-contact wines also known as “orange,” which is white wine made like red wines (where the juice sits in contact with the skins). And no spoilers, but subscribers can look forward to an ultraviolet malbec from a beloved French winemaker, a Vinho Verde with nuances of dried apple skin and Meyer lemon zest, and so much more. Learn more about this month’s box and subscribe to ensure you’re taking the best wine to the Halloween party.