I had the pleasure of meeting Kristie Farmer, Sommelier and Dining Room Manager of Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Houston, Texas, earlier this Spring and was immediately impressed by her down-to-earth, non-intimidating approach to wine. She definitely has the knowledge, and she does a great job sharing her recommendations without overwhelming.
Kristie got her start in wine as bartender at Osteria d’Aldo, which was a 12-table Italian restaurant in downtown Houston with a wine list boasting more than 100 wines by the glass. While there, Kristie made the decision to learn all she could about wine and began by reading every book on the subject that she could get her hands on… and with such an extensive list to learn and sample in addition to her book learning, she couldn’t have been at a better place to start!
As a sidenote, I remember Osteria d’Aldo well, as I lived just a block a way in my pre-suburb days. The food was fantastic and I remember the waitstaff being friendly and knowledgeable. My husband and I enjoyed many meals on their patio, and several bottles of wine to go along with those meals.
But back to Kristie…
Through the years, Kristie worked her way through several Houston restaurants (and wine lists) and also passed the second level of the Court of Master Sommelier exam, certifying her as a Sommelier.
Now she is at Sullivan’s, which features a wine list from 15 countries and six continents together with a delicious dining menu.
“I have been able to add my own touch to our wine list to make sure it offers both the unique and affordable, as well as the special occasion and hard to find cult wines,” she said.
And here she has for you, Five Wines to Enjoy:
One white wine under $20 and widely available in the U.S.:
- Bodegas Martin Codax, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain
Albarino is one of Spain’s noble varietals it smells like pears, apples, and peaches and has a similar taste profile except with the addition of great minerality. It pairs perfectly with any seafood like ceviche or paella or it can be drunk by itself on the patio. The wine is aged for two months in French oak and is made by the Spanish genius Luciano Amoedo Rodino.
One red wine under $20 and widely available in the U.S.:
- Finca Copete Malbec
This wine is produced by O. Fournier and imported by Jorge Odonez, a well known name Spanish imports and now Argentinian wines as well. The wine is 100% Malbec from the Valle de Uco in Mendoza at the base of the Andes. This bold red has crushed red and black fruit, with vanilla and cocoa spices. It has well integrated tannins that pair well with meat and fish.
One splurge (whatever splurge might mean to you):
- Eric Rodez, Blanc de Blanc, Brut, NV
This Champagne is 100% Chardonnay from the Ambonnay region and is crafted from Eric Rodez’s own Grand Cru Vineyards. (He is also the mayor of the town!) The wine is a multivintage blend which is a skill he learned and mastered while working in the cellars at Krug. Eric Rodez Blanc de Blanc has some of the smallest bubbles I have ever seen in a Champagne and has hints of exotic fruit flavors like mango and passion fruit. Champagne pairs with everything and that is why it is the perfect wine, but I like to drink this bubbly with some chilled shellfish.
Two others of your own choosing:
- Sullivan’s Private Reserve Cabernet
My favorite red wine to pair with a steak is Sullivan’s Private Reserve Cabernet, a Cabernet based blend made by Steve Matthiasson and consulting winemaker Robert Foley! This is a classic Meritage blend from the Napa Valley including some grape sources from Howell Mountain for structure and the cooler climate of Soda Canyon Vineyard for aromatics. The wine is aged in French Oak for 26 months and is unfined and unfiltered. It is a big Napa Valley Cabernet, but balanced and refined on the finish. It pairs well with my favorite steak, the bone in filet, and for $13 a glass or $52 a bottle it over delivers. Available only at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, where I am the Sommelier.
- Neyen Espiritu de Apalta
The wine that most recently invigorated my taste buds was the Neyen Espiritu de Apalta 50% Cabernet and 50% Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. These vines have never been grafted with American rootstock and were planted in the late 1800’s these are truly old vines! This wine is produced by the Huneeus family, which also produces Quintessa in Napa Valley. Just like its California counterpart this is a bold blend that will knock your socks off dark rich fruit smooth tannins and a very long finish.
Which one (or ones!) of her suggestions do you want to try first? Tell us in the comments…