Sommelier: suh-mah-‘yAy
A wine steward; specializes in all aspects of wine service

I can’t really say fairly that they are the best in Houston because I haven’t met ALL of them but they are by far the best I have come across in this city. Recently, I was lucky enough to enjoy a celebratory dinner at Catalanoff of Washington. It was actually our one year anniversary and the exact spot of our first date. We absolutely will not be waiting another full year before returning. I think our first visit was just too blurred by visions of romance to even notice how wonderful the setting was. We noticed this time. Our waiter was amazing but in addition to his fantastic service we had not one but two sommeliers working with us to make sure we had the perfect wine to go with our meal as well as dessert. They didn’t shy away from any question (and I always have plenty) and they actually took what we said to heart. They recommended wines based on what they believed we would truly enjoy, not just the most expensive on the list (and we didn’t give them a limit). I find that truly impressive. Everything we drank that night was recommended by them.

Being a celebration, we had to start with a few bubbles. You can’t celebrate properly without them in my opinion. We had a delicious half bottle of Guy Larmandier Cramant Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut from Vertus ($31). It was wonderfully crisp and clean and refreshing. It had enough pop in every sip to make a little go a long way and it wasn’t overly sweet for a pre-dinner toast. Everything about it was perfect for that occasion and it definitely created a buzz of excitement for what was to come.

During our dinner we enjoyed an absolutely breathtaking Spanish Tempranillo Vino de la Tierra de Zamora – Vinas del Cinit Vino de la Tierra de Zamora “Cenit” ($49). This was one of the very best red wines I have ever tasted… sexy and complex. It was so smooth but had enough substance to give every sip a value all it’s own. We ate a variety of foods with this wine and it went well with almost anything which makes it even more of a gem. Everything from foie gras to pork belly to rabbit pie… I understand that this must sound like a crazy menu but believe me when I tell you it was one of the absolute best meals I have had in ages. We do the “small plates” which make for a tapas style dinner. I always enjoy this the most because you get to taste so many different wonderful things. To do that and find a wine that you enjoy with every dish is challenging. Definitely a must try!

For my favorite part of every meal, dessert, we really branched out and let the sommelier talk us into a dessert wine which I have always shied away from. I learned a very valuable lesson this night. I told him that I was worried about having “too much sweet” with the sweet wine along with a sweet dessert. He quickly told me that the trick is to get a wine sweeter than your food. I called him crazy but told him to bring it on. Wow. He was right! I thought sweet + sweeter would = disaster/sugar coma but I was wrong! It was a wonderful combination! It really helped bring out the flavors in the food and the sweet of one almost helped counter the sweet of the other. I don’t know how it works… nor do I care as long as it’s as delicious as that was. Yum. The wine we enjoyed was a Sauternes but I am ashamed to admit I do not remember the exact one. I was on sensory overload at this point as I often am after such an outstanding culinary experience. The dessert was a peach tart with foie gras sliced across the top. Yeah it just doesn’t get any better than that.

If you are ever in Houston and enjoy having someone who knows what they are talking about take you by the hand and guide you through an overwhelmingly wonderful wine list then you should visit Catalan immediately.

Bon Apetit & Happy Sipping!