Entrepreneur Tilman Fertitta set a goal of building one of the world’s top wine programs at his new Houston steak house. In less than two years, he did it.
Fertitta’s Landry’s restaurant group owns 17 Mastro’s steak houses across the United States, and if you’ve been to one, the new Houston location will feel instantly familiar. Set in Fertitta’s massive and luxurious Post Oak development, the vibe is more modern than that of a typical steak house. The bar area is usually packed, and there’s live music every night. While the menu here has twice as many items as sibling locations, it similarly highlights bold cuisine and big portions, from the giant sushi tower to the Wagyu tomahawk steak.
But when you pick up the wine list, it becomes clear what truly sets this Mastro’s apart. Keith Goldston, wine director for Post Oak (which includes a hotel and additional restaurants), his deputy Travis Hinkle, Mastro’s beverage director Shaun Prevatt, and an extensive team have assembled a 30,000-bottle cellar of more than 3,500 selections. That wine is primarily for Mastro’s, but guests at the hotel or any of the restaurants on the property can order from the inventory—no one will object if you want a magnum of Bollinger R.D. 2002 ($1,650) while relaxing by the pool.
This is what Fertitta envisioned when he conceived Post Oak, centered on a 38-story luxury hotel. He wanted to create a destination. And a crucial part of that was building one of the world’s greatest wine programs. According to Goldston, alcohol sales have been providing 50 percent of revenues, with wine representing the majority of that.
Diners can start their evening with a range of 70 different wines by the glass, several of them poured via Coravin, allowing the restaurant to offer rarities. The bottle list focuses on big reds. If steak puts you in the mood for California Cabernet, there’s a selection of Dominus back to 1989, multiple vintages of Schrader and Bond, and Mayacamas back to 1986. If you prefer aged Bordeaux, there’s Château Montrose 1990 ($1,620), Château Lafite Rothschild 1945 ($18,000) and Château Gruaud-Larose 1825 ($80,000).
But Goldston’s team wants to offer yet more options, so there are wide selections from Burgundy, Italy and Spain, as well as a deep well of American Pinot Noirs. Big parties should check out the nine pages of large-format offerings, including a 3- liter Araujo Eisele Vineyard 2011 ($2,950) and magnums of Harlan 2009 ($3,970), Penfolds Grange 2003 ($1,850) and Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 1990 ($3,225). For even thirstier groups, there’s an 18-liter bottle of Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2015 ($6,450).
While the upscale neighborhood and the hotel’s international clientele ensure that the big-ticket items are selling, Prevatt says he’s been surprised by how many locals are gravitating toward less-familiar wines and the values on the list, such as an impressive vertical of Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon from Savennières, or the J. Hofstätter Pinot Noir from Alto Adige. Red Burgundy sales have been higher than expected as well.
And Goldston says he’s not finished refining the cellar. “Tilman is still buying,” he says, and the team hopes to add more breadth and variety, including Alsace, the Rhône and South Africa. Their ambition has been supported by the returns.
“I’m having fun,” Fertitta says, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief. And he believes a restaurant should be just that—fun, from the atmosphere to the food. That means big flavors trump nuance. The ahi tuna tostada offers generous bites of sushi-grade tuna, avocado and Asian spices. Waiters carry heaping mounds of crab legs on plates steaming from dry ice pellets. The steaks arrive on sizzling platters, paired with rich sides such as creamed spinach and Wagyu “hamburger helper.”
For Fertitta, Mastro’s should not just be a restaurant. It should be an experience. When Goldston recently got an offer for a vertical of magnums of Château Mouton-Rothschild reaching back to 1973, the winery’s first vintage as a first-growth, Fertitta told him to buy it and make sure the wines were prominently displayed. He wants people to know that this is not your typical steak house. It’s a wine destination.
Read the entire 2019 Restaurant Awards package, including the cover story, “Sharing the Table," in the Aug. 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator.