Houston Welcomes a Casual Wine Bar with a Grand Award–Winning List

Stella’s shares a 35,000-bottle cellar with Mastro’s Steakhouse in the Post Oak Hotel. Plus, New York gets another omakase from the Sushi Noz team, and Restaurant Week returns

Houston Welcomes a Casual Wine Bar with a Grand Award–Winning List
The wine team at Mastro's Steakhouse and Stella's Wine Bar in Houston's Post Oak Hotel. Left to right: Sommeliers Jay On, Julie Dalton, Jeffery Young and Elena Prevatt and Keith Goldston. (Courtesy of Fertitta Entertainment)
Jan 13, 2022

A new wine bar is open at Houston’s Post Oak Hotel. Located steps from the property’s Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning Mastro’s Steakhouse, Stella’s Wine Bar serves the same list of more than 4,000 selections, but in a more laid-back environment.

“Stella’s is one of the only wine bars in the world where you can drink everything from little-known sommelier favorites to multiple vintages of first-growth Bordeaux,” said sommelier Keith Goldston, who manages the list with sommelier Julie Dalton. Goldston adds that while the wine bar is inside a major upscale hotel, “it has that wonderful Texas vibe of friendly hospitality and accessible luxury.”

The wine program is supported by a 35,000-bottle cellar and covers 30 international regions with highlights in Burgundy, Bordeaux, California, Piedmont, Tuscany, Champagne, the Loire and Madeira. More than 3,500 of those bottles are on display in temperature-controlled, floor-to-ceiling wine racks in the dining room.

Contributing to the casual feel are more than 60 labels available by the glass. A section of wine flights covers themes like “Grapes We Love” and “Napa Valley Blue Chips,” plus an option to order a blind tasting aptly called “So You Want to Be a Somm?”

 A view of the outdoor patio looking into the indoor space at Stella’s Wine Bar
Guests at Stella’s Wine Bar can choose from the light-filled indoor space or the outdoor patio decorated with reclaimed oak wine barrels, boasting views of the city skyline. (Courtesy of Fertitta Entertainment)

A highly trained staff is on hand to assist less-experienced wine drinkers and guide seasoned enophiles through the lengthy list, according to Dalton. In a release shared with Wine Spectator, she commented, “The combination of knowledge and approachability from our sommelier team is what makes us a unique destination.”

Overseen by the property's executive chef, Jean Luc Royere, the menu features an array of charcuterie, light bites and shareable plates. Though it’s updated daily, the opening menu lists items like marinated olives, pretzel bites, beef sliders with bacon jam and mushroom flatbread with truffle oil.

As a personal touch, Stella’s is named after the pet pig of Tilman Fertitta, the hospitality titan who owns the hotel and its restaurant brands under Landry’s, Inc. According to the release, “pigs are known for their great intelligence, inquisitiveness, and an affinity for the social enjoyment of others.”—Julie Harans

Upscale Omakase Spot Sushi Noz Expands in New York

 Junichi “Matsu” Matsuzaki behind the sushi counter at Noz 17
Junichi “Matsu” Matsuzaki developed the menu at Noz 17 with Sushi Noz’s founder. (Courtesy of Noz 17)

The team behind Best of Award of Excellence winner Sushi Noz opened Noz 17 in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood in December. Like its sibling restaurant, Noz 17 (named for its spot on West 17th Street) offers an omakase experience from chef Nozomu “Noz” Abe, with a robust wine selection.

“Due to the limited amount of storage space and number of seats at the counter, we decided to offer a curated beverage experience,” said Sushi Noz group beverage director Gene Sidorov, who oversees a frequently changing program of about 110 wines and 50 sakes. The list features Champagnes, Burgundies and off-dry Rieslings from France and Germany, as well as additional selections from regions like Napa, Sonoma and Oregon. This includes leading names like Jacques Selosse and Patrick Piuze.

Sidorov wants the program to echo the “rollercoaster of different flavors and textures” offered by Noz 17’s cuisine. As the meal begins, each guest receives a one-page list of sommelier-selected wines, including by-the-glass picks, with the option to request the full bottle list. Sidorov says the best approach is to mix and match. “I suggest a combination of Champagne or sake and red or white wine throughout the course of omakase,” he said. “It is almost impossible to select a single universal beverage that will pair with the entire meal.”

There are just seven seats at Noz 17’s counter, where guests can enjoy a 30-course Edomae menu, a style of omakase that uses traditional fish aging and fermentation techniques. At $400 per person, the meal is prepared by chef Junichi “Matsu” Matsuzaki, who trained under Abe at Sushi Noz. Matsuzaki uses ingredients imported from Japan and makes frequent changes to the menu based on seasonality and availability. Unlike at Sushi Noz, the chef alternates between sashimi, nigiri (thinly sliced fish on rice) and otsumami (small plates) throughout service, offering the likes of wild yellowtail, bottarga, sardine rolls, king crab and Hadate sea urchin. The wood-lined, softly lit space designed by Kyoto-based firm Sankakuya creates a traditional yet intimate atmosphere.

Looking ahead, the Sushi Noz team is hoping to reopen its Noz Market on the Upper East Side this spring with a new sushi counter, and is planning to open a Los Angeles location at the start of 2023.—Collin Dreizen

New York Restaurant Week’s Winter Edition Returns

 Gramercy Tavern burger next to a glass of red wine
Gramercy Tavern is one of 15 Restaurant Award winners taking part in this winter’s New York Restaurant Week. (Francesco Sapienza)

Hosted by tourism organization NYC & Company, NYC Restaurant Week is back for its annual winter season, running Jan. 18 to Feb. 13. Part of a larger program dubbed NYC Winter Outing, the event coincides with NYC Hotel Week and Broadway Week as an effort to boost the economy and encourage tourists and residents alike to enjoy New York’s attractions at a discount.

“We look forward to reintroducing visitors to our vibrant city during NYC Winter Outing this year and reminding locals of the incredible opportunities at their fingertips,” Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, said in a statement shared with Wine Spectator.

Despite a swath of temporary closures during the holiday season, more than 400 restaurants across the city are participating, including 15 Restaurant Award winners such as Gramercy Tavern, Nice Matin and Masseria dei Vini.

Restaurants may offer two- and three-course prix-fixe lunch or dinner menus at three price tiers: $29, $39 or $59. Though wines aren’t included in the price, some restaurants may offer special Restaurant Week optional pairing or discounts on bottles or wines by the glass, and guests will still have access to the full wine lists.—Taylor McBride

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at @wsrestaurantawards.

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