The Best Places to Drink Wine in Houston

Houston’s wine scene is in the midst of a rapid evolution. Where once only expense-account wine lists dominated, the city has cultivated a scene full of bright, young sommeliers taking things into their own hands. With them, the city has been sprouting a range of boundary-pushing destinations, from Pax Americana’s list dedicated entirely to the new avant-garde of American winemakers, to Public Services, sommelier Justin Vann’s obsessively curated sherry, sparkling wine and whiskey destination. The below is proof of just how diverse the city has become in just a matter of years.

  • 1

    13 Degrees Celsius

    This is Houston’s first “real” wine bar, and the one where most Houstonians probably tasted their first orange wine, natural wine or first glass of sherry. The selection, curated by owner Mike Sammons and sommelier Adele Corrigan is, by far, the city's largest (the wines by the glass list is practically a mile long) and weirdest. They also have a great beer selection that rotates seasonally with emphasis on local brews and the hardest working panini press in the city. Though 13 Degrees broke the mold many years ago, it remains as relevant today as it did on day one.  

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • low wine markups
    • craft beer
    • outdoor / patio
    • bar food
    • cheap date
  • 2

    Camerata at Paulie’s

    Attached to cherished industry haunt Paulie’s (where you can get a badass plate of bucatini Amatriciana for $10), this bar's wine list is curated by David Keck, one of the most accomplished sommeliers in town. Camerata’s strengths lie in its kung-fu grip on the classics, with a keen eye for modernity. As the host of the Houston Sommelier Assocation's weekly meetings, Camerata also serves a well-organized study group for local wine professionals and nerdy consumers.  

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • low wine markups
    • craft beer
  • 3

    Dolce Vita

    This causal Italian spot is owned and operated by legendary restaurateur Marco Wiles. Each of Wiles's locations has a solid wine list, but Dolce Vita rises above the rest thanks to the influence of wine director Nathan Smith, who's curated an exclusively Italian list with lots of classics and affordable esoterica. Though meant to pair with Dolce's Neopolitan pizza and low-key trattoria fare, the wines—in tandem with consistent food—make this place so much more than just a pizza joint.  

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • Italian wine
    • natural wine
    • low wine markups
  • 4

    Down House

    Down House is one of those wonderful places that wears many hats, and wears them well. From mid-morning coffee to family dinner to a first date, Down House's simple but well executed cooking and thoughtful bar program make this one of the most well-rounded destinations in the city. Newly appointed beverage director Travis Hinkle has created a thoughtful wine list focused on approachability and value. Cocktails are quirky riffs on classics, and are served morning until the wee hours.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • day drinking
    • outdoors/patio
    • low wine markups
  • 5

    Hugo's

    The restaurants in husband-and-wife team Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught's empire are among the most consistently excellent experiences in town. Key to that success are the intimately tailored beverage programs managed by sommelier Sean Beck, who's been with the group for more than a decade. Hugo’s has a strong focus on agave-based drinks, a perfect complement to the hearty regional Mexican cuisine, and presents diners with some of the city’s most adventurous opportunities for wine pairing. Beck explains with impressive detail what wines to pair (and not pair) with the menu's trickiest dishes, like mole, cochinita pibil ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • good wine
    • riesling
    • full menu
    • bar food
    • craft cocktails
    • outdoor / patio
    • lots of tequila / mezcal
  • 6

    Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

    One of Houston's old-guard steakhouses, Pappas Bros. is not only a temple of meat, but a drinking mecca too. Just about as old school and big money as you can get, the restaurant's wine list is, unquestionably, the largest in the state. When you rob a bank at gunpoint, this is where to spend the money. But if you're on a budget, the markups are also some of the city's lowest. Alongside the excellent floor somms, is young gun cocktail bartender Matt Tanner who cut his teeth at Anvil Bar & Refuge. When he revamped the outdated bar, Tanner integrated homemade ingredients and house drinks, while updating the classics for ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • good wine
    • vintage wine
    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • craft beer
    • low wine markups
    • lots of whiskey
  • 7

    Pax Americana

    New to the scene, Pax Americana is quickly gaining a reputation for its compelling wine program. Unlike ubiquitous Texas steakhouses with their embarrassment of overblown cabernet sauvignon, Pax's exclusively American list spans a huge breadth of styles, from new wave California producers like Lieu-Dit, Arnot-Roberts and Wind Gap to old school California mainstays like Joseph Swan and Heitz. In a city where wine tastemakers are all too ready to forget about California, Pax's modern inclinations—including its satisfying, clean American fare—is a breath of fresh air.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • craft beer
    • natural wine
    • New California wine
  • 8

    Public Services Wine & Whisky

    Don’t let the tastefully appointed room—styled after a parlor in a Connery Bond flick—fool you. This is the work of madman sommelier Justin Vann, who's fashioned a progressive list of oddball wines, sherry and whiskey. After making a name at Oxheart (whose kitchen serves Public's bar food) Vann opened the rehabbed Cotton Exchange building to house his weird wine and whiskey stock with a side of highball cocktails to round it out.  

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • natural wine
    • low wine markups
    • craft beer
    • lots of whiskey
    • historic
  • 9

    Underbelly

    Chef Chris Shepherd is Houston's first chef to win a James Beard Award in nearly 20 years. Shepherd's food draws from Houston's rich ethnic scene, which means sommelier Matthew Pridgen always has his work cut out for him. He always rises to the challenge, maintaining one of the city's most eclectic and geeky lists. It's also worth noting that Underbelly is connected to Hay Merchant, a very good beer bar.  

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft beer
    • low wine markups
    • outdoor / patio
    • natural wine

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