This week’s IMO Thursday – Vanessa Trevino Boyd is wine star and Beverage Director at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge in Houston, TX. She oversees one of the city’s most thoughtful wine lists and this past April she was awarded ‘Best New Sommelier’ by Food & Wine magazine. So why then am I lauding this young woman when she clearly has plenty of allies? Because she is a dear friend and she goes about it the right way. At the end of the day choosing wines for a restaurant is no different from choosing great ingredients for the establishment’s kitchen. One must trust the supplier and sample the goods. I have seen Vanessa meticulously smell and taste limes before making a margarita. I have watched her cut tomatoes and inspect their every nuance before placing in a salad. In June of this year when she came to Colorado to work the Aspen Food and Wine Festival we sat down for lunch at one of the most recognized restaurants in the area and within minutes the sommelier on duty (also the GM of the place) was asking Vanessa’s opinion on a myriad of wine related subjects because she remarked on the quality of the wine and the provenance of some of the produce.
Vanessa is not a self promoter. She is not flamboyant or overt in her style. She is in every sense a quality maven. Quietly and without much fanfare she moved from NYC where she excelled at Michelin lauded Alain Ducasse at the St. Regis with an 1800-selection list to manage the wine program at my former employer The Tasting Room and Max’s Wine Dive. We met at a friend’s birthday party and were fast friends. We had actually met briefly once before in NYC and I enjoy recalling how I met this very serious wine pro who honestly intimidated me a bit at the time. Intimidating is likely the last word I would use to describe Vanessa person to person. She asks great questions of her guests and when she delivers a new wine experience to clients and they are wringing wet with childlike smiles of new discovery she simply goes about her work and the customers keep coming back to Vanessa.
Quality of service, passion for excellence, and belief that doing a job better every day are the principles that I admire most in a professional. In the information age our natural human tendencies towards fleeting glory are exacerbated by social media and our attention spans are snipped daily by a different variety of carrot. Vanessa carries a torch of consistency promoting wines of place, great acid, and balance with the foods of her talented chef employer. Wine and food in their purist form are always about great ingredients first, execution second, and polished service. No amount of flash can replace substance.
My friend and colleague embodies substance and longevity. She won the best “New Sommelier” award 13 years into her career. There was nothing new about her, sometimes the glass is really deep and takes awhile for the cream to rise to the top. Vanessa is a star in an increasingly crowded and clouded sky of wine talent. If you happen to be in Houston I urge you to dine with her at Philippe Restaurant and Lounge, enjoy some killer Frites with Harissa Ketchup and a bottle of one of her wonderful grower champagnes. Juliet and I experienced several of our favorite date nights with Vanessa at the helm and I think you will too.
I am here today also to share a link to a local Houston Publication called “My Table Magazine”. These guys recognize excellence in Houston’s dining scene and they have now become aware of the talent in their backyard and nominated Vanessa and her wine program for 2 awards. The vote is open to readers (public) and fans of excellence and I encourage you all to take 2 minutes and vote for Vanessa and Philippe Restaurant. You may vote in the other categories or not as the ballot does not have to be complete.
4. OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE
Philippe Restaurant + Lounge
7. SERVICE PERSON OF THE YEAR
Vanessa Trevino Boyd (Philippe)