Those who know me personally know that on certain days of the week I can be found with one group or another at my favorite neighborhood restaurant and bar La Griglia. Only blocks from my home, I sometimes sit all day at our regular table with friends coming and going—it is like Cheers for us, where everybody knows our names. My friends have congregated there to eat, relax, catch up, gossip, mourn, and celebrate. Recently La Griglia rolled out new wine selections including a Coravin List. And as I have never mentioned this place on my blog (except when the hostess sat the crying baby next to me TroysArt – Those pesky pet peeves), I thought this would be as good a time as any to write about it. So what is a Coravin? Find out at La Griglia…
La Griglia is a restaurant started by legendary restauranteur Tony Vallone. The landmark trattoria exists on the cuff of Houston’s swankiest neighborhood, River Oaks—a 1,100-acre subdivision of estates established by the oil barons of the early 20th century. The walls of the dining room are lined with colorful mosaics and exotic murals depicting dancing girls and octopi; mahogany paneling in the bar alternates with wine racks; colorful blown glass chandeliers cascade from vaulted ceilings; and the floors are covered with imprints of the hands and well-wishes of influential Texans. The design imbues a sense of whimsy and anticipation—the eye never rests from one surface to the next. From a small town in Louisiana my hallmarks of a fancy eatery traditionally included white linen table cloths, crystal chandeliers, and gilded pilasters, like in Commander’s Palace or Antoine’s; but this fusion of fine food and impeccable service in a contemporary space bucks that stuffy and staid persona providing fine dining with casual bravura.
Not only has the dining and bar areas recently undergone a freshening up but so has the wine menu. Last week manager Menno Ozinga introduced Stacey Abbott and me to the new Coravin menu and showed us the mechanism. At first we did not understand. Stacey asked, “How does it make the wine taste better?”
But Coravin is not a flavor enhancer, but rather a means of preservation. It is a system that allows freedom to pour a glass of wine from any bottle at any time. “Coravin is a revolutionary tool that uses a surgical-grade needle to extract wine from the bottle while ensuring that the integrity of the wine remains absolute,” La Griglia says. “This allows us to find really cool wines that we couldn’t normally open and offer them to you by the glass.” 99.99% pure Argan fills the void in the bottle which protects the remaining wine from oxidation. What a fantastic way to sample some of the world’s great wines without having to splurge for the whole bottle.
From La Griglia’s “Legendary Wines” list, for example, the expensive 2011 Gaja “Sori Tildin” from Peidmonte, Italy, is $1,100 a bottle but a casual diner can enjoy a glass for $310. Stacey inquired about the Napa Valley 2012 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon from La Griglia’s “Rare Wines” list. Menno explained that we would be able to try the wine for $50 a glass instead of opening a whole bottle. Intrigued and somewhat charmed, she bought the bottle anyway. And it was delicious.
I am fascinated by the Coravin even though I have never had much use for just one glass from any bottle.
It would be a shame not to mention the most important part of the restaurant. After all, what is good wine without a bite for it to compliment? There are so many things to try but I especially love the Short Rib Pansotti, Linguini Vongole, and the Wild Boar Chop Gallagher to name a few. Rest assured, the food is excellent.
Billionaire restauranteur Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Landry’s Inc. and River Oaks resident, bought La Griglia some years back. The restaurant did not change but it enables us to get points for dining. If we remember to present a Landry’s Select Club card when paying our tab the card bearer receives a point for every dollar spent; and with every 250 points the card bearer receives a $25 credit for food at any Landry’s restaurant. That kind of deal is hard to beat.