One of the main attractions of wine bars for me is the opportunity to discover new wines, especially new wines that I can comfortably afford. Thankfully, there are a handful of wine bars in Houston that do an excellent job in selecting wines and in introducing new wines to their offerings on a regular basis.
The best value of these is the relaxed and comfortable, and amusingly named, How to Survive on Land and Sea in the East End on Harrisburg. This is because every day from 4:00 to 8:00, every day, it offers a red, white rosé and sparkling wine for just $5.50 a glass, with a regular-sized pour. Amazingly, it’s been my experience that each of the four happy hour wines is very knowingly selected and often delicious. I’ve about a dozen of these happy hour wines in the course of more than a few visits.
The happy hour wines and the selections overall have a strong Old World tilt – restrained fruit notes, evident acidity, and more earthiness or minerality, generally – which I enjoy. A few of the highlights have been:
Domaine Jean Royer Le Petit Roy 2020, Rhone, France – A blend of Mourvedre Grenache, Syrah and some Alicante, along with a bit of Chateauneuf du Pape wine that didn't make it into those bottles. This is essentially a Cotes du Rhone without the name, with maybe some more heft. With more fruit than can be expected for a Cotes du Rhone, this is nicely balanced and quite easy to drink by itself. And typical of the area these days, it registers at 14.5% alcohol, hardly petit, but it doesn’t seem overly hardy.
Heger Pinot Noir 2015, Baden, Germany – More straightforward and not quite as interesting, but very enjoyable is this juicy and lively medium-bodied, well-rounded red wine from Germany. One of the benefits of global warming is that there is more and more good Pinot Noir coming from Germany, and this is an affordable example.
Weszeli Zweigelt Rosé 2020, Kamptal, Austria – It’s tough for me not to look toward a rosé during these long summer months and this unusual one from Austria is easy to like. It is made with 80% Zweigelt and 20% Cabernet Franc, all from older vines. With nice fruit like some peach and raspberry, evident minerality, and tartness from the Zweigelt, it has some more structure than most rosés at this price point that might be welcome.
Weingut Schlossmuhlenhof 'Boden Funk' Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany – This very dry, unfiltered Riesling is not-at-all funky despite the label and would likely appeal to those white wine drinkers who shy away from the varietal. Lots of acidity and citrus notes highlight this very well-made wine that I found terribly refreshing on a hot, humid day.
Zull Grüner Veltliner 2020, Weinviertel, Austria – More flavorful than the typical inexpensive 1-liter sized Grüner Veltliner, this is decidedly crisp, with some pear and minerals on the palate and that is easy to consume.
I would have, and have, readily paid the full price – two or two-and-half times the happy hour tariff – for each of these wines and a few others. As far I can tell, most of the happy hour wines retail between $15 and $25 if you can find them elsewhere. Most importantly, these have been very well chosen.
Houston to Survive on Land and Sea
3401 Harrisburg (at Sampson), 77003, (346) 320-2926