Sip Tips from a Top Sommelier

Advice from Vanessa Treviño Boyd, sommelier at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge in Houston and one of Food and Wine magazine's top sommeliers of 2012.


Drink with shellfish, including oysters, especially during winter months when oysters are in season. Drink Champagne with a plat de fruits de mer — oysters, clams and shrimp — and you get the brininess from the oysters and the brininess that you get in some Champagnes because of the soils where the grapes are grown.

I like Champagne with almost anything. I like Champagne with foie gras and with dishes that are very rich and that have cream sauces. This is because the acidity in Champagne helps cleanse the palate after all the richness. An example of this would be a demi-sec Champagne.

Washington State Wines

My strength isn’t Washington state, but some of the best cabernets and merlots that I’ve tasted have been from there. This is something that people should pay more attention to. There is great value in Washington state wines, because the land is less expensive than in Napa. As a result, you can buy great quality wines for a fraction of the price that you can from Napa Valley.

Freeman Wines

Freeman wines are very, very elegant, subtle, and they have this great delineation. They’re wines that you almost have to listen to, not wines that are going to scream at you with their big fruit and big alcohol. They’re very Burgundian, in a way, and I think they’re inspired by some of the greatest French Burgundies in the world.

I love the story of Freeman wines. I love that it’s a husband–and–wife team that founded Freeman Vineyard & Winery.


Don’t forget riesling. The range of styles of riesling out there is incredible.

They are not all sweet. There are dry rieslings, medium-dry rieslings, like the kabinett level, and there are sweeter rieslings, which can pair great with a variety of different foods as well. But dry rieslings are perfect on their own as an aperitif in the summertime.

Many sommeliers are crazy about riesling. There was a big movement to call this past summer “the summer of riesling.”  The movement is based in New York; a wine bar started the trend about five years ago. And since then all sommeliers have caught the riesling bug.

Navarro Vineyards in Anderson Valley, Calif., makes very good riesling. New York state has a couple of good riesling makers, including Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars.

Basque Wines

There are white wines from the Basque region in Spain that are phenomenal and perfect summer sippers. These are little appellations that don’t have to be $400 a bottle, but they keep the wine director motivated and help keep a wine list interesting and fun to read.

La Follette Wines

Greg La Follette makes wines in Sonoma that are extremely Burgundian. They have a touch of earth to them, which I think makes them so interesting. They have really good acidity that keeps the wines very balanced. I think the wines could actually age a little, which is a great thing for an American pinot noir to be able to age.

Greg La Follette makes wines that are outstanding and extremely elegant. I love wines that have elegance, grace and poise. These are attributes that are very attractive to me, whether they’re in a person or in wine.