Looking for Trouble at the Houston Airport

As many of you know, I will be moving to the great state of Texas this summer and as such, I was down there a couple of weeks ago to both look at schools for the boys and explore the Houston housing market.

On the way back, we had a bit of time to kill in the airport, so I gracefully ditched my family and went off in search of a glass of wine. It was not the first time that I had conducted such a maneuver, but it was my first attempt at IAH (I refuse to use the “other” name for the airport). After scouring terminal 1 for about as long as I could tolerate (perhaps five minutes), I discovered that the only location that I could consume a vinous beverage and watch the NFL playoff game (albeit on a seemingly poorly tuned monitor) was the Chili’s at the far end of the corridor.chili's

I plopped down at a table and before I could get my Macbook up and running, my cheerful (so far, everyone in Houston seems so damned nice–I wonder if I can get used to that) handed me a menu and indicated he would be back shortly to take my drink order.

Having just eaten, I was only interested in inebriation, so I quickly leafed through the menu and found this under “Wine”: “Ask your server for the latest wine options as they change quite frequently.”

So, being the obedient soul that I am, when my server returned, I ask: “Excuse me sir, the menu indicates that I should inquire about the wines you have by the glass….”

My server: “Oh, we have ’em all.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Server: “Yeah, we have ‘em all, except maybe Riesling, we have ‘em all: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet….”

Me: “Oh. Any chance you have a list who makes them?”

Server: “No, but there they all are, right behind you, just take a look.”

The server then trotted back into the kitchen and I was left to ponder my decision, peering over my right shoulder at the lined up reds (there were four: a Cab, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and perhaps a Shiraz), and the couple of whites that were mostly obscured by the refrigerator door (Riesling and Chardonnay [Sonoma-Cutrer] were the only two that I could clearly see, but I am pretty sure there was a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio).


Chili’s wine “list.”

I was rather surprised to see the Sonoma-Cutrer as it is a perfectly respectable option, so I ordered it. Within a minute or two, the glass was delivered, filled within a decimeter of the rim with a slightly golden liquid.

And I was happy.

As I was about to take the last sip of the Chardonnay, my server returned and inquired if I would like another glass. Feeling a bit rambunctious, I decided to push my luck a bit and ask if they might have a sparkling wine on offer by the glass.

Server: “Uh, I don’t honestly know, let me check,”

Server (after checking with the bartender): “Well, we have champagne, but I know that doesn’t count.”

Me (ignoring the obvious): “Champagne?!? Is it from Champagne?”

Server (looking more than a little irritated, but I was not sure if he was frustrated by the seemingly Captain Obvious question or that he had already labeled me his “problem table” based on our first interaction): “Yes”

Me (getting excited): “Do you know how much it is a glass?”

Server (slightly more irritated): “Let me check.” (Then to the bartender) “What’s it called? I can’t find it (in the system).”

Bartender: “Look under ‘mimosa’.”

This apparently worked as he immediately took the requisite four steps toward my table.

Server (clearly a bit pleased with himself): “It’s $11.79 for the glass sir.”

Me: “Really?!? Sorry, but can I see the bottle?”

I can not be certain, but this seemed to produce an audible sigh from my server. Had this occurred in Philadelphia, the sigh would have certainly been audible, there would have been some saliva involved, and it would have ended with at least a teeth sucking if not a sucker punching.

After another minute he comes back with a split.

Of Korbel.

In defense of my server, it does say "Champagne" on the bottle.

In defense of my server, it does say “Champagne” on the bottle.

Me (deflated): “Oh, I guess I’ll just have another Chardonnay.”

[Note: I originally posted part of this story on Facebook where it soon garnered the ire of many a Texas resident (and one from Napa) who all pointed out that there were much better wine bar options in other terminals at IAH. I thank them profusely for the information, of which I will surely take advantage my next trip down.]


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine, Texas, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Looking for Trouble at the Houston Airport

  1. talkavino says:

    I don’t fly through IAH all that often, so I have no idea about the “wine options” there, but I remember your positive post about Korbel 🙂 I have to say that Sonoma-Cutrer and not Crane Lake at Chili’s is clearly a sign of times… 🙂


  2. Jill Barth says:

    Maybe the server learned something that day.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff take hart there are better places for wine here. However, as I have learned in the 6 months I have lived here, it is “The Republic of Texas” not the state.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Welcome to my life! More often then not restaurants in Texas have sucky wine lists. Of course there are many great restaurants with great wine lists but if you want to dine out inexpensively prepare for crap wine. For example, there is no place better for Tex-Mex food than of course Texas. Great restaurants everywhere. All have terrible wine lists. And chain restaurants, for get it! The choices are usually red or white. You are warned.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. GFwinecountryliving says:

    I loved the comparison between the Philly and the Houston experience. Great fun, and so true, based on a two year stint of bicoastal living.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You’ll get used to everyone being nice. We moved from Philadelphia to Colorado over 20 years ago. Now when we go back east, we notice that if you’re nice to people, they immediately assume you must want something from them 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Awwww the poor server. I’m sure Chili’s waiters are not accustomed to wine inquiries. That IS a chain restaurant. In an airport, no less. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lulu says:

    Hey, it’s an airport!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s always nice to get off on the right foot in your new home! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. linnetmoss says:

    Anything to relieve the agony that is the modern airport. A glimpse of wine bottles can turn even a Chili’s into an oasis… very surprised about the Korbel’s, that they had it at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. chef mimi says:

    You’re moving to Texas????? And Houston?? Oh my. I hope you don’t mind sweating while you’re drinking your Korbel.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If we ever have wine in the Plymouth area, I will tell you my San Francisco airport story that luckily does not pertain to wine. You may not win points in your new home, calling the airport IAH. LOL. I also think that you may have lost a case of Korbel that they were going to send you, for your opinion and review. Keep having fun and have fun moving your cellar. I hope you have ordered a wine vault.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sally says:

    Good luck with your move. My good friend swapped Dubai for Houston a while back and is an avid food-lover as well as appreciating good wine. She edits ‘Edible Houston’ mag – worth checking out http://lifeinthefoodlane.com/

    Liked by 1 person

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