Rouge Wine Bar is one-third of the Energy Corridor strip center trio often identified as the French Corridor. Brothers David and Sylvain Denis along with upscale restaurant Le Mistral and unfortunately named bakery Foody’s Gourmet. Since opening in 2015, Rouge has been steadily making a name for itself with its extensive wine collection, wine club and homemade pizzas crafted in a wood burning oven. We stopped in a few weeks ago on a Friday night to see what the buzz was about, check out the food and get some first-hand information on the wine club.
Growing up with parents in the restaurant industry who nonetheless emphasized home cooking, the brothers began their love affair with food and wine at an early age. Although Le Mistral and Foody's focus on French cuisine, Houston’s diverse landscape has served as an ideal background in which to play a little bit more with the menu at Rouge in both the pizza and wine selections. The menu at Rouge consists of a small selection of signature pizzas, cheese and charcuterie plates, and a house-smoked fish plate. It is usually very busy on Friday nights, when sommelier Sylvain hosts weekly special events, like the live band that played when we visited. While the inside was bustling with activity, there was ample seating on the shared patio between Rouge and Le Mistral, so we opted to sit outside. Chef David says his favorite is the Farmer’s Pizza—which combines pancetta, onions, Brie and black olives—we ordered the Parma & Goat Cheese Pizza, a four-cheese plate and of course some glasses of wine.
Adorned with Parma prosciutto, goat cheese and arugula, the pizza was well balanced and rich without being overwhelming. It was big enough for two people to split (all of the pizzas are $14) and left just enough hunger for us to indulge in the smaller of the cheese plates, which was also quite substantial for its $17 price tag. Accompanied by a ficelle baked at Foody’s, and raw honeycomb, the cheese plates appeared to be very popular on many of the other patio tables. The larger cheese plate is meal size with six cheeses for $24.
There is no shortage of wine options at Rouge with more than 25 sips by the glass ranging in price from $9-20. Thankfully Sylvain is usually making the rounds inside the bar and on the patio to guests select the best wine for your price and palate; he helped us choose a French Sauvignon Blanc to go with the pizza and a Bordeaux to go with the cheese plate. Later, we asked the brothers for their recommendations. They said they lean toward Rosso di Montalcino or Châteauneuf-du-Pape among reds. For lighter options, they prefer Chablis or Bandol rosé.
While we were there we also got some information on the wine club at Rouge. Members can join online or in person. Benefits range from 20 percent discounts on wine, special tasting events, monogrammed private wine lockers and access to the wine room, a members-only private dining room. If you aren’t ready to commit to being a full-fledged member, there is also a great retail program, typically offering discounts on bottles and cases in the realm of 15 to 20 percent.
Even though it might be a bit of a drive (and come on what isn't a drive in Houston?), if you’re looking for a great selection of wine, atmosphere and French-inflected bites, Rouge Wine Bar is definitely worth the trip.