For their first wedding anniversary, Emily Trout bought her husband, Mark Ellenberger, the opportunity to make his own single barrel of wine. So Ellenberger made a syrah, but that type of wine takes about 22 months to age. So, while he was waiting, he also made a chardonnay and pinot noir.
"By the time the syrah was ready for bottling the pinot was ready for bottling and the chardonnay was ready for bottling," says Trout. "And we were staring at about 1,000 bottles of wine."
That inspired the couple to turn professional. They sourced fruit from Napa Valley farms and made wine to sell directly to consumers, both online and at a small tasting room and producing facility in Napa. The business's success, coupled with an aim to add another pipeline for small wineries to meet consumers at a tasting level, led the pair to open Mutiny Wine Room in early January at 1124 Uesner St. in the Heights.
"Our whole idea is to bring the wine country experience to Houston," Trout says.
They showcase boutique Napa wineries (anywhere between 500 and 5,000 cases produced per year) including their own Kagan Cellars (featuring a chardonnay, rose, syrah, and sangiovese). Each quarter a new winery is spotlighted, primarily through flights of four styles. An additional quarterly spotlight will focus on education.
Wine is the focus (heck, it's part of the name), but Mutiny also possesses a serious menu meant to pair well with the wine, but also to help deliver the idea of a California tasting experience (just with some Texas tweaks).
Ari Weiswaasser, 2015 winner of Best New Chef in Food & Wine magazine and a veteran of Thomas Keller's iconic Napa restaurant, The French Laundry, developed the menu. Eduardo Alcayaga (Goode Co.) executes the menu, which includes fried quail, Vietnamese-brushed Gulf prawns, and Carolina gold rice made in the Cacio e pepe style with a 63-degree egg. Desserts include Belgian chocolate truffle tart and almond cake with candied lemon and Italian meringue.
Maybe the most enjoyable are quick bites like hush puppies with creme fraiche and caviar; miniature Texas toasts topped with chicken liver mousse; and perky ceviche with purple potato chips.
Guests can enjoy the food with wine in a contemporary "farmhouse," or they can simply sample the wines in the devoted tasting area. There's plenty of outdoor seating, too, which should come in handy as spring nears.