“We knew we wanted to bring something unique to Houston—better global wines that taste more alive, are free of added chemicals and healthier for the ecosystem,” says Steve Buechner, of his Light Years Natural Wine Shop + Bar in Montrose with partner John Glanzman. Buechner first “saw the light” about a decade ago in France where natural wine has been around for millennia. Lifelong friends who grew up in Long Island, the duo moved here after working in New York and California—Buechner as an attorney and in the restaurant biz, and Glanzman in the finance and energy industry.
Natural wines have no formal rules but, generally, are produced organically, using a natural fermentation process, with little or no sulfur or filtering. “Less manipulated than conventionally produced wine, natural wine has many benefits including expansive flavor and value,” says Buechner.
A stone’s throw from The Menil, their intimate, spare bungalow draws an international crowd and eclectic wine lovers from the neighborhood intrigued to sample “wild and natty” small batch selections from France, Spain, off-the-grid areas of California, and lesser known regions including Vermont, Utah and Texas.
Wines are available by the glass, bottle, and retail, and cheese and charcuterie plates are on offer. (If you’re taking a bottle home, they suggest experimenting with untraditional pairings like a light red wine with a meaty monkfish.) But don’t expect to study a wine list. There isn’t a menu online or at the unfussy 200-bottle wine bar. “We like to talk to each guest individually to find out what varietals and style they like. We’ll pour several samples until we get it right,” assures Buechner. Sun.-Sat., noon-midnight, 1304 W. Alabama St., 713.425.6673
Natural wines to drink now:
Southold Farm + Cellar 2017 Foregone Conclusion, $33, Alicante Bouschet grapes grown in the Texas High Plains. Fresh with brambleberry and currant notes.
Vini Viti Vinci 2017 Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, $36, A ripping high-acid Chardonnay from an underappreciated region of Burgundy, France.
Minimus 2017 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $27, Friulian-style rosé from the master of Oregon natural wine, Chad Stock.
Cantina Giardino Frizzante Rosso, $42, Hair-raising naturally sparkling aglianico (black grape) from Campania, Italy.