Union Kitchen Owners Open Houston Wine Bar With Master Sommelier’s Selections
Paul and Doris Miller of Gr8Plate Hospitality own five locations of The Union Kitchen — two locations in Houston as well as one each in Cypress, Kingwood and Katy — three of Jax Grill and two of Passerella Ristorante & Wine Bar. Now, they have opened a wine bar and shop. Named Vine Memorial, it’s located at 7951 Katy Freeway.
Despite the name, an homage to prior wine bar occupant Memorial Wine Cellar, it’s near Hunter’s Creek Village, not in the Memorial neighborhood — but it is only a third of a mile from Memorial Drive.
When it came to filling their new 2,544-square-foot wine shop, the Millers turned to Houston’s longest-reigning Master Sommelier, Guy Stout, for recommendations. From 2005 to 2016, Stout was the only Master Sommelier in Houston, and he was one of the first in Texas to pass the rigorous Court of Masters Sommeliers’ toughest exam. Stout worked for Glazer’s Distributing for nearly 30 years before turning his attention to his own wine company, Stout Family Wines.
“I am very excited for Paul and his team,” Stout said. “Our family has enjoyed his restaurants for years. They are wonderful people, and I am happy to see him bringing back a great wine bar and bottle shop to this part of town.”
That is not to say the Millers, who hold WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 wine and spirits certifications, haven’t also relied on their own expertise, as well as that of general manager Jim Harvey, when it came to selecting over 200 wines.
“With Vine Memorial, we’re taking an ambitious leap,” Paul Miller said. “Doris and I fell in love with the world of wine together, and we’ve assembled a team of educated somms to spread that joy with every adventurous glass we pour.”
Stout Family Wines’ Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are on Vine Memorial’s list, and so are some popular names such as Rombauer Chardonnay, Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and Stags’ Leap Syrah. We also asked for other recommendations from both Stout and Paul Miller.
“I really do enjoy Guy Stout’s Sauvignon Blanc, and that’s not just a nod to him because I know him. I drink it everywhere I go. It’s a great wine to start a meal with,” Paul Miller said. “Also, the Orin Swift Machette, a badass blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache, goes with everything!”
Stout suggests Bichot Chablis, Ben Marco Malbec and Orin Swift 8 Years in the Desert, to name a few. For bubbles, both enjoy Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne. “It’s one of Doris’s favorites,” Miller said. “It’s dry with a fine bubble at a good price, and goes great with oysters or crabcakes!”
Chef James Lundy, a longtime executive chef for Gr8Plate Hospitality, has created a menu of wine-friendly dishes, including charcuterie boards, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. A few that jumped out at us are the Prosciutto Brie Sandwich with Prosciutto di Parma, brie, fig jam, arugula, balsamic vinegar and olive oil; Smoked Gouda & Bacon Pimento Cheese with everything bagel spice, assorted crackers and a toasted baguette; The Dirt Flatbread with forest mushrooms, Fontina cheese and thyme; and the Bruscetta Boards where you can pick up to three kinds, including the Classico with vine-ripe tomatoes, melted fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper and balsamic glaze. The selections may change based on seasonality and what customers prefer.
Doris Miller designed the wine bar, which includes a private room called the Oil Man’s Lounge. It seats up to 24 guests and has audio/visual capabilities for meetings and presentations. Vine Memorial’s team also plans to roll out a 720-square-foot patio in time for spring weather.
On the shop side, expect “aggressively priced” wines for sale. Vine Memorial is also offering wine-education events and tastings, starting with a ticketed Wagner Family of Wines dinner on January 25. Soon, the wine bar will also roll out a special tasting membership called the Vine Club. There will be three tiers at different price points and benefits.
Vine Memorial is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
1/11/24, 9:55 a.m.: Article updated with some of Paul Miller’s wine recommendations.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.