Weekend after weekend, for almost two years, we have found ourselves at the corner of Anita and Caroline, at this lovely wine bar with no signage, happily sipping wine and eating cheese. It is known as one of the best wine bars in the city of Houston, but strangely, despite its notoriety 13 Celsius feels like our little wine bar. I get warm fuzzy feelings thinking of “our wine bar” where we’ve had so many great conversations, where we always take our out of town guests, where the staff knows us, and where we always leave in a better mood than when we came (and not just because of the happy-wine-buzz).
So here’s what our weekend visit looks like:
(1) get there early (between 6-7). It is easy to find street parking or grab a spot in the small parking lot and the bar isn’t packed yet. We have plenty of options on where to sit and we can chat with the staff about wines when we get there early. (obvious side note: don’t drive drunk (yes wine-drunk counts)).
(2) ask about wine. You can describe your preferences and they have a phenomenal ability to find you something you will like. The wine list changes from time to time, so it is worth hearing about what is new and noteworthy. On Sunday there’s a deal, usually half-price bottles written on a chalkboard. I generally love the Italian red wines and prosecco when I don’t want red. Sometimes I like something with a little more spice for my red, and they pick out a perfect tempranillo or red blend for me. My husband does a somewhat ridiculous routine every time, which goes like this: “I want something dry, but not too dry, acidic but not too acidic, and not too flavorful” and they not only put up with him, they help him find a perfect glass every time. (Thanks, y’all.)
(3) cheese. We have gotten predictable with our three favorite cheeses ($16 three cheese plate): Pure Luck (Soft Goat Cheese), Triple Cream Brie, and Manchego. This trifecta of cheese provides the perfect combination of a flavorful but fluffy goat cheese, milky rich brie, and the sharper flavor and hard texture of manchego. Every cheese plate comes with bread, granny smith apples, marcona almonds, and a perfect jam/preserve with citrus and tiny pieces of kiwi! I have also had the Sottocenere, which is sprinkled with truffle for a really fun, unique flavor.
(4) dessert. Cakes and fruit tarts are brought in from Weights + Measures (a bakery & restaurant down the street). The carrot cake is very rich, loaded with nuts and handed it out in generous portions. Our favorite is the blueberry tart, it is sweet but not too sweet and pairs great with a crisp white wine. They also have house-made truffles: soft chocolate truffles with ginger inside – so amazing. And of course, there is a make-your-own s’mores option, complete with a personal tiny fire pit.
(5) the small things. Someone constantly shines the wine glasses, so every glass literally sparkles. The music is at the perfect volume so you can talk, but keep things lively. The lighting is perfect between the candles, the light fixtures, and plenty of natural light. The smell of fortune cookies has permeated the entire block because of the fortune-cookie factory next door. I love these small details.
When you are at 13 Celsius, you can feel life slow down for just a bit, as you sink in to your chair, wine glass in hand and think “this is the life.” Then you get through a few weekdays and you do it all again next weekend.