Adele Corrigan, of 13 Celsius, on American Pinot and OG Chardonnay

How one sommelier is erasing wine stereotypes in Houston

Adele Corrigan has worked in restaurants for years, and her experience as a waitress taught her hospitality in all areas. But it’s her love of wine that has energized and expanded the program at 13 Celsius. Now, she not only curates an extensive list with the geeky and unfamiliar but also introduces curious wine drinkers through the occasional class. Here, she talks about her observations in Houston and teaching people about authentic, original gangster (OG) chardonnay.

Your biggest new success was a Dundee Hills pinot noir. Are consumers getting excited about Oregon pinot?
It’s a region people are already familiar with. They see Willamette Valley and it’s not a surprise that ‘oh! Oregon makes good pinot?’ It’s ‘oh yeah! Oregon makes good pinot.’ People know that and then see the price tag and see mid-$40s for a bottle and they’re like, that’s perfect, that seems to be the sweet spot. I think that’s why that was a success on the list this past year.

You have familiar New World wines at the top of your list, but then you also have a 1er Cru Burgundy?
We had an event and then we had some regulars come back specifically for it. It was cool. We did this big class on wines from Burgundy and it was a big eye-opening experience for people who thought that they hated chardonnay. The average demographic on this one was in the upper-20s to lower-30s who had the impression that chardonnay was what their mom, their aunt, their grandmother drank. Then we showed them this wine [Camille Giroud Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Tete du Clos] as OG chardonnay and they were completely blown away. I put it on the list and slowly they came back and bought it all within the month after that. Now, we have people coming in asking for “real” chardonnay.

The younger generation—and when I say younger I mean the 25 to 35-year-old range—is open to trying new things and not necessarily sold with the big Napa red. The people who buy our Napa reds and oaked chardonnay are my parents age. They’re in their 50s and 60s. Having a well-balanced list that accommodates both those demographics is important because we usually do have a pretty even split of those drinkers.

Like many we’ve talked to, Sancerre ranks high on your by-the-glass list. Why do you think that is?
They ask for it by Sancerre. There are so many people who don’t even know that it’s sauvignon blanc. They think that Sancerre is the grape. It’s a dry white wine. Sancerre prices are getting so much more expensive and we were to switch to somewhere else in Loire—a Pouilly-Fume or something, we’d have to explain to people that it’s like Sancerre. It’s that crisp, white, refreshing, high-acid wine. It’s hot here. People want crisp, refreshing white wines. It’s a go-to. I will say, I don’t think I’ve had anyone ask me for New Zealand sauvignon blanc in forever. It’s too fruity. I haven’t had one on the list in a long time because no one has asked for it. If they want sauvignon blanc, they want Sancerre—they want that minerality.

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