Rob Moshein - The Austin Wine Guy

Austin Wine Guy Takes "A Dive"

May 08, 2009

So, yet another one of those wonderful email invites, gentle readers, this time to a preview for Max's Wine Dive. Now, we had heard whispers and bubbling buzz out of Houston about the place, but nothing concrete.  Yr. Mst Hmbl & Obdt Svt here paid no attention, since, well, it's "Houston" (read that with the typical Austin sneer, looking askance, tone of voice that indicates the odor of something dead and becoming offensive). Make no mistake, I've never admitted otherwise, I loathe Houston. I hate the place.  It has every single disadvantage of Los Angeles (smog, crime, horrendous traffic, heinous sprawl, zero architecural appeal, vast tracts of strip malls and a pervasive bad smell from the refineries and port) PLUS it lacks the few redeeming social values that keep Los Angeles from the first to be nuked list: viz Fabulous weather (Houston weather is simply never good: HOTTER than hell, Deluging rain or cold and bone chilling and goes from one to the other in fifteen minutes), Great beaches (you couldn't PAY me to touch the water in Houston's channels) and the Entertainment Industry which brings an intersting social and Arts Vibe (the Houston vibe, well, a cellphone on vibrate with low battery comes to mind.  Seriously, the Houston Opera is the only thing of cultural value, Houston eats at Luby's and LIKES it...). I mean, I was pleased to see Houston nuked in "Independance Day".

So, A. Wine Guy walks into a place at 3rd and San Jacinto, and its BUZZING! Its party pumping, loud music, smiling faces and a glass of bubbles popped into my hand before I could scope the room for a familiar face. Party called for 5pm, I'm there by ten after. Plates of food already being urged on me by the waitstaff with the zealous honest exhortions of an Italian Grandma at dinner (I half expected to hear "mangia mangia"). Like any good party, everyone was engaging, smiling joking talking and just having fun; and that was the STAFF! All evening, I was continually asked if I needed anything and dirty plates and napkins were whisked off often.

I made certain the Austin Wine Guy met up with Max's Wine Guy, Ike. Eager, enthusiastic, capable and anxious to please. I like him instantly.  He freely admits the current list, designed by Houston counterpart, is New World-centric, with eclectic old world additions, including Gaja. Ike will probably tweak the wine list over time to better suit Austin's tastes, I'm certain. They'll open any bottle if you commit to two glasses. Genius!  Kudos and praise to them for opening a very good cross section of whites and reds to represent the wine list.  I especially liked the New Zealand Sauv. Blanc. We hate it when cheapest common denominator wines are opened for "the media".  Max's wants you to HAVE FUN with your wine. I love it!! So will you.

Now the beauty part campers: The wine prices are much closer to retail than restaurants! Seriously, most restaurants are two or three TIMES retail, Max's prices are not even double retail. They seem to run about plus half. They also sell RETAIL, so if you like the one you drank, you can take more home, and there are substantial case discounts! How cool is that?  I usually refuse to buy wine in a place knowing that they expect me to pay something close to four or five TIMES what they paid for that bottle (ie: restaurant paid $10, retail would be $14, restuarant CHARGES $45! Max's would be $22...) I can handle Max's wine prices.

The food is good, but tends to the spicier side of things. Now you know that's not my gig, my palate just doesn't relate. I'm in the vast minority in these here parts though on this.

Last night, the menu was absent, so I had no idea of the extent and prices.  Got home and downloaded the menu online. Great concept, honest home-style food kicked up a notch, Kobe beef, local gourmet greens and cheeses, fried chicken, burgers, pot roast, hot dogs, oysters.  Looks great. I'll just have to be brutal on one point. The prices. Expensive. Appetizers all $10-17...$14 for a Hot Dog??  A burger (albeit Kobe) with additions tops out at $23, but heck you can put Foie Gras on it, culinary/cholesterol overkill, for a $30 burger ! Pot Roast is $24 Three pieces of fried chicken is $15...

Well, the place just screams "New Austin".  It was fun, it was loud, it was buzzing, fabulous staff and a Killer attitude about wine. I had a great time. and this from HOUSTON?? Who'd a thunk it?

They are spot on the mark with atmosphere, concept, and the wine attitude. I think the wine attitude is the best thing going. A score of 8.5 of ten (deductions for playing it too safe and commercial by Austin standards. Ike will change that soon am sure).  Low marks for the expense of the food, if I (and most people I know) can't afford to eat there more than once or twice a year for special occassions, since Max's wants to be a place you hang out at often.  Most people I know can't afford $75 per person for dinner with wine very often.  As for me, I'll go there to drink wine for sure, I might just not eat.  Time will tell if Austin will pony up the bucks, I really don't know in the current economic climate. 

Max's is a perfect party, a great time, great wine, and super fun service and attitude. You'll leave all happy and smiles, until you get the bill for dinner...
Well, it DID come out of Houston so it couldn't be that perfect....but am still happily surprised. Welcome to Austin Max's...

Rob Moshein

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Raves, rants, musings, ponderings and wine whines... trends, tasting notes, the Austin Wine Guy Rob Moshein shares his world of wine and thoughts about it with you.

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