Salute to Salud!

A winery grows in Montrose

SaludIf you thought a winery could only be a quaint, verdant hillside dense with lush vines, think again. Call them micro-wineries, make-your-own wine bars, or brew bars, wineries without vineyards are the latest craze to hit Texas.

“We have 133 wineries in Texas,” says Dacota Julson, executive director of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. “And about 15 of those are custom wine-making facilities.” Julson attributes the trend to the ever-rising wine mania in America. “The consumer consumption increases, and so does the interest, as people become curious as to how wine is made.”

According to the January report of the London-based International Wine & Spirit Record, the United States will exceed the wine consumption of France within less than five years. Reaching that milestone will make America the number-one wine consumer in the world at some 721.2 million gallons by 2010.

And Texas isn’t far off that wine-consuming pace. The state is currently the fifth-largest wine producer in the country. The number of Lone Star wineries has almost doubled since 2005. Wine bars have kept up with that growth. Everyone knows you can’t spit inside the Loop without hitting a wine bar (you can even find a few in suburban locales). But a winery-sans-vineyard in Montrose?

“It’s a concept that came down from Canada,” says 33-year-old Salud! Winery co-owner Brad Odom. Odom, who is gay, his brother Charles, 36, who isn’t, and their mom Audrey, operate the new venture, located at 3939 Montrose Blvd. (www.saludwinery.com).

Salud! co-owner Brad Odom (r) and boyfriend David Harris.

Ontario, in fact, is littered with micro-wineries. Carafe began in Canada with brew-your-own beer stores, then opened its first wine-making store in 1993. The Canadian chain now has 13 blend-your-own wine stores. In 2005 the first U.S. Carafe opened in Virginia, followed by other Canadian chains such as Vintner’s Cellar and Wine Not, which operates Texas franchises in Grand Prairie (The Winery) and San Antonio (The Wine Werks). But it was the independently owned Swirll in Dallas that inspired the Odom clan.

“Mom and I were looking for a place to get a glass of wine in downtown Dallas, and here was this winery,” says Brad Odom. “What a great concept!” The Swirll owners weren’t interested in franchising, but they did offer to help train the Odoms, who made their first batches of vino there. As Salud! gets up to speed, the brothers intend to produce some 40 varietals of custom wine.

The interior of Salud!—which opened in late March—resembles a standard stylish wine bar: inlaid-wood tables, a bar, and a selection of wines by the glass or bottle, plus snacks and wine boutique items. But beyond that, you’ll find the mixing room where even a novice can create a custom wine with the help of the Salud! staff.

“It’s a great date place, a place for parties and bridal showers,” Odom says. “You come here, try a glass or two, take a bottle home that you like, and then come back and have a custom batch made.” While some tinkering is allowed, mostly customers follow established recipes, blending grape juice from around the world with oak chips or subtle flavors to create a Napa Chardonnay or the Italian Amarone—Brad Odom’s favorite—with its hint of dark cherry, chocolate, and raisins, or another of several varieties. Once the wine is made, Salud! ages the wine for 45 days in 50-gallon stainless-steel casks on site. The wine makers can then return for a labeling party and go home with a little over two cases of their very own vino. Prices range from $300 to $500 per batch.

Not interested in making wine? Salud! stocks a range of wines from around the world for purchase and enjoyment in the warm and wood-toned Montrose emporium or to take home. A brief but tempting menu offers several items for noshing along with the wine. Most food items can be purchased for home consumption as well.

For Charles Odom, who says he has never been much of an oenophile, the winery is more about bringing his family together in a business venture. “I like making stuff,” he says. “Whether it’s wine or a two-legged chair. It’s great working with Brad and our mom, our expertise compliments each other.”

For Brad the concept is simpler: “It’s a way to entertain you and ourselves.”

Beyond Sipping

In addition to wines and the stuff of wine-making, Salud! sells an array of food items and treasures for wine lovers. This merchandise includes a couple of made-in-Texas items:

Wine conserves and sauces from Leaning Oaks Vineyards, a small estate vineyard in the Hill Country (with a second vineyard in the Escondido Valley of West Texas).

Wine stoppers from Dallas-based Texas Wood Products crafted from exotic woods and topped with Lone Star State symbols or Swarovski crystals.

Photo: Salud! co-owner Brad Odom (r) and boyfriend David Harris enjoyed some of the new winery’s product at the bar of the Montrose neighborhood establishment prior to its grand opening last month. Salud! is located at 3939 Montrose Blvd. (713/522-8282).

Marene Gustin writes regularly about food for Houston Intown Magazine and other publications.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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