Wine maven, sommelier, and one of those great guys whom everybody in the business loves, general manager of Cullen’s Upscale American Grille Ryan Roberts has been working in the Houston restaurant scene since he was 16 years old. Starting in the kitchen at Pappadeux, the seafood branch of the storied Houston institution, the Pappas restaurant group, he became a server just as soon as he was of legal age. A month after that, he handily landed himself a spot behind the bar.
“I liked the high intensity of this business,” he told us the other day when he took time out to chat with D’Amore Wine Selections.
Did we mention that Ryan’s a “self-starter”? It only took a month for him to move into management and ultimately make the move over to Pappas Brothers Steakhouse, where he first discovered his passion for fine wine.
“I’ll never forget the first time I tasted a 1982 Guigal La Landonne,” he remembered happily when we spoke with him. “It was just fascinating to me: the earthiness, the terroir, and the funky smell of the brett [brettanomyces]… It was something magical and that’s what it’s all about…”
Today, the thirty-something Ryan manages a restaurant that can accommodate up to 980 persons in one seating, a wine list that offers 550 selections, ranging in price from $22 (a Rhône rosé) to $2,000 (vintage Krug), and an innovative online wine list electronic “tablet” (similar to an IPad) that allows guests to search by grape variety, region, price, category, etc.
Ryan works with a number of D’Amore products today, but “we sell a ton of Tintero Moscato d’Asti [imported by Kermit Lynch],” he said. “It’s got fun fruit, it’s got acidity, and it’s very enjoyable with nearly every appetizer on the menu… or with fish or even with dessert.”
Cullen’s Upscale American Grille
11500 Space Center Blvd.
Houston, TX 77059