As many as half of The Cellar Door's customers know little to nothing about wine the first time they walk through the front door, but it doesn't take long for the Katy winery to turn the first-timers into seasoned connoisseurs.
"It's fun watching them evolve from beginner, entry level wines," owner Ron Holsomback said. "Over the course of the year they're drinking Napa tannic [cabernets]. It's like we develop wine snobs. It's part of the evolution as they grow."
Holsomback opened the store in August 2010 with his two brothers, Don Holsomback, and Andy Lahaye, a chemical engineer who crafts the winery's own wines. Holsomback said the brothers have lived in the Katy area for much of their lives and hoped to bring the California wine experience to their hometown.
The winery produces 12–18 of its own wines, ranging from those as robust as the Tuscany-style Trio Rosso to popular fruit wines, including Girls Night Out, a peach flavored chardonnay, and the Cellar Holiday Delight—a cranberry-infused chardonnay that comes back every November and sells out in as little as six weeks.
The business also offers as many as 120 bottles from popular regions, such as South America and South Africa, as well as unusual wines from as far as Macedonia, Austria and Greece. Holsomback said The Cellar Door's wine consultants try to match a customer's tastes and preferences.
"Instead of going into a tasting room and being rushed out the door so they can get the next wave in, they can sit down and experience the wines," Holsomback said. "[Staff] helps guide the guest in the direction they want to go instead of pigeonholing them."
General Manager Frankie Salinas said the 300-plus members of The Cellar Door's wine club are integral to the business, as their preferences help mold the always-evolving wine list. The wine club members regularly attend events at the winery, host wine tastings at their homes and even use the winery as a venue for important events.
"We definitely have a long-term relationship with most of our guests," Holsomback said. "After a while, they're more like family than they are like customers, and that's the way we think of them. We want the winery to be part of the Katy fabric, the Katy family."
Salinas said the winery recently expanded, making room for a kitchen. He and Holsomback said chefs are asked to cook a menu that pairs well with particular wines, such as tuna and chicken for white wines and tomato-based flatbread pizzas and steak for red wines. Holsomback said the winery offers 10–12 types of cheese, as well as Katy-based Araya chocolates to pair with wine.
"That was what we felt like we were missing—how the food and the wine [work together]," Holsomback said. "You need food to marry the two, and that's why we put the kitchen in."
In addition to expanding the menu to provide more food options, Holsomback hopes to start importing grapes from Argentina, Spain and Chile to provide more variety in the businesses' wines, rather than just grapes from California and Canada. The owner also hopes to start offering The Cellar Door wines in liquor stores and restaurants.
"We've touched on that a little bit, but we haven't had the volume," Holsomback said.
Education classes: 90-minute classes educate customers on pairing wine with cheese and chocolate and are held every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. ($20).
In-home tastings: The Cellar Door can bring tastings to customers' homes for a group of 12–20 people. ($8–10 per person)
Painting parties: Partnering with Crazy Canvas, The Cellar Door hosts painting and wine parties for small groups. ($30 for one hour or $40 for two hours per person)
Live entertainment: The winery hosts open mic night Wednesdays, as well as live acoustic and jazz music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays every week.
Other events: With space large enough to accommodate 55–60 people, The Cellar Door hosts wedding receptions, anniversary parties, baby showers, birthdays and even the occasional wedding.
Popular menu items
Fruit wines: Made in-house, these wines include the Dulce Vinob, Girls Night Out, Texas Bluebonnet, Sweet Souther Blush and Cellar Holiday Delight. $6 (glass), $17 (bottle)
Trio Rosso: This in-house, super Tuscany- style red wine is a customer favorite. $7.50 (glass), $22 (bottle)
Cheese: Meat and cheese trays with a variety of 10-12 cheese options pair well with particular wines. $9.99–$17.99
Signature flatbreads: Pairing well with red wines, these tomato-based pizzas include the Tuscany, Valencia, Sonoma, Genoa and Bordeaux. $6–$17
The Cellar Door
829 S. Mason Road, Ste. 280
Hours: Mon.–Thu. 3–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 1 p.m.–midnight; Sun. 3–9 p.m.