8 Austin Sommeliers to Watch

By Megan Giller  |  January 30, 2014
Credit: Matt McGinnis, What Are You Drinking

A good wine can elevate your meal and even change the flavors you taste in food, and no one knows that better than these eight area wine connoisseurs. Magicians of sorts, these Austin sommeliers are changing the way we experience dining.

  • Devon Broglie, Whole Foods

    Broglie’s passion for wine first took him to Spain, where he worked the harvest season for Bodega Costers del Siurana winery. After coming back to the U.S., he joined the Whole Foods team, where he is now the executive coordinator of purchasing for the Southwest region. In 2006, Broglie won the Texas’ Best Sommelier Competition, and in 2011, he became a master sommelier, one of just 135 in the entire country. Recently, he helped develop the wine list for modern French restaurant Arro.

  • Dhal Smith, Uchi and Uchiko

    Both of chef Tyson Cole's restaurants have a fine-wine selection, but for the ultimate experience go for Smith’s picks. One of the only certified sake specialists in Texas, Smith worked his way up from places like Trudy’s to his position as the beverage training director of Uchi Restaurants. He assisted in opening Uchiko and Uchi Houston, and he handles all of the instruction regarding beverages. It’s not all about wine and sake for him, though; the talented specialist has also completed the first level of cicerone, the beer equivalent of a sommelier, and plans to finish the second level this year.

  • June Rodil, Qui  

    When Rodil was studying for her Court of Master Sommeliers test, she entered the Texas Best Sommelier competition during TexSom and, to her surprise, won. With that title, she propelled up from the Driskill Grill to the beverage director for Uchi Restaurants. Later, she helped open the Congress Austin complex, which has three outlets and two wine lists. When chef Paul Qui approached her about his new restaurant, Qui, she came on board as the director of operations and general manager, where she created the wine list and manages it as well. Though she spends most of her days dealing with vendor accounts and profit margins, she says wine is still the most passionate part of her life.

  • Vilma Mazaite, LaV

    The managing partner at forthcoming LaV is also an advanced sommelier, and in February she’ll be taking her master sommelier exam. The Lithuanian native got her start in Las Vegas as a buffet manager before eventually working her way up to the beverage team for Mario Batali’s Babbo. Now she’s developing the wine list at the highly anticipated French restaurant in East Austin that is slated to open soon. Catch her wine demo at the Austin Food & Wine Festival in April.

  • Credit: Matt McGinnis, What Are You Drinking

    Nathan Prater, Red Room Lounge

    Congratulations are in order to Prater, who won this past weekend’s Somms Under Fire contest. He says, “A bottle of 1983 Chateau Lynch-Bages sparked my interest for wine,” and it’s been all good since then. Prater spent time in North Carolina before returning to Texas in 2010, where he worked in sales at Spec’s as well as at the Driskill Grill as a sommelier and wine director. Currently, he spends his days curating the small but excellent wine list at the Red Room Lounge downtown and will test for the next level of certification later this year.

  • Credit: Matt McGinnis, What Are You Drinking

    Scott Ota, Arro

    Ota is much more than a manager at modern French restaurant Arro. The sommelier was the 2013 champion of Somms Under Fire and the 2013 winner of TexSom, where he was awarded the title of Texas’ best sommelier. This year, he has been selected to sit for the advanced sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. These days, Ota spends most of his time as the sommelier for chef Drew Curren's restaurant on West Sixth Street.

  • Credit: Jay B. Sauceda

    Paula Rester, Congress  

    Rester’s resume reads like a who’s who of some of the tastiest restaurants in Austin: Congress, Vino Vino, Uchi and more. She helped open Congress as its captain and commis sommelier before leaving briefly for Vino Vino. In October 2012, she came back to chef David Bull’s team. Rester is a Level II certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and a certified specialist of wine with the Society of Wine Educators.

  • Mark Sayre, Trio

    “If Austinites don’t know who Mark Sayre is,” Lenoir’s Todd Duplechan told us, “then they need to learn.” One of the preeminent wine guys around town, Sayre designed the wine list for Lenoir and is also the wine director at downtown’s Trio. The advanced sommelier has been winning awards like the title of Texas’ Best Sommelier since 2007.