W&S Best New Sommeliers of 2011
Congress Austin, Austin, TX
June Rodil was about to head into law school when she did an abrupt about-face. "I opened my eyes and discovered I had already been working in the industry I belonged in," she says. She'd started peddling cocktails at The Driskill between classes at UT Austin and transitioned into their fine dining restaurant, The Driskill Grill, where she found she liked the work more than her studies. "I enjoyed making people happy—creating that experience for them at the table," she says. The hottest opening of that moment in Austin was Uchi. Rodil had waited on the chef, Tyson Cole, and decided to interview for a position. She wanted the beverage program. They took her on as a server but in a few short months made her responsible for beverage education for the staff. A year later, the company launched their second restaurant, Uchiko, and named Rodil wine director.
In her spare time, Rodil has been climbing the ranks of the Court of Master Sommeliers. She took first place at TexSomm, the Texas Best Sommelier competition, in 2009, and was awarded a scholarship to further her studies. "For the people who win the competition, there's a lot of pressure to sit the Advanced level immediately," she says. "I waited a year and a half—I like to over-prepare." She also had three restaurants to open in December, as she'd taken a job as the company-wide beverage director for Congress Austin. In peak holiday season, they opened the doors to Congress, followed shortly thereafter by Bar Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen. With all that behind her, Rodil feels ready to tackle her Master Sommelier exam.
The epiphany moment was realizing that even the chef had started trusting me about what wine would go well with what dish.
Champagne, obviously! It's ethereal—so unique and tied to so many emotions.
Scott Walker, the front of house person [at The Driskill]. He let me make
mistakes and mill around in the cellar. He not only taught me to go after what I
want but also taught me how to manage people.
I'm always excited about white wines that are fresh and clean and zippy, that dance on your palate. It's so hot in Texas, so I want to drink grüner, riesling, rosés...
Fernet. If it was a really rough night, it will come with a shot of Jameson. We call it a "Happy Meal" because you know you really shouldn't be doing it, but it does the trick.
Austin is willing to take a risk with its wine lists. Cabernet will always be king and chardonnay will always be queen, but people are willing to embrace Italian and Spanish wines.
You can continue to push them and then maybe one day they'll order Beaujolais... or mencía—who knows?