Best New Sommelier 2017

Jason Huerta | Jeffrey’s, Austin

We asked, and top sommeliers around the country answered with the names of the most talented newcomers to the restaurant scene. They singled out six sommeliers who are making a strong impression after fewer than four years as lead wine buyers.

What does it take to get a vote from the toughest of critics? Enthusiasm, tenacity, grace and professionalism, to start. Couple that with juggling other projects, long hours on the floor, the inevitable grunt work and furthering their own knowledge and educating others. Let us introduce you to our Best New Sommeliers of 2017.

Jason Huerta was set on being a coffee ambassador. He hoped to use his degree from Texas Christian University to help coffee bean growers receive fair prices, and to build the culture of fine coffee in the United States. Then “Hawaii changed my way of thinking,” he says. He spent a summer there during college then returned after his senior year, bartending at Pizzetta in Kauai. “I realized I was born for hospitality,” he says. When he returned to Texas in 2006, he landed a job at Pappas Bros., where he joined the wine team in 2007, and it was a wine at a tasting a month later that set him on the path toward hardcore sommelier-dom.

Jason is a leader in the industry, working hard to run one of the best beverage programs in the State of Texas. He is also a big advocate of beverage education and a great ambassador of the sommelier community.
— Christopher McFall, June’s All Day, Elizabeth Street Café and Perla’s, Austin
“I don’t remember the appellation, but I do remember it was 1969 Leroy. I was blown away by the story of the wine and its maturity,” he says. Huerta went on to open Counter 357, an ambitious, prix-fixe restaurant in Austin, and to win TEXSOM’s Best Sommelier competition in 2010. Just this past March, he signed on as beverage manager and wine director at Jeffrey’s and The Josephine House in Austin, working with June Rodil, MS, a 2016 W&S Best New Sommelier and now director of beverages for the entire McGuire Moorman Hospitality group. Huerta remains determined to turn people on to wines with maturity, adding older bottles to the list at Jeffrey’s, where steak is the focus. “It’s so special when you put a bottle with age in front of someone and see them have that same epiphany.”

Jason is humble, brilliant, and does the name ‘sommelier’ proud. He is working in an iconic Austin restaurant and doing very cool things with the wine list. — David Keck, MS, Goodnight Charlie’s, Houston

This sommelier was featured in W&S October 2017.
photo by Jessica Attie