At 29, Scott Ota is the Wine Captain and Sommelier at the Driskill Grill, a landmark institution in downtown Austin. Scott has a big job. He along with the entire Driskill team are responsible for the happiness of discerning diners looking for an exemplary experience. He is as charming as he is geeky about wine; so it was a real treat to sit down with him at Henri’s to discuss among other things what we should all be drinking these last precious weeks of summer.
What do you find most fascinating about wine? The relationship between the earth and the people involved. So much craft and care goes into each bottle; Mother Nature dictates what can grow best in certain areas, but yields, vinification techniques, oak usage, grape hang time and bottle aging are all things that people can control. Two bottles of the same grapes in the hands of separate winemakers can taste completely different – simply amazing!
Okay, but legs, vintage, oak, what does it all mean? What’s most important to remember when selecting wine? Take publications and critics with a grain of salt, these are tools to use at your disposal, but chances are, you will like something stylistically different from that 95-point wine. Forget the ratings. Once you understand what you like or don’t like, it becomes much easier to buy wine for yourself.
The best wine in the world comes from…..the heart and hard work. I have always loved the phrase “hands on in the vineyard, but hands off in the winery.”
Where do you go to stay informed and get inspired? Guildsomm.com, it’s a self-updating textbook and an absolute MUST for any sommelier, also Decanter magazine, and Somm Journal. For daily inspiration, interacting with the team at the Driskill and our guests – keeps me focused and honest.
Who is your favorite rebel, past or present? Paul Grieco. A polarizing individual, but I love his passion for wine and his staff.
You’ve had a bad day, what do you do to shake it all off? Beer. I usually get off too late to do much more than occupy a bar stool.
What’s harder living in the present or planning for the future? Planning for the future, no hesitation. Thinking of life as a chess match and setting yourself up for the future is much more difficult.
Dream big, what does your life look like in 5 years? A Master Sommelier pin on my left lapel. Improbable, but certainly not impossible. Always, dream big.