Going 10 Rounds With Sommelier June Rodil
The master sommelier and beverage director for McGuire Moorman Hospitality’s eight Austin restaurants tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “Mezcal & Soda with lime does the trick. But, if it’s been an exceptionally hard shift, then by all means, I’ll take a Gin Martini, pretty please.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by The Byrds. We’re drinking Lone Star beers and bourbon in this dive bar, right?”
Name the first good wine you ever drank and where you had it. “I can’t remember what it was, but it was with my parents when I was a kid. They worked (still do!) really long hours and often didn’t have time to come home and make dinner. Growing up, we ate out a lot and they always ordered a nice bottle of wine with their meal and let me sip on it with them. Some of my fondest childhood memories are seeing my parents treat themselves after a long day to a nice dinner and being able to be a part of it.”
What book on wine, cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “The World Atlas of Wine is absolutely amazing. It was integral in studying for my Master Sommelier test. The cartography in reference to wine regions was groundbreaking when it was first released and gets you as close to the most remote of regions as possible. Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson are total pros and always elevate the amount of information with each edition. I can’t recommend it enough.”
Name the wine region that took you the longest to truly understand. “Burgundy... any day now, I’m gonna start to get it. I love it so much, have visited there many times, and I drink these wines whenever I can get my grubby hands on them, but I know that a true understanding of the region will always be elusive. There are so many tiny little plots and vineyards to know. A long list of winemakers have separated their land over and over again, so you can end up with many domains with very similar names but hugely variable quality. It’s extremely confusing and extremely expensive, but when you get a great bottle from a great vineyard, you can’t help but want to drink and know more. It’s like reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest: I know it’s fantastic, he’s my favorite author, but every time I read it, I can’t help but think there’s always a part that I just don’t quite understand.”
What’s your favorite wine and food pairing? “Red Burgundy with Saba (cured mackerel) sashimi. It sounds horrible on paper, but I love both things separately and tried it once at my favorite sushi joint and never looked back. The robust taste of oily, dank, fishy fish and the tannins in red burg are just enough, but not too much, to enhance the right elements of umami in this dish and the bright, ripe, red fruit balances it out. It’s explosive on the palate.”
What’s the most common wine myth you have to debunk? “Champagne is a celebratory drink. NO! Or, rather, let’s celebrate every day! Champagne is a region that makes some of the most complex, nuanced, long-lived, and prized wines on the planet. It deserves more attention, love and consumption. Oh, and you don’t have to drink it in a flute. It’s a serious wine, so give it a little room to breath and do its thing. I recommend drinking Champagne from a white wine glass.”
What’s your favorite bottle of wine under $20? “Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Kabinett Riesling from Mosel, Germany. You can get some great quality Rieslings at just under $20 from all over the world. If you like dry and interesting, I also enjoy the Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling from Australia. Riesling puts a spring in my step and keeps $$$ in my wallet.”
What’s your favorite bottle of wine over $1,000? “I had the opportunity to drink 1992 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne, a bottle that was delivered by the winemaker himself—and it was...wow! It evolved tremendously from the time we opened it until the time the bottle was empty. It started off smelling like matchsticks and tart apples and opened into some sort of poetic stanza. Of course, the special occasion that this was opened for helped bring the mystical nature of the wine to an even higher realm, but yeah, it was a beauty.”
What tool do you use to open a bottle? “My trusty yet pricey—Code 38 wine knife from Australia. I love it mucho. It’s extremely sleek, has a great weight to it and the worm (the corkscrew itself) is extremely long, which helps prevent longer corks from breaking in half.”
June Rodil is master sommelier & beverage director of McGuire Moorman Hospitality, which own eight restaurants in Austin, Texas. She is a featured wine expert at this week’s Austin Food + Wine Festival.
Interview has been condensed and edited.