While studying for a Computer Science degree at the University of Texas, I picked up a part-time gig as a delivery driver for a small wine shop in downtown Austin. Little did I know that this would seal my fate as one of those “wine geeks” you always hear about in dark alleys and ”hoity toity” restaurants. Under the tutilage of some of the best palates in town, I began to explore and expand my working knowledge of wine varietals and regions, with a strong focus on European wine. With a little more confidence under my belt, I embarked on a six year run as a wine steward and buyer at the Central Market Westgate in South Austin, where I met a goldmine of interesting and inspirational people, both in the wine biz and out. Here I had the chance to really hone my customer service skills and understand how to bridge the gap between” geeky wine-snob land” and everyday enthusiast. Working in this environment helped me understand how large-scale retail works and the less-exiciting business side behind it. I also led a few wine classes at the now defunct CM wine bar, upping my confidence and communication skills. As the buying style changed through understandable financial needs, I decided to move on and run a small wine program at an independent liquor store in West Austin for six months. Here I began to think, as a patron, what kind of shop I would want to shop in. The idea was born. Even though it seemed daunting to open a small, independent wine shop in today’s economic climate, I decided it had to be done. A year later, with the help of some of my most trusted wine homies and a TON of support from my family, we are proudly offering a friendly, independent, unpretencious wine retail environment with that certain Austin flair!
Sam Hovland came to Austin in 1972 when his father began teaching at UT and his mother began a career in the AISD. He has been involved the Austin food & wine industry for over twenty years as a kitchen manager, bartender, & captain, with forays into audio engineering after getting his BS in communications at UT, and an IS Directorship during the tech boom. He is very excited about his position at East End Wines and the match-up of philosophies with long time friend Matt Miller.
His first retail wine experience was with the Austin Wine Merchant in the late 90’s. His next wine-related position was with the Headliners Club, where he has been since 2000. There he creates the wine list, deals with about seventy local wine representatives & suppliers, and maintains the wine cellars for the club. While sommelier at the Headliners Club over the past decade, he has also worked at Sardine Rouge, Demi-Epicurious, The Lakeway Inn and Conference Resort, and Mars Restaurant and Bar. He has also served as wine buyer for the Wild Wood Art Café, and Gourmage of Texas in New Braunfels. He has acted as a consultant or wine buyer for many other restaurants and retail shops, including a brief stint on the wine committee for Twin Liquors. His current big project is buying wines for Swift’s Attic, since their inception, and for the upcoming Wu Chow. Sam continues to consult and operate special private events, working with a variety of catering companies. He looks forward to many more great dinners and tastings.
Sam passed the first two stages of the International Sommelier Guild’s degree in 2002, and got his Sommelier degree in 2005. The International Sommelier Guild is one of the few institutions with a diploma program specific to sommeliers. The extremely broad ranging curriculum covers viticulture, vinification, tasting techniques, cellaring, investment strategy, menu design, and regional analysis of wines, spirits, and beer. Tasting is comprehensive and in-depth with regard to wine components and regional wines. In the six months of the final course, participants taste over 400 wines, beer & spirits. To achieve certification, candidates must successfully pass all parts of a five-part, two-day examination that covers wine knowledge, restaurant wine management, wine service, and blind tasting. Sam is now helping others study for their certifications by administering blind tastings at the shop. You can keep up with what he is tasting by following him on Vivino here – http://www.vivino.com/users/samh