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 tutelage 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-exciting 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, unpretentious wine retail environment with that certain Austin flair!
His first retail wine experience was with the Austin Wine Merchant in the late 90s. 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 Swifts 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 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.