Featured Wine Professional: Will Costello
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Current Job: Wine Director, Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
Notable Awards: Recently passed the Master Sommelier exam
Everyone has a story. Tell us how you knew you wanted to become a sommelier? What was your “light bulb” moment?
My light bulb moment to wanting to become a sommelier came from meeting my mentor, Jesse Rodriguez. He was the Wine Director for the Grand Del Mar where we worked together. His pedigree as a French Laundry alum probably piqued my interest most, but then the knowledge he had about service, his ability with guests, his vast network of friends all over the world. All of it said to me “I wanna be that guy!” And, thankfully he took me under his wing.
Contrary to popular belief, you probably don’t sit back and drink Montrachet all day. What does your typical day really look like?
I start by checking emails in the morning to review revenues from the prior night in all of the outlets. I run the wine program for the hotel so to see sales reports based upon covers gives me a picture of general business trends. I arrive to the office about 2pm, spend most of my time from 2 to 5pm at my desk although it is very rare that that is not interrupted by a tasting with a distributor, visiting the outlets to check on current stock of wine, visiting the Storeroom to pick up invoices and stock wines in bins. It’s a big operation for one guy. 5 nights a week I spend between 5 to 6 hours on the floor of the fine dining restaurant TWIST as the floor Sommelier.
What is the most difficult part of your job as a sommelier?
As a sommelier the most difficult part is deciphering general vernacular into a wine recommendation. When someone says they want a sweet red wine, they mean fruit forward…Don’t they. Or do they actually mean something like Port? Or something with just some residual sugar like Aussie Grenache or California Zinfandel? Trying to get it right with the least number of questions is the goal. It is like playing 20 questions really fast.
What are the most rewarding things about your profession?
Mentoring others and helping to educate the next generation of wine directors, sommeliers or average consumers.
What was the biggest ”break” in your career?
I guess getting a job as a wine director for a 5 star resort having never actually bought wine before. I only knew how to run a restaurant and saw average customers general preferences. That someone would let me run a wine program which does about $4.2 Million in wine alone with very little real world knowledge was a BIG BREAK.
How have things changed in your career since passing the MS exam?
They have not….Not yet.
If you could change one thing about the wine industry, what would it be?
I wish there was more quality wine available at a more reasonable price. Despite what might be the popular belief, I don’t make a ton of money. I wish I could go to a regular restaurant, get an $11 glass of quality Red wine and a good plate of food. At least in Las Vegas and what I have seen on some visits to other cities, this is difficult to do with the current pricing structure of wine.
Name your top 3 favorite wine regions Adelaide Hills, Australia; Loire Valley, France; Rhone Valley, France
If you could get your hands on any bottle of wine in the world, what would it be?
1900 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger TBA
Do you have one tip to help select a better bottle of wine?
Yes, avoid the major regions. If you are buying without actually knowing the product, the general consumer is going to be much happier with a Hawke’s Bay New Zealand Syrah for value than one from Santa Barbara. Same for Cabernet from Colchagua Valley Chile than Napa Valley. Dollar for dollar, look for similar wines from up and coming regions.
What is your definition of success in your industry?
Having someone pass their Master Sommelier Exam who I have helped mentor from the early stages. This would be the definition of what I would find successful.
What’s next for you?
I am going to get married to my beautiful fiancée Yvette. Of course we are having a wine themed wedding. Her choice, not mine!