Best New Sommeliers of 2013
Will Costello, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas
After piloting planes to Las Vegas, Costello is now piloting a wine program in Las Vegas.
Ever since he was five years old, Will Costello had wanted to be a pilot. But he discovered a life in flying wasn't all he'd imagined. "I felt like a bus driver in the sky," he says of his training in aviation. Instead, he was happier on the floor of Blue Fire Grill, in Carlsbad, California, where he worked when he wasn't flying planes. It was there he had his wine epiphany.
"A coworker—who was definitely drinking on the job—offered up a taste of the liquid in his coffee mug." Tasting it, Costello deciphered the grapefruit and cut-grass flavors of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. "It blew my mind that I was able to pick out the nuances, and from then on, I was hooked." Costello nabbed a job at Addison restaurant at the Grand del Mar hotel in San Diego and after meeting sommelier Jesse Rodriguez (a W&S Best New Sommelier 2007), he started studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers. As maître d', he had exposure to the restaurant's deep list and Rodriguez's impressive knowledge, but he was involved only peripherally in the wine program.
Encouraged by Masters Matthew Citriglia and Greg Harrington, he set his sights on a wine director position in Las Vegas, where there is a strong community of sommeliers and scores of big name chef restaurants. He landed as wine director for the Mandarin Oriental, overseeing the wine program for all five of its restaurants including the flagship, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, the French chef's sole venture in the United States. Meanwhile, he remains intent on preparing for his MS exam, studying wine each morning for a couple of hours, and hopes to earn his letters next year. —Caitlin Griffith
I've been a Chargers season ticket holder for 14 years, so it was imperative that when I moved from the San Diego area that I be able to get back for home games on Sunday. The five-hour drive after service on Saturday night speeds by. To be honest, I've finally given in and gotten a tattoo for the team.
We have this option at Twist where we pair seven varietals from seven regions for each of the seven courses. It's funny to see how people react to the pours&mdhas;some are incredibly relieved when I pour them something French, while frequently diners are amazed that I am pouring them a glass from Slovenia. We have a crayfish dish with a base of morel cream, braised turnips and a Champagne and onion syrup. It's a fascinating combination with Zaria, a Slovenian field blend from Batic—an orange wine, aged in amphorae, rich with umami. The textures are rich on rich, harmonious and inspirational.
Burgundy holds that number one spot for me, but after spending some time in Mendoza, I was taken by the European charm and tree-lined streets. I'd return for the Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard White Stones, or its sister wine, the White Bones. They're mineral driven, Chablis-style wines from a place not typically known for this style of white.
I'm energized about the uptick in dry wines arriving from the Douro Valley. Some of the best I've seen are the Niepoort options.
I love to cook, both for myself and for dinner parties. The easiest thing is a four-hour Bolognese, which everyone seems impressed by— you just cook it long and low. I add in a few ingredients to amp up the umami flavors, including fish sauce and Maggi.
When I was a commercial pilot, Lotus of Siam was my go-to spot for lunch in Vegas. Now I make Thai curries, especially Massaman style. Since I love those vibrant Thai flavors, I started growing lemongrass in my backyard. It seriously grows like a weed! Vegas is a desert so it is a challenge to grow much else.
Six times a year, my dog and I will scale Mount Whitney [the highest peak in the contiguous United States, in the Sierra Nevadas] and I've ascended peaks in Africa, Alaska and Argentina, but it'd be ideal to summit the highest peaks on all seven continents.