Of the mere 158 people in the Americas to ever receive the accreditation of Master Sommelier since the Court’s first exam in 1969, only 24 have been women. One of those women, June Rodil, is the beverage director of McGuire Moorman Hospitality and is responsible for coordinating the beverage menus for some of Austin’s most popular restaurants.
June came to Austin in 1998 when she was accepted to the University of Texas at Austin. Throughout her time in college, she worked at the famous Driskill Hotel as a server, and it was during this time June realized she was already doing what she loved, picking out wines and making meals better.
So what did she do? She decided to pursue a career as a sommelier, but becoming a sommelier, and especially a Master Sommelier, isn’t as easy as simply drinking wine all day.
“It’s very tedious. It’s very time-consuming. It’s less glamorous than people think. It’s a lot of time away from your significant other,” June said as she explained how it took her three attempts to pass the Master Sommelier exam. “It’s a growing process. You feel a lot of rejection. It really teaches you to be steadfast in what you believe in.”
As glamorous as being a Somm may seem, it requires learning unfathomable amounts of information about wine, ranging from the history and soil composition of every wine-producing region in the world to each region’s regulations to all kinds of grape varietals and where they’re from to wine theory to winemaking methods and even being able to specifically identify a wine all the way down to its producer simply based on its appearance, aroma and taste. To make things even more stressful, these exams only roll around once a year, and only a handful have ever passed the Master Sommelier exam in one fell swoop. For June, it took her three years to pass.
“It’s like how you have to deal with the hangover if you want to have a good time out,” is how she compared the process of becoming a Master Somm. “It’s a long haul, but it feels so good when you finish.”
But as a result of the arduous process, she also made some of the best friendships she’s ever had and became close to some other women pursuing the Master title.
“In the end, there’s so few ladies you kind of have to band together. We also have better outfits than the guys,” June joked. Aside from having a killer study group with the friends she made, the key to her passing her exam was taking the position as Beverage Director at McGuire Moorman Hospitality where she was able to work hands-on with wine on a daily basis. Part of her responsibilities as Beverage Director are to mentor the somms below her in addition to giving classes once a week to the MMH staff, which pushed her to truly know and understand her material.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is mentorship. I love being there to help the wine managers and sommeliers grow and love helping other women grow,” she said. Her role also entails curating each beverage menu, from wine and spirits to coffee, at every one of MMH’s eight restaurants, including their recent addition, June’s All Day – a French Bistro featuring an extensive wine list that the founders only saw fitting to name after her. Buried in the vast wine list is June’s Brut Rosé, which was launched in October.
“I really wanted to make a rosé because that’s what everyone in our restaurants wants to be drinking on a porch on a sunshiny day,” she said. The dry rosé is produced in Austria by a friend of June’s and has been a smash hit. So much so, MMH is expanding its reach to retail shelves to meet the demand for the bubbly outside of their restaurants. Curating and managing the beverage menus for eight restaurants, and two additional projects in the works, June never has an average day.
“I just have to prioritize and remember that I can’t be everywhere at once. On any given day I can start as early as 8 a.m. and can end as late as 2 a.m. helping close down a restaurant. I try to throw in a yoga class to stay sane,” June said.
Things have been a little extra chaotic recently with their new projects: JoAnn’s, a healthy Mexican-American neighborhood restaurant next to the Austin Motel, and Clark’s Oyster Bar, which is expanding into Aspen. She envisions plenty of tequila cocktails that inspire patio time in addition to very approachable wines on the menu at JoAnn’s, while Clark’s will feature an extensive list of seafood-friendly wines with “lots of Chablis flowing.”
Even though she always has her hands full, June loves her job, and despite the path to becoming a master being long and winding and full of roadblocks that tested her, it truly allowed her to figure out who she really is. So, would she do it again? “Without a doubt.”