The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2018

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Page 26 of 96

26  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2018 I n a leafy nook of San Antonio's his- toric 22-acre Pearl Brewery develop- ment, Advanced Sommelier Scott Ota and his staff of ten at High Street Wine Company take inspiration from beer culture to excite their customers about wine. Historians might say it's a perfect fit, as German brewers first made lager here in 1833, transporting their beer by wagon to thirsty residents of the new American city. "When we looked for inspiration for High Street, we looked at wine bars all across the United States," says Ota, a Houston native who loves white Burgundy, light Italian reds, and anything sparkling. "I looked to beer gardens, too—I love how well they integrate community." And because Ota believes "the idea behind wine is to share it with somebody [and] to create conversation," they opt for a welcom- ing, casual atmosphere at High Street. "There are no suits, no pins, no table- cloths," he explains. "It's just us in jeans and T-shirts, pouring wine and talking." High Street serves wines, beers, and ciders from around the world, offering palate-expanding options for customers seeking recommendations. "It's never about what I like; it's about what's best for them," Ota explains. "If someone orders a Pinot Grigio because it's a wine they recognize, I tell them, sure, we have a banging Pinot by the glass. But if they want to try something new, we have this Albariño that's a little more floral, and maybe they should give it a taste." With 240 wines from roughly 20 distributors occupying his list, Ota says he focuses first and foremost on value. "Is a wine representative of a great place or process? For example, if I'm going to get a Chianti from Tuscany, it better taste like sour cherries and fresh herbs," he says with a laugh. "But it doesn't matter if it's a $20 bottle or an $800 bottle: It still should deliver value for its place, prestige, process, and what have you." Readily enthusing about future High Street projects like cellar storage space and a "wine dive" serving outstanding value-priced bottles, Ota seems to have one cohesive goal: to do whatever it takes to help people fall in love with wine. "Like music and art, wine is an art form that's expressive of culture, geology, history, politics, economics . . . all those things," he says. Knowing he'll never master it all is fine by Ota: It only keeps him thirsty for more. Freelance writer and agave lover Lori Moffatt covered Texas travel topics for more than two decades at Texas Highways, the state's award-winning monthly travel magazine. When she's not writing about cocktails, wine, art, and pop culture from her home in Austin, she's traveling, making art, and practicing Spanish. Scott Ota, General Manager and Wine Director for High Street Wine Company, offers more than 240 selections to adventurous drinkers in San Antonio. An Earthly Art Form SAN ANTONIO'S SCOTT OTA WANTS TO POUR YOU A GLASS story and photo by Lori Moffatt

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