ROLL OUT THE BARREL No matter how much you know about wine, Paul Roberts probably knows more. This year, at the tender age of thirty, the wine director of Houston's Café Annie was named a master sommelier by the American chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Not only is Roberts the first person in Texas to qualify, but he also passed the excruciatingly difficult three-part exam in one attempt and he made the highest score in the country.
How did you get interested in wine? When I was a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, I signed up for a wine-tasting class, thinking it would be a good happy hour.
How does one study for the master sommelier's exam? You turn your life over to it. You are constantly tasting, constantly reading. I took a pile of books with me to San Francisco, where the final exam was held. The stack was about three feet high. The test, which involves tasting as well as written and oral exams, takes several days.
What's trendy now? That is the question we are always trying to answer. These days more and more people are interested in the white wines of Austria and reds from the southern Rhône Valley of France.
What is your favorite Texas winery? It's hard to choose between Becker Vineyards and Alamosa Wine Cellars. Those two are making some exciting wines and are actually paying attention to Texas' climate and growing conditions. They're blending wines with grapes that truly grow well here, like Syrah and Grenache.
What wine do you dream of tasting? A 1947 Comte de Vogüé Musigny "Cuvée Vieilles Vignes"—one of the world's greatest Burgundies.