Bill Elsey, born of Texas wine

I met with him in a warmly-lit, cellar-like room: the offices of, soon to be “The Red Room,” speakeasy wine lounge in downtown Austin.  Young, dedicated and clearly driven, Bill’s passion for wine spills over into his mannerisms and gentle speech.  From Director of Sales at and, to certified sommelier with the Court of Masters Sommeliers, the “Sommelier on a stroll” for the 2011 Austin Wine and Musical Festival, and Texas’ Top Sommelier in 2011, his list of qualifications and awards is growing quickly.

Part of his success is certainly due to his unbending focus on the subject.  Preparing for a national competition for TopSomm through the U.S. Guild of Sommeliers, he admitted to studying at least an hour a day during the week (in addition to his job), plus 8 hours solo on Saturdays and with a group on Sundays.  It takes a remarkable person to dedicate themselves to such intense study… of anything.

And part is certainly fueled by an unstoppable passion, sparked right here at home in the Texas wine industry.

Bill, a native of Wimberley, Texas, graduated in 2006 with a B.A. in History from Monmouth College in Illinois, moved back to Texas and started a weekend job in the tasting room at Mandola Estate Winery, where he caught the “wine bug.”  He quickly moved into a full time position, then was promoted to run the wine program in Mandola’s restaurant.  When the Mandola and Duchman families separated, he stayed with the Duchman Family Winery managing the tasting room, public relations and marketing, as well as helping with the hands-on tasks of harvest and wine making.  During that time, he formed deep connections in the Texas wine industry and stayed close to the trends and changes in grape growing, wine making and tourism.  He worked with the Mandola and Duchman families for 5 years, before making the career change to  We had an enlightening conversation about Texas wine (which appear throughout future blogs), and it was clear that,even with this move, his roots are still showing.  We are lucky to have such a dedicated professional connected to the industry.

He continues to grow in his wine career, preparing for the Advanced Master Sommelier test, producing videos about trends in the wine industry, and progressing in certifications with the Society of Wine Educators.  He is on a determined and sure path to success.

All of this started with a weekend job at a Texas winery tasting room.

How inspiring.

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