Sommelier Jack Hott of Castagna - Biography

Portland, OR

November 2011

Fueled by the works of Jack Kerouac, when Jack Hott started off on a trip from his native Ohio to Oregon, he was more interested in life discovery, meandering road trips, and deep thought than decanting wine or detecting flavanoids. When he arrived in Portland, weary from the road, he started waiting tables at restaurants, and eventually worked his way around to Castagna. His analytical mind (honed by a love of literature) turned out to be a great fit for the fine-dining temple, and he steadily worked his way from bussing tables and waiting tables to bartending, and finally, to serving as sommelier.

Hott made the job his education, hitting the books and learning about wine from his employers and local winemakers. When the staff sommelier left, Hott was handed the reins of the wine program until the restaurant could find a permanent replacement. He leapt at the challenge, and proved his mettle—so much so that Castagna stopped looking.

A fixture at Castagna for a decade, Hott pairs wines with complex dishes and locally foraged ingredients that most chefs, let alone sommeliers, haven’t heard of. As the chefs have changed at Castagna over the years, Hott has tweaked his approach from pairing with regional food to pairing with Matt Lightner’s modernist cuisine. Now that Lightner has left for New York, his replacement will present a new challenge. But it’s one that Hott is more than excited to live up to. His flexibility, affable tableside manner, and eloquent wine pairings make him a mainstay in the Portland wine scene, evidence once again of Portland’s power to draw talented dreamers into calling the city their home.