Haute Sommelier: Jason Castle

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He sniffs, he swirls, he sips and he pours. Easy-to-spot in a restaurant with his trademark fedora and throwback suspenders, Jason “Cass” Castle hasn’t always been a wine-o. While studying for his LSATs nearly a decade ago, Castle was working as a wine steward to save his pennies for pending law school plans. Not too long after learning just a bit about the industry, he decided to say “see ya” to suits in favor of a life filled with wine.

Castle’s career in the grape industry began in 2003. And, after attaining Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Sommelier accreditations, Castle managed wine programs for popular Honolulu Chinatown spots, Indigo, Bar 35 and Brasserie Du Vin. Not only did Castle assist in choosing the perfect wine for his patrons, but he also co-created the weekly long-running wine club, “Wrath of Grapes.”

Always full of wit with a whole lot to say, Castle started writing about food and wine a year after deciding he wanted to become a full-time beverage professional. “In college I fell in love with writing,” he recalls. “Hopefully, readers appreciate the hedonistic, fun-loving, and accessible approach I take while respecting the level of knowledge I’ve gained as a backbone to my wine rants.”

Currently, Castle writes for The Star Advertiser, Pacific Edge Magazine and various other Hawaii publications. “In my opinion, nothing is better than reading an expert break it down like you’re having a conversation with them over shots of Rumpleminz.”

While working the wine circuit in Chinatown, Castle heard about acclaimed chef Peter Merriman opening a restaurant at Kapalua Bay, one of the most beautiful spots in Maui. Merriman took a liking to Castle’s fresh approach to wine and offered him a position as beverage director and sommelier. “I honestly didn’t know if it was the right fit for me being so used to the hip Chinatown scene. But the prime location and Merriman’s reputation as one of the best chefs and restaurateurs in Hawaii lured me. Within six months, I was able to blend the downtown Honolulu vibe into Kapalua’s resort town in an artful, tasty way.”

Working with Merriman also influenced Castle’s cocktail creating philosophy. Coming from urban-minded Honolulu, he began to toy with molecular mixology using foams and chemistry. But Merriman’s devout local, organic mission inspired Castle to use fresh island ingredients. Now, Castle squeezes his own island juices and brews his very own ginger beer with herbs from his Maui backyard.

Known as a forward-thinking sommelier and award-winning mixologist, Castle continues to push himself and learn everything he can about all beverages, not just vino. And it shows. His crafty cocktail skills have made a real impact around town. The Mandarin Blossom Cosmopolitan at Indigo, Tokyo Rose at Brasserie Du Vin, The Hick and The Ginger at Merriman’s Kapalua are just a few of Castle’s notable self-created libations. And, as of yesterday, Castle is also now a Certified Specialist of Spirits.

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