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Wine, Women, and Wisdom: Bottling Up Tips & Inspiration from a Michelin-Award-Winning Sommelier

Tara Ozols, Head Sommelier at Dovetale, shares her journey, reveals her expert insights, and champions women in wine.

Published on: May 17, 2024
Dovetale V Day Dinner

Born and raised in the US, Tara Ozols’s passion, love, and overflowing knowledge of wine have led her to exquisite corners of the world—from prestigious academies to Michelin-starred restaurants. In the past ten years alone, Tara’s professional journey has taken her to places like Michelin-starred SOLA, two-Michelin-starred Marcus, organic supermarket Whole Foods, and 1 Hotel Mayfair’s culinary haven Dovetale. Along the way, Tara received the 2023 Michelin Sommelier Award and also became the face of Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame 2015—two prominent honors in the world of wine.

It goes without saying that we’re honored to have Tara as the Head Sommelier at Dovetale. Since opening, she has worked closely with the hotel’s Wine Director, Oliver Espersen, to meticulously curate Dovetale’s program to make it one of the most extensive in all of London.

We sat down with Tara to explore her illustrious journey, reveal her top tips for women in the wine industry, dive into the details of sensory analysis, and uncover the strategy behind crafting Dovetale’s award-winning program. 

More than just a wine list, the program at Dovetale includes immersive events and tastings, so you can connect with fellow enthusiasts, add to your vino knowledge, and intrigue your palate.


What initially drew you to the world of wine and viticulture?

It only took one trip to Napa, California and I fell in love—the wine was V. Sattui Johannesburg Riesling 2004. I knew from the moment I drank it I would forever be a wine lover and would work in that world one day. I am a classic somm—I could drink riesling and pinot noir endlessly. The best food wines.

As a Michelin-awarded sommelier and prominent woman in the wine industry, what key advice would you offer to women entering the wine industry?

The wine industry is changing. Once a stuffy men’s club has now a stronger group of women leading the way. Some of the most impressive wine programs in the UK are run by women, and that number is growing. I encourage any woman entering the industry to work hard, taste, taste, taste everything and don’t let the old guard intimidate you. Also, have a strong mentor. I am where I am today because of how I was trained, not what I studied. Fun fact, women have more than 30 more taste buds than men so genetically are stronger tasters. So there's additional inspo!

Can you tell us more about the sensory analysis when selecting and serving wine at 1 Hotel Mayfair?

Sensory analysis is a fundamental role of a somm and is useful in many ways. For example, it is highly important for guests who require a pairing per meal or per course. I tend to look beyond the main item of the dish and focus on sauce and veggies, both can really swing the balance. Sensory analysis is also imperative to determine the quality in wines. Evaluating wines for fault prior to service to a guest is critical to present the wine in its proper state. 

Dovetale has been rewarded with silver for Best California Wine List and Best Newcomer in the UK at the Star Wine Awards. Can you talk to us about the strategy behind a selection that appeals to all types of wine enthusiasts?

The list is international with a focus in grower champagne and California. The wine list features entries friendly to prestigious selections. We wanted to ensure the list is inclusive and excites all our guests. California is a passion project for Oliver and me, but also appeals to the ethos of 1 Hotels and a strong backbone of our guests. Additionally, wine lists with serious American wine presence are very rare in London, so it was important to showcase our unique collection.  

What are your top selections in the collection and the ideal food pairings for each?

On the somm team we are strong cabernet franc lovers, we feature a strong selection from Loire to California. The wine is naturally herbaceous with strong pepper and olives notes, it pairs perfectly with meats, veggies, and vegan cuisine. Our by-the-glass La Porte Saint Jean is a favorite for the Black Angus T-bone and also our Wye Valley asparagus. If you want to up your game, try the Clos Rogeard, one of the most acclaimed winemakers of cabernet franc in the world. We also are excited to have vertical vintages soon.

I have a strong love for white wines that taste like the ocean. High acidity and very food-friendly. We have two (of the three total vintages) of the Tameran wines from footballer David Silva via winemaker Jonatan Garcia Lima in Gran Canaria, Spain. They are indigenous, natural in style, and a true reflection of the magical volcanic island. I love to pair these wines with crudo, our roast chicken, and even cheese. 

We have worked hard to create an impressive American wine program. We feature many iconic winemakers also with aging in vertical. Some of our favorites are Ridge, Shafer, Mount Eden. All powerful wines that show best with intense flavor profiles. I love the new Lamb dish with veggie undertones or the Garlic Chicken on the lunch menu.

What is one wine myth you frequently encounter and would like to debunk?

Champagne or sparkling wine is only for celebration or aperitif. In fact, sparkling wines are perfect for food pairings and can be enjoyed throughout the entire meal. Oysters and crudos of course, but also can be enjoyed with fried food (our Fried Chicken in Dover Yard and a glass of Billecart is a gorgeous pairing), anything spicy, mains with fish, or the roast chicken at Dovetale. For dessert, my favourite—chocolate and champagne.  

Are there any other wine tips or tricks that you would like to share?

Be adventurous in your wine selection. If you like pinot noir from France or California, try Tasmania. If you typically drink sauvignon blanc (like 40% of the market here in the UK) give chardonnay another go. Also, give your local wine shops some love. The people who work there are educated, generally keen to help, and can help you with a unique selection. 

Take a Vino Voyage

Join us for intriguing wine tastings and experiences at 1 Hotel Mayfair, so you can continue to expand your palate and bottle up more knowledge straight from the experts.

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