When Patrick Okubo appeared on MidWeek‘s May 2, 2012, cover, he had just received his master sommelier certificate. At the time, he was one of only three people in the state, including MidWeek‘s own Roberto Viernes, to hold the prestigious title.
Now, a couple years later, that number hasn’t increased.
But with a desire to educate others, Okubo wants to mentor and train future master sommeliers to enhance the small community.
“It feels good, overall, that I’m part of an exclusive club,” he says. “But on the other hand, it’s like you’re out here in Hawaii, there’s only three of us — we need more of a network; we need more of us.”
Currently, three students are under his tutelage, hoping to succeed in the test that took Okubo two tries before passing. He also leads several classes on a monthly basis.
“I’m doing so much training this year at every level,” he says.
His day job also is committed to doing what he loves. As fine-wine educator for Young’s Market Company, Okubo works with just about everyone — from staff in hotels and restaurants to co-workers and consumers — to get them excited about wine. He participates in wine dinners each month, and during the holidays you even may find him selling wine at Tamura’s Fine Wines and Liquors.
As an educator, Okubo enjoys teaching any audience. In restaurants, he is able to see people new to wine dive in and progress. With consumers, Okubo is able to interact with those who are actually drinking the wine.
“To create the experience for them by telling them a story about the wine and teaching them something about the wine — that increases their taste or the enjoyment of the wine because of the experience,” he says. “That’s what I get out of it.”
He first began working with wine in 2006. His expertise in the topic is infectious and engaging, as he explains that he usually can tell exactly what type of wine a person would prefer. Someone who likes plain espresso, for instance, would enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon, while another who prefers something sweeter, like AriZona green tea, might want a Riesling.
“I’m, like, 90 percent right,” he says with a laugh.
One of the reasons Okubo wanted to get into wine was to travel. His job with Young’s Market Company has allowed him to do that annually, having sent him to Chile, Italy and most recently France.
“It’s a dream come true,” he says.
Much like the actual traveling he gets to do, what he loves most about wine is its ability to transport a person.
“It takes you someplace,” he says. “Through that glass, you can see someplace else in the world.
“Whether that be thinking about some little village or some town, the culture, the food — it takes you someplace else.”