From Orange Grove to the Vineyards of Napa

Aggie Undergrad Shares Wine at Century Square.

TM Studio

April 2023

When you get Hunter Ham talking about wine, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been working in the industry for decades. The sommelier at PORTERS Dining + Butcher didn’t know much of anything about wine when he moved to College Station from Orange Grove just a few short years ago to start school at Texas A&M. Now, he curates a wine list with well over 200 bottles for one of the finest restaurants in the Brazos Valley.

“I grew up in a family where you kind of have to pay your way, take care of yourself,” Ham says. “I didn’t work my first year of college, but after that first year, my parents said, ‘Get a job.’”

Ham found his first restaurant job in College Station at a spot that ultimately didn’t make it through the shutdowns of the pandemic. As the situation around the country improved, he landed an opportunity to serve as a waiter at PORTERS and found his calling.

“I befriended my boss, Nick Frobenius,” Ham says. Frobenius was running the PORTERS wine list at the time. “He introduced me to wine and the stories that are behind it.”

The stories surrounding the ancient beverage are part of what began Ham’s love affair with wine.

“Wine is a very beautiful thing,” Ham says. “It’s history, it’s culture, it’s a social connection for those who enjoy it.”

This social connection is another reason Ham finds serving and teaching about wine so fulfilling.

“I’ve met so many incredible people, heard so many incredible stories, and it all started with wine,” he says. “It really connects people.”

It’s of course a pleasure to recommend fantastic wine off the expansive PORTERS list to aficionados, but Ham really loves introducing wine to folks who may be intimidated by the number of choices out there.

“There’s always a place to start,” Ham says. In fact, Ham says sommeliers love newcomers to wine. “If you come over and tell a somm, ‘I want to get in to wine but I don’t know where to start,’ that’s the best thing I can hear. Let’s go on this journey together.”

Between voracious wine knowledge reading, traveling to Napa, and working at PORTERS, Ham remains an Aggie student, focusing his studies on Geographic Information Science & Technology (GIST). This might seem a long way from wine sipping, but when asked, Hunter Ham has a plan to bring it all together.

“I want to own a company eventually that uses GIST land surface mapping to build vineyards,” Ham says. “One day I’d like to own my own vineyard.”

In the meantime, go let Hunter Ham pour you a glass of wine this Spring at PORTERS. He’ll be sure to have a recommendation.