Texas does a great job in educating and organizing its sommeliers.
First there is a Texas Sommelier Association, a trade association for Texas wine professionals. The group aims to promote wine service standards in the state, to outline avenues for further wine education and certification, and to raise public awareness about professional standards and certification for sommeliers. This may be unique to Texas.
With the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, the Sommelier Association sponsors the TexSom, a singular sommelier program created to educate sommeliers and act as a change agent in the Texas wine service profession. The goal, in reality, is to help sommeliers pass the very tough Master Sommelier (MS) exam.
TexSom, the real brainchild of sommeliers Drew Hendricks MS, James Tidwell, and Guy Stout MS, began life as a conference four years ago with only one Master Sommelier and four candidates in Texas. Now, there are three Master Sommeliers and nine candidates in Texas.
Hendricks developed the idea of a sommelier competition, and Tidwell conceived of a wine education weekend.
Held the 16th through 18th of August in Austin, at the lovely Four Seasons Hotel, the program was by all accounts well-conceived and well-executed.
Each of the two days featured educational sessions on wine regions, led by Master Sommeliers. The Sommelier Competition ran at the same time, so many of the students attended the program sporadically. The competition was like a baby MS exam, with a written part, tasting exam and service challenge; all judges were MSs.
The seminars offered basic but comprehensive knowledge on wine regions. One seminar stood out, on the complicated topic of Erstes Gewaches, the mind-boggling grand cru classification system for dry German Rieslings. Tim Gaiser MS and Woody de Luna from Republic Distributing in San Antonio, Texas did a masterful job of untangling the topic.
The program concluded with a walk-around tasting (open to the public for a fee) and the announcement of the winners of the competition. Winners of third place, and a $1,000 scholarship for further studies in the MS program were Kim Wood from Pappas Brothers and D'Lynn Proctor of Wine'Tastic (both in Dallas); second place and a $1,500 scholarship to Laura Atkinson from Horizon Wines in San Antonio; and in first place and the $2,500 scholarship to Scott Barber of the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas.
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