It's been called "the little sommelier conference that could."
When newly minted Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks founded Texsom (August 8-10), the Texas Sommelier Conference, eleven years ago, neither of them imagined that the event would become a major stop on the international fine wine circuit.
It started out as a homegrown educational gathering that was conceived to help Court of Master Sommelier candidates and Guild of Sommeliers students hone their skills for the grueling tests that lay before them: Theory, service, and blind tasting, an exam that requires them to identify the provenance, grape(s), and vintage of a wine without seeing its label.
Today, Texsom draws internationally acclaimed wine celebrities and 1,000 attendees from 29 states and 6 countries. For the last nine years, it's been held at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving (Dallas) where Tidwell serves as wine director and sells out within two weeks from the moment tickets go on sale. This year, said Tidwell in an email, the hotel sold out within 48 hours.
The conference schedule continues to expand, with more and more seminars, tastings, and wines (a whopping 600 wines will be poured) added each year.
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But the biggest news this year is that for the first time in the event's history, the "Best Sommelier in Texas Competition" has been changed to the "Texsom Best Sommelier Competition" and will include candidates from "contiguous" states New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
30 wine professionals applied to take part this year, said Tidwell, and 25 were accepted.
Of these, nine are Houstonians: Andres Blanco (Amalfi), Kayla Garcia (Corner Table), Matthew Garcia (The Capital Grille), Thomas Moësse (Divino), Taylor Mundy, Dario Najera (Peska), Samantha Porter, Whitney Seng (River Oaks Country Club), and Lindsay Thomas (Camerata).
Last year, seven of the 25 candidates were from Houston but Joelle Cousins of Austin took home the title.