Scott Ota Is "Texas' Best Sommelier" 2013, James Watkins of Houston Takes Third Place

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Which Austrian wine appellation lies farther to the north, Kremstal or Kamptal?

What's the minimum alcohol content required for the first fermentation for wines destined to become Moscato d'Asti in Piedmont, Italy?

These are the type of "theory" questions that wine professionals must answer when competing to become the best sommelier in Texas, a title and accompanying scholarship awarded each year on the last day of Texsom, the annual Texas sommelier conference, now in its ninth year.

But most say that the theory exam is the easiest. (The answers are Kamptal and 10 percent.)

The other two exams cover service and blind tasting.

The service portion is conducted in a mock restaurant setting, with Master Sommeliers posing as the guests.

But just to ensure that the pressure is truly olympic in caliber, the candidates must also blind-taste and correctly answer the following questions: What grape was the wine made from? Where is it from? And what vintage, in other words, in what year, was the wine vinified?

The experience is nerve-racking, to say the least.

The winners were announced last night at the Texsom gala tasting, with Scott Ota of Arro in Austin taking the title, Luis La Torre of Spec's in Dallas taking second place and James Watkins of the Cordúa Restaurant Group in Houston taking third place.

Twenty-five Texas wine professionals from across the state competed for the honor.

As the winner of this year's competition, Ota received $2,500 from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation to be used for a Court of Master Sommeliers certification program.

La Torre received a $1,500 scholarship and Watkins was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

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