TexSom 2011

Seven years ago, James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks had an idea. Why not get a bunch of sommeliers together for a conference to help them learn more about wine? Their plan, shall we say, was met with some skepticism.

Which just goes to show how little the wine business knows about the wine business. The group that the two men started, the Texas Sommelier Association, will hold its seventh annual conference this weekend, and it has become one of the foremost wine education events in the country — not only for sommeliers and restaurant wine professionals, but consumers as well. This is where wine drinkers who are ready to take the next step can do just that, and in a mostly friendly and unsnotty environment.

TexSom has become so successful, in fact, that the three-day event is mostly sold out. More, after the jump:

How big a deal has TexSom become? There are 112 master sommeliers in North America (including Tidwell, Hendricks, and the group's third co-founder, Guy Stout) and 30 of them will be at the conference.

"The one thing we've always tried to do is to focus on our founding principles," says Tidwell, who is the sommelier at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in suburban Dallas. Hendricks is the director of beverage education for Pappas Restaurants in Houston, and Stout is the education director for Glazer’s Distributors in Texas. "We're covering a little more ground than we did when we started, but the idea is still the same: to give sommeliers a chance to get together to talk to each other and to exchange ideas."

The Wine Curmudgeon can't recommend the conference highly enough. I've attended, and we linked it to our first DrinkLocalWine.com conference in Dallas in 2009. Even though most of the events and seminars are sold out, if you're in the Dallas area this weekend, it's worth checking to see if tickets are left for the grand tasting.

Also worth noting: The Texas Best Sommelier competition, which is exactly what it sounds like. A dozen or so contestants are tested in wine knowledge, wine service and the like, and the winner gets scholarship money to help he or she pursue their master sommelier certification. The competition takes place behind the scenes, it would be more fun to hold some sort of public taste-off, where the contestants do a blind tasting in front of an audience  and try to figure out which wine is which. But then I've always thought wine should be a spectator sport.

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