Texsom calls to Houston Sommeliers
Texsom Calls to Houston Sommeliers
Today’s Houston restaurant wine scene is vibrant with restaurants featuring innovative world-class cuisine with spices, sauces, condiments and wines sourced from the four points of the compass. According to Guy Stout, Houston’s Certified Master Sommelier, it wasn’t always like this.
“Houston’s fine wine scene, while decades old, has advanced to become what we enjoy today,” he said.
Early on, Houston’s wine scene was mainly in the rarified palaces of haute cuisine with mighty chateaux of Bordeaux and domaines of Burgundy dominating wine lists. Stout added, “These were establishments where wines were given their approval by the ‘sommelier,’ who wore a large tastevin—a sliver cup used for sampling wines—on a long silver chain.”
Now, Houston offers a dynamic and less imposing sommelier presence like that provided by David Keck at Camerata wine bar and by Bill Elsey, James Watkins and Steven McDonald at Pappas Brothers Steakhouse. They work the floor with youthful vigor, readily sharing their knowledge with patrons. All admit a good deal of what they offer comes from their participation in Texsom, the Texas Sommelier Conference, held annually in Dallas for the past 11 years (texsom.com).
James Tidwell from Dallas who with Drew Hendricks started Texsom before attaining their Master Sommelier certifications, said, “In the beginning, I wanted to start a wine professional’s education weekend while Drew wanted a sommelier competition. We combined these ideas that became the Texsom nucleus. One of the most important aspects of Texsom for local wine professionals today is that they volunteer, and thus meet, work and learn with top-flight professionals from around Texas and the nation.”
Pappas’ Bill Elsey said, “I first went to Texsom while working for a Texas winery. I was on the periphery of the wine scene and felt that I needed to rub shoulders with others in the wine trade.”
Then, Elsey attended Texsom again and participated in their sommelier competition and won it. The combination of the visibility in that accomplishment and the relationships made at the conference brought Elsey to Houston, where he works and shares an apartment with fellow Pappas Steakhouse sommelier and Texsom competition finalist James Watkins.