Rachel DelRocco Goes From Teahouse to Texsom Champ

By Russell Kane / Photography By Courtney Perry & James Skogsberg | September 02, 2016
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Rachel high-five’s with her sommelier study group after her Texsom win (from left to right: Cat Nguyen, Rachel DelRocco, Adam Toon, Matt Crawford).

Houston Sommelier Rachel DelRocco from Camerata at Paulie’s returned from Dallas after attending the Texas Sommeliers Conference. This was her fourth trip to attend, test or volunteer at Texsom. But this year she returned as the winner of the 2016 Texsom Sommelier Competition where she bested 23 other competitors from Texas and surrounding states. For DelRocco this illustrates the long leap from her early days as a New York teahouse manager to Texsom Champ today.

For many that attend Texsom, the closed-door sommelier competition is a bit mysterious. Competitors go inside a room, the door closes and only a precious few come out to a winner’s fanfare. Clearing the mystery, Rachel said: “The Texsom competition is attractive to wine professionals like me because it is a snapshot of what is required and what challenges lay ahead to advance through the Master Sommelier certification process.

There was a wine theory exam, a blind tasting exercise and a service exam where I had to serve wine to a table of Master Sommeliers. Total time is only about an hour, but it’s broken up into three parts given over a full day, which is a bit nerve racking.”

Rachel relaxing at Camerata

In her Texsom win, DelRocco acknowledged the role of her Houston study group who are all going through the advanced sommelier certification process. They spend late-night hours testing each other on the finer points of wine knowledge and service. The group includes co-worker Adam Toon, Matt Crawford (State of Grace Restaurant) and Cat Nguyen (Republic Distributing). They were all present at Texsom and were DelRocco’s cheering section between exams and at the award presentation. 

Study group member Adam Toon said: “This was really Rachel’s win. But, it was also a win for Camerata where Rachel and I work and are tutored by Master Sommelier David Keck. We feel that this is also a big win for our study group.”

DelRocco said: “I left the competition not really having a good feeling about my service exam. But later, I was lifted because the judges said that despite a few miscues they appreciated my comfortableness and the sense of hospitality that I conveyed under the stress of competition. I was buoyed because this is the stuff that as a sommelier I feel is our ultimate mission. It’s what t I strive to do everyday, and it was highly regarded in the competition.”

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