Scott Ota Named Texas Best Sommelier

Texas Best Sommelier, Scott Ota, receives congratulations from his fellow competitors.
Texas Best Sommelier, Scott Ota (center), receives congratulations from his fellow competitors

The last glasses are still clinking and final wines are still being enjoyed by the capacity crowd at the final event Grand Tasting at the 9th annual TEXSOM Conference and Texas Best Sommelier Competition, ending what was by far the largest, and perhaps best, conference founders Drew Hendricks, MS, CWE and James Tidwell, MS, CWE, along with their dynamic staff and volunteers of TEXSOM, have ever put on.

Karen D'Amour with Opus One at the TEXSOM Grand Testing
Karen D’Amour with Opus One

The Grand Tasting is often the favorite event of the conference, held annually the second weekend in August at the Four Seasons Resort and Spa at Las Colinas, as this is where some of the best wines of the multi-day event are poured, often by the winemaker or owner of the winery, while snacking on hors d’oeuvres from Four Seasons Executive Chef Christof Syre, but it is also where they announce who is the best Sommelier in the state, a coveted title attained only after a group of talented Somms, this year 24 of them, are tested behind the scenes over multiple days on their skills, knowledge, service and palate.

This year first place went to Sommelier Scott Ota of the Driskill Hotel in Austin. Clearly a favorite amongst his peers, shown by the overwhelming cheers of congratulations given by the rest of the competitors, Ota beamed with joy as he accepted his Jeroboam and scholarship funds to be used for the Court of Master Sommeliers’ certification program. Second place for this year went to Sommelier Luis La Torre with Spec’s Fine Wines in Dallas, and third to Sommelier James Watkins with Cordua Restaurants in Houston (the competition is open to any Sommelier in the state.)

Exotic Fruit Saga Pudding from Chef Christof
Exotic Fruit Saga Pudding from Chef Christof

TEXSOM took on quite an undertaking this year doubling both the size and number of sessions held throughout the conference, impressive since they still sold out in record time. COO of the Guild of Sommeliers, Geoff Kruth, MS, noted on the success of the conference that it was a “game changer,” adding how lucky we are to have such a prestigious, internationally recognized educational event in Dallas. I couldn’t agree more.

Started in 2005 with a goal to increase education and service standards within the industry, it has become a premier educational destination for sommeliers and wine professionals all over the state and country, gathering some of the most prestigious in their field as both attendees and presenters. This year 30 Master Sommeliers, 4 Masters of Wine and 6 Certified Wine Educators presented throughout the weekend, covering topics ranging from White Wines of Loire Valley and a look at Modern Australia, to varietal focused discussions on Tannat, Nebbiolo and Merlot, to what I hear was a heated discussion between the buying and selling sides on the current State of the Industry/Sommelier Roundtable, and a screening of “Somm,” the documentary that follows the path of four Master Sommelier hopefuls through their prep and taking of the Master Sommelier exam, much of which was shot in Dallas.

Fredrick Osterberg and Julie Kuhlken, Co-Founders of Pedernales Cellars
Fredrick Osterberg and Julie Kuhlken, Co-Founders of Pedernales Cellars

Presented by the not-for-profit organizations The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas and the Guild of Sommeliers it is an industry focused event, but the public is also invited, as one of the main goals of the conference is to increase the awareness and knowledge of the service standards that go into being a wine professional and offer educational seminars, tastings and discussions to all that attend, novices and aficionados.

For all involved in TEXSOM 2013, congratulations on another impressive year of educating your enthusiastic attendees. James, Drew and the TEXSOM team, I hope you are enjoying a large pour right now.

 

TEXSOM Co-Founders James Tidwell (left) and Drew Hendricks
TEXSOM Co-Founders James Tidwell (left) and Drew Hendricks