About

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TEXSOM was founded in 2005 as the Texas Sommelier Conference by Master Sommeliers (then Advanced Sommeliers) James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks to help promote professional wine service standards, outline paths for further beverage education and certification, and raise public awareness about professional standards and certifications for sommeliers. What began as an opportunity for Texas sommeliers to learn and train evolved into an international event for beverage professionals from all tiers of the industry to network and grow.

An integral part of the TEXSOM Conference from its inception is the TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition which operates behind-the-scenes of the conference . The sommelier competition was created to offer sommeliers the ability to understand the rigor and discipline involved in certification studies. The exam consists of three portions – theory, blind wine tasting, and practical service scenarios - judged by Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine. In recent years the competition expanded to include competitors from neighboring states: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Top prizes include scholarships awarded by the SOMMFoundation to be used for Court of Master Sommeliers certification programs. The history of competitors reveals a long list of top beverage professionals with many of the previous winners now known internationally.

In 2014, the TEXSOM spirit of camaraderie and community expanded from an annual conference and sommelier competition to include a wine awards of international scope. Tidwell and Hendricks took over the already successful and well-respected Dallas Morning News Wine Competition from founder Rebecca Murphy and changed the name to TEXSOM International Wine Awards (IWA). The first wine awards under the new ownership included an expansion of the judging team, a first-of-its-kind Sommelier Retreat, and publication of Sommelier, TEXSOM’S first publication. The years since have seen the competition grow in number of entries, diversity of wines, recognition of reputation, and reach of results with sommeliers. TEXSOM IWA has a global quality standard and is recognized as the most selective competition in the United States due to the roster of international judges who participate.

In conjunction with the TEXSOM IWA, the TEXSOM Sommelier Retreat continues the spirit of community building and learning while offering top beverage professionals a unique opportunity to enhance engagement with the TEXSOM IWA production team, winery and importer entrants, and the submitted wines. Key wine buyers from across the United States participate in mentored blind tastings, educational seminars, and trainings utilizing wine awards entrants from current and past competitions and categories of wines of notable presence in the competition. Immediately after judges evaluate entries, Sommelier Retreat members taste medal-winning wines and create written “stories” from the sommelier perspective for feature online and in print. Sommeliers are mentored in communication and writing by an editor team of noted journalists and in sommelier knowledge and skills by a cadre of Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, and other wine industry subject area specialists.

Through these and other initiatives in development, TEXSOM fosters relationships, facilitates learning, encourages critical thinking, and advances the industry with a look to the future while embracing deep gratitude for all who have committed time, effort, and resources to the mission, especially for those who first believed in the vision from the beginning.

our team

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James Tidwell MS CWE

TEXSOM Co-Founder

Together with fellow Master Sommelier Drew Hendricks, the two founded TEXSOM in 2005. The conference has become the premiere professional beverage education event in the country, attracting a prominent list of attendees, presenters, and sponsors from around the world. Tidwell is also Co-Owner and Producer of the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, formerly the Dallas Morning News and TEXSOM Wine Competition, one of the largest and most recognized wine competitions in the country. In addition to his work with TEXSOM, Tidwell is the Master Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Thanks in large part to Tidwell’s management, the hotel has been nominated five times for a James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Beverage Program.

James Tidwell MS CWE

TEXSOM Co-Founder
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Drew Hendricks MS CWE

TEXSOM Co-Founder

For nearly two decades, Drew Hendricks has been at the forefront of wine and spirits sales and education. His open nature and passionate drive for excellence is without equal. Time and again, throughout his career, he has demonstrated that he is one of the world’s best at his craft.

Hendricks is currently Director of Business Development- Fine Wine at Republic National Distributing Company in Texas and is one of fewer than 250 individuals in the world to hold the title of Master Sommelier. Service and education is what led him to partner with fellow Master Sommelier James Tidwell, in the creation of TEXSOM in 2005.  The conference has become the premiere professional beverage education event in the country, attracting a prominent list of attendees, presenters, and sponsors from around the world. Prior to finding his path in the wine business, Hendricks served in the United States Army and put himself through culinary school at the end of his tour. Both experiences helped form his passion for wine and food, and helped form a foundational belief in the need for discipline and excellence in wine education and service.

Drew Hendricks MS CWE

TEXSOM Co-Founder
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Donaji Lira

TEXSOM Events Manager

Originally from Dallas, Donaji moved to Austin in 1992 to pursue a career in the high-tech arena. It wasn’t long before she found herself involved in numerous leadership positions in Austin’s non-profit community. It was her volunteer efforts that eventually led to a position as Director of The Rare & Fine Wine Auction in Austin. She has also has an extensive background in membership and sponsor relations. Donaji returned to Dallas in December of 2011 and is now the Events Manager for TEXSOM.

Donaji Lira

TEXSOM Events Manager
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Amie Hendrickson

TEXSOM Operations Manager

Amie Hendrickson joined the TEXSOM team as Operations Manager in January 2019 after 20 years as General Manager at Edmond Wine Shop, a fine wine and beverage retailer in Oklahoma. In addition to her duties at the shop Amie coordinated education for Wine Forum of Oklahoma at Oklahoma State University, a biennial education event that raises scholarships for the hospitality program. Her studies include the disciplines offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Society of Wine Educators, and WSET. Amie has been an active and enthusiastic volunteer at the TEXSOM Conference and contributor for the Sommelier Retreat at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards.

Amie Hendrickson

TEXSOM Operations Manager