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.