Austinites Sweep Texas Sommelier Competition
Scott Cameron, Craig Collins, and Devon Broglie
The room was crowded with people making the happy noises of folks who had been drinking fine wines for the past hour. Everyone went silent as local radio personality Jim White approached the microphone. He was about to announce the winners of the Texas' Best Sommelier competition.
The crowd had come to the luxurious Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas for the crowning event of the second annual Texas Sommelier Conference, an educational get-together for the state's finest wine professionals, all hopeful that one day they might become master sommeliers. They were also there to hear the results of the grueling invitational tournament testing the wine knowledge of 25 of the best sommeliers in Texas.
The Austin-based Wine & Food Foundation of Texas sponsored the event, so the room had an extraordinary contingency of Austinites, there to cheer on the local entrants. The contestants dressed formally and used distinctly un-Austin manner. ("Good afternoon, Mr. Marshall so glad you could attend" replaced "Right on, dude it's so cool you're here.")
Master Sommelier Greg Harrington took the stage and announced that, owing to the unique and superb quality of three of the contestants, the judges had decided to award three awards. The first to be announced, second runner-up, went to Scott Cameron of Epicurean Wines, a recent Katrina evacuee who is now calling Austin home.
Next at the microphone was Guy Stout, the only master sommelier in Texas (there are only 75 in the United States). He announced Craig Collins of Prestige Wine Cellars, another Austinite.
Finally, Master Sommelier Fred Dame stepped on stage to announce Texas' Best Sommelier. Collins and Cameron and their friend all stood tense. When the award was announced, the three all started jumping and shouting. The third of the group, Devon Broglie, from Whole Foods Market Lamar location, was the winner. Austin had swept the awards.
Afterward, I talked with them about the contest. They had worked together every week for a year, testing one another, setting up blind tastings, challenging one another at the highest level.
Cameron remembered how it felt when he heard his name: "Honestly, it was just disbelief. It wasn't until I saw Devon and Craig jumping up and down and cheering that it sank in."
Collins believes that the reason they won was hard work. "We swept because we put the time and effort into it," he says. "I don't think there is another group in the state as dedicated as we are."
The winner shared something I heard from all, a sense of altruism aimed at his hometown. "I'm hopeful that this is a small step to placing Austin at a higher level as a serious wine town," Broglie says. "A big thing for us is how excited we are about wine and how much we want to share that excitement with others."