Rub Elbows With Really Smart Wine People

Last August, three Austin-area wine experts swept TexSom: the Texas Sommelier Conference Competition. Devon Broglie, Craig Collins, and Scott Cameron brought home the gold and apparently one other prize as well. This year, TexSom will be held in Austin, at the Four Seasons Hotel, on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 19 and 20. The exciting news is that most of the proceedings are open to the public.

Now, lest you be timid about attending such an august conference, you should know that the Sunday classes are aimed at anyone interested in the specific area under discussion. There will be classes on Alsace, the Rhone, Western Australia, dessert wines, and wines from U.S. states that don't touch the Pacific Ocean. Each class costs $35, or you can go to all five for $100. Not only will you get some education, but they'll be pouring samples of the wines. And master sommeliers get some pretty good samples.

On Monday, TexSom is inviting the public to a grand tasting ($75). This is a terrific opportunity to taste wines alongside some of the smartest wine people on earth. Imagine being able to ask a master sommelier for recommendations on wines or trips or restaurants. These are people who make the pleasures of the table their life's work, and the depth of their knowledge will amaze you.

In fact, achieving even the first levels of the master sommelier is daunting; finishing the process is nearly impossible. Only six candidates in the U.S. have passed on the first go-round. The last was Paul Roberts, at the time a UT grad living in Houston but now the wine manager for the French Laundry in California and Per Se in New York. He'll be among the teachers passing on his knowledge and experience. As will the hilarious Guy Stout, currently Texas' only master sommelier. Besides our native sons, 20 other master sommeliers and masters of wine from around the country will be attending, so this is a great chance for wine lovers who want to expand their knowledge.

The event is sponsored by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, one of the most active nonprofits in the country when it comes to educating the public about the delights of wine. Their board of directors obviously understands that one way to educate the public is to have more educators. Hence the opportunity for oenophiles to demonstrate their knowledge by having a master sommelier certification.

If wine fascinates you and you love to learn, you won't find a better opportunity. Tickets are available now at

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