from the outside looking in: TEXSOM at the Four Seasons Dallas.

Being married to someone in the wine business isn’t easy… you spend a lot of nights alone, taking care of your kids, drinking leftover samples and watching old movies. Friday nights are generally the hardest. During the week, I work in the biotech industry; I’m surrounded by doctors and nurses and patients all day long: educating, problem solving, and selling. I drive about 1000 miles a week, battling relentless interstates, country asphalt, and seaside highways. I’m about to hit 75K, and to be honest, with all the juggling of work and family and me time (wait-what’s that?), I decided I deserved a long weekend. Last Saturday, with Rhea in tow, I headed to Dallas to join the sommelier for TEXSOM, and to enjoy a little leisure time.


TEXSOM has been around for ten years, and is growing in popularity. There are different options for those taking education courses, working volunteers, as well as a competition for Texas’ Best Sommelier. Industry hosts hospitality suites after the daily grind, and everyone comes together during a Grand Tasting the final evening. It’s a whirlwind of wine, and an increasingly important conference for the sommelier.

Did I mention it’s held at the Four Seasons Dallas? Yes, please!


Navigating through the obstacle course of young somms wandering the hallways, Rhea and I found our seventh floor room, complete with a balcony. The first thing she said was, “Look mommy! Look! I can see the whole world from here.”


It wasn’t a hard decision to try to have a small getaway during TEXSOM, because who wouldn’t want to stay at a five star resort, complete with diverse pools and umbrella drinks? Duh! Since I was only there to be supportive, I need not bother myself with seminars and talks and schmoozing… but could relax at a leisurely pace with our three year old sweetheart.


I admit that the Four Seasons Dallas made it easy. With the objective of tiring a toddler out, the 15 minute outdoor trek from our posh room to the family pool purposely took us past the edge of the golf course, filled with gorgeous Texas landscaping and manicured greens.


Even though there was plethora of delicious wine available in our room, the custom poolside drink menu tempted me into fizzy lemonade alternatives, complete with drink umbrellas for Rhea to add to her traveling toy collection. (She’s an excellent mixologist, I might add!)


The sommelier occasionally found time to drop in to say hello, but with a well attended and popular conference such as TEXSOM, he barely graced us with his presence. So, I took matters into my own hands, and arranged with the concierge at the Four Seasons for a babysitter one evening so I could mingle child-free among the somms.


Like any other weekend work related meeting, the lobby bar was full of conference attendees. Unlike any other lobby bar, however, the Four Seasons equipped their staff with a TEXSOM specific menu, with appropriate aperitifs like campari and negroni. I opted for a Cremant de Bourgogne.


With a few attendees, I eventually made my way to the real party: the hospitality suites. I made a bee line for the sommelier, who was knee deep in champagne and had a line around the corner. I skipped his table and opted for another, not only to make him less nervous, but so that I could make my way to give the proper French greeting to our friends from Classified Wines and Becky Wasserman Selections.

(Image credit: Jeff Irish, Favorite Brands)

Over the course of my career, I’ve been to lots of medical meetings. And while physicians can get rowdy every once in a while, no one compares to the wine industry. They sure know how to have a party, and drink directly from decanters.

(Image credit: Beth Gustafson, Banshee Wines, also pictured: Natalie Vaclavik, Terroir Selections)

I must admit it’s hard being an outsider, married to the sommelier, stuck between wanting to engage more in the scene and pleasantly staying a mosquito on the wall. Way more than one glass of wine later, and definitely a few negronis, I made my way back to our room for the night. Another amazing Four Seasons evening surprise? Bedtime milk and cookies for Rhea.

Mornings were special too.. Rhea and I found ourselves at one breakfast joined by the fedora wearing Peter Wasserman, who explained to me the delicacies of a proper macchiato. Rhea was shy, as usual, but enjoyed her kid-friendly fare.


During periods of downtime, you could find us contributing to art at the kids activity center, or more likely, twirling will other somm-kids.

(Pictured: Sean Beck, Beverage Director for Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, and Caracol, with daughter)

Nestled in Irving, a short drive to either Dallas or Fort Worth, the Four Seasons was a perfect location for a long family weekend. Our stay was very relaxing, with vivacious sunsets and encapsulating views.


Negronis aside, being around TEXSOM had it’s advantages, too. To see the excitement around education, tastings, sharing of information, and the elevation of the Texas wine scene was invigorating. The conference injects vitality into bloodstream of the young shapers of wine culture; the last ten years have already proven themselves…to see the past winners and runners up of Texas Best Sommelier and what they have achieved is to say the least (Camerata, anyone?). Personally, I’m looking forward to more Texas-sized family-friendly wine fun in the future.


what are you drinking tonight? …try a 2010 Oregon Pinot Noir.

Let’s face it, extreme weather has affected the entire United States the past few years. Everything from droughts to flooding, tornadoes to nor’easters has dominated the weather news. This was no different in 2010, where the cooler weather in the Willamette Valley forced vintners into a compressed harvest schedule, with very late blooms, and rainy picking conditions.  This is what winemakers call a “cool vintage.”  In regions with traditional cooler climates and shorter growing seasons, like the Northwest, early ripening varieties like Pinot Noirs thrive.   Winemakers got aggressive early, and thinned leaves, then fruits, several times over.  Most wineries on average had 100 days post bloom for the flavors to develop, which produced less opulent fruit and low alcohols, lower pH, and higher acidity.

(photo credit @TEXSOM, twitpic)

Welcome to the 2010 Oregon Pinot Noir.  According to Jerry D. Murray, Winemaker at Vanduzer Vineyards, this vintage is the prime example of what a Oregon wine should be.   Specifically, “…elegant, structured, layered, nuanced, not big..”  In fact, this vintage is so ideal that TEXSOM (the largest sommelier conference in the US) dedicated a whole session to it.  Nate Ready and Fred Dame, Master Sommeliers, hailed the 2010 Oregon Pinot not only as a great vintage, but very food friendly as well, pairing with mostly anything on the menu.

Where can you find a good, ready to drink wine, right now?  Honestly, restaurants are your best bet.  In fact, at our last Foodiemamas outing, we found a 2010 Oregon Primarius Pinot at Biga on the Banks, and while admittedly very light, paired well with both salmon and beef short rib.  My plan is to start scanning  the aisles of Gabriels, Joe Saglimbeni’s, or HEB for incoming varietals.  The sommelier suggests the 2010 Balcolmbe Vineyard Pinot from Patricia Green Cellars, which will set you back about $36, and which you can buy directly online from the winemaker.  In addition, start asking your local retailers to stock such wines as Eyrie Vineyards Dundee Hills or Brickhouse “Cuvee du Tonneliere.”  In due time, we will see some amazing wine come onto our local shelves.

Be ready!  Cheers!