If you were dining out between the hot days of Aug. 8 and 13, you might have found it tough locating someone to recommend a good bottle of wine with dinner. That’s when the Ninth Annual Texas Sommelier Conference, a nationally respected educational convention for working sommeliers, wine buyers, wine educators and plain old wine lovers, was happening at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas.
Even more impressively, TexSom (as it’s always called, and which actually takes place in Irving, not Dallas) is among the largest annual gatherings of master sommeliers on the continent. These are the elite of the oenophile universe, having passed the notoriously difficult exam for membership into the Court of Master Sommeliers, wine society’s most-respected international organization. Only 211 men and women worldwide have passed that test; seven of them are Texans, and two work in Austin (Devon Broglie is a wine buyer for Whole Foods Market and Craig Collins is a sales manager for Dalla Terra wine importers). Not only can they tell you what’s in that glass of wine you’re drinking, they can probably decipher where it came from and whether it was raining in the vineyard on the day the grapes were picked. They’re a fun crowd — and nearly three-dozen master sommeliers were among the 500 participants at this year’s TexSom.
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Five wines served at TexSom 2013 worth tracking down:
McPherson Cellars 2012 Vin Gris, Dry Rosé, Texas ($14; www.mcphersoncellars.com): Lubbock winemaker Kim McPherson crafts both serious and everyday wines. His dry rosé is engaging with strawberry and plum flavors along with crisp acidity. I’d serve this at a picnic with someone I was just starting to get serious with.
Chappellet 2011 “Signature” Chenin Blanc, Napa Valley ($30; www.chappellet.com): This white wine is light-bodied but generous with the aromatics, especially wildflowers, red apple and pineapple. The lingering citrus flavors and delicate minerality would pair naturally with many seafood dishes.
Penfolds 2011 Bin 138 SGM, Barossa Valley ($40; www.penfolds.com): From south Australia comes this lovely blend of grenache, mataro (mourvedre) and shiraz (syrah). Although young and upright, this medium-weight red has a healthy sense of maturity right down to its savory tannins. This is old-world elegance dressed up in new-world style.
Austin Hope 2011 Grenache, Paso Robles ($42; www.hopefamilywines.com): Grenache can be a tough grape from which to produce quality single-varietal wines, but Hope’s 100-percent estate grenache is broad on the palate with red fruit, blueberry and warm baking spices. It finishes with elegant hints of vanilla and black pepper and is just bold enough for barbecue.
Lucienne 2011 Smith Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands ($50; www.hahnwinery.com): A central California coast pinot aged for 13 months in predominately neutral French oak barrels, which accounts for the notes of plums, cherries and violets that are so characteristic of the varietal. On the palate, there is mild tannic resistance leading to a silky finish.
— Anthony Head