By Deven Dawson | Contributing Author
Brownfield, TX – I remember the first time I met a Sommelier. I was in my early 20’s, right out of culinary school, at a fine dining seafood restaurant. I was young, and still overwhelmed by the fancy menus and the pomp and circumstance of it all. The wine menus were always the most intimidating part. How do I pick one bottle when the options are limitless and most of the menu is in French or Italian? I had just ordered what would be my first experience with Sea Bass and my waiter, who had been watching me read through the giant book of grape selections I knew very little about, said he would send the Sommelier my way.
Up walks a sharp dressed man with an attractive level of je ne sais quoi, elegance and confidence. I was completely smitten by his presence. Adelsheim Pinot Gris was his selection. I asked about the beautiful label, and he explained that the wine maker’s wife was an artist, she designed the labels, and they were pioneers in Willamette Valley, Oregon. I was impressionable and passionate about all things relating to hospitality and I can honestly say that in that moment, my love affair with wine began.
I will spare you the details of my line cook, waiting tables and bartending to survive stories. The hospitality industry is romantic, but grueling. About 10 years into my career, I made the jump to my favorite city on the planet, New Orleans. I was lucky to land a coveted spot of my own located right smack in the center of the French Quarter. I was making funky sandwiches and salads to feed tourists and locals alike with brilliant reviews. This was it…my own restaurant. I was still in my early 30’s and I felt like I had conquered the world.
My favorite part of the new business venture was when the wine reps would come by to taste. “This is the best Chardonnay, or the best Cabernet Sauvignon” they would say. I think about how little I knew back then, and it blows my mind that I just took their word for what I was supposed to like? I think one of the biggest misconceptions about wine is that you are supposed to like “what’s good”. What’s good… is what you like! There are no rules to enjoying wine, so by all means, always drink what you like and own it.
So by now, I’m pretending that I know more about wine than I actually did. I was ordering the “best wine” by the case via wine rep recommendations. I had a substantial wine cooler in the restaurant, and I enjoyed pairing wine with all my food creations. My friends and family were starting to catch on to my new hobby, and instead of kitchen gadgets, I’m now receiving gifts for wine lovers. The best wine subscriptions, wine accessory gifts, cheese and wine gift baskets, wine club monthly subscriptions and I was gaining exposure to wines from all over the world.
I wanted to learn more and started looking into what it would take to be a Sommelier. It was a total pipe dream. I was a successful chef and restaurant owner and being a Sommelier was an unobtainable goal. My Dad even offered to pay for me to go to “Sommelier school”.
Now I’m in my early 40’s, I’ve owned and closed 2 restaurants and had decided I needed a real break from owning a business. I landed a job as an Event Planner for a well-respected and famous New Orleans restaurant. This coveted position gave me daily exposure and experience to nice wine and an award-winning wine list. I was planning soirées for wealthy clients and celebrities who were drinking the best French wines, the best Italian wines, the best wines to drink period. It was here that I learned about the Court of Master Sommeliers. I signed up to take level one, passed, and spent the next year studying all things wine and it paid off. I passed my Certified Sommelier test.
After Covid, I decided to make the move to Dallas to be closer to my family. I accepted a job with a Texas winery, Reddy Vineyards. If you had told me I was going to be involved in the wine county, Texas scene a year ago, I would have NEVER believed you. Reddy Vineyards is a pioneer in Texas wines. Located in Brownfield, Texas within the Texas High Plains at 3300 feet above sea level, it consists of 400 acres of 38 gorgeous grapes varietals planted in sandy clay terra cotta colored soil. Specializing in blends using Mediterranean varietals, I was overwhelmed at how well balanced and enjoyable their diverse selection of wines is! From an easy drinking Viognier/ Marsanne blend, to a Reserve Cabernet Franc that I would proudly match up against any Loire Valley, Chinon. I had entered a whole new world of wine in which I never knew existed.
One of the most unique things about wine, is that just when you think you have a grasp on it, something reveals itself and you realize how little you really know. It’s truly an enjoyable, endless journey of learning. My newfound love for Texas wine is one I enjoy sharing with friends, family, and fellow Sommeliers. I would encourage you to give Texas wine a chance by joining one of our exclusive Reddy Vineyards Wine Clubs. I am confident you will not be disappointed!