Sommelier James Tidwell
Café on the Green | Dallas
As the son of a fundamentalist preacher, James Tidwell spent
his early years in a small town in Louisiana – but neither
circumstance nor location would prevent Tidwell from getting serious
about wine. At Louisiana State University, Tidwell started cooking
and developing an interest in all things culinary, but graduated
with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in International Trade and
After a nine month stint in Germany, Tidwell returned
to the states and began his wine career, enjoying the learning process
at Grapevine Wines & Spirits in Little Rock, Arkansas, whose
no-pretense atmosphere began to shape Tidwell’s approach to
Still interested in the composition of dishes and
culinary techniques, Tidwell enrolled at the Culinary Institute
of America, earning a degree with honors as well as a strong culinary
sensibility when pairing food and wine. His hunger for education
led him to several wine certifications, including Certified Wine
Educator administered by the Society of Wine Educators, the Diploma
from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and the Advanced Course
of the Court of Master Sommeliers. He was awarded the Society of
Wine Educators Banfi Award for the highest score of those passing
the exam in the first attempt for 2003. In August 2005, Tidwell
was elected to the Society of Wine Educators Board of Directors.
The same year, Tidwell and his friend Drew Hendricks, sommelier
at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas, founded the Texas
Sommelier Conference. This annual event draws 150 Texas wine professionals
to participate in seminars by leaders in the wine industry. As a
home for the Conference, Guy Stout, Tidwell, and Hendricks founded
the Texas Sommelier Association, a non-profit organization whose
mission is to advance wine service standards, education and certification
Before joining The Four Seasons, Tidwell worked at
Restaurant Serenäde in Chatham, NJ, and Erna’s
Elderberry House in Oakhurst, CA. He is sommelier at Four Seasons
Resort and Club on the outskirts of Dallas in Irving, Texas, where
he oversees the wine program for all outlets of the resort and makes
bold matches – like a Dominique Laurent Nuits-Saint-George
1er Cru, “La Richemone,” 1998 with a steamed, ginger-scented
grouper and umami-rich shiitake in soy broth – elevating flavors
and textures to new heights.
TR: Describe your fondest wine
JT: My birthday this year.
We opened some great wine from a friend's collection. Wine is all
about shared moments with good people.
TR: What courses have you taken? Certifications? Awards won?
JT: I went to CIA and then
took a diploma course at WSET. I am a Certified Wine Educator and
I passed the Advanced Sommelier Exam of the Court of Master Sommeliers.
My good friend Drew Hendricks and I founded the Texas Sommelier
TR: Where have you worked previously?
JT: Before joining Four Seasons,
I worked at Restaurant Serenäde in Chatham, NJ for
three and a half years, and Erna’s Elderberry House
in Oakhurst, CA.
TR: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
JT: Lee Johnson is an early
wine mentor and great friend. Maggie Gephard of Liquorama
in the Hudson Valley was an early mentor too.
TR: List your favorite wine
resource book and author.
JT: Hugh Johnson is a great
wine writer. The
New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Sevenson is an essential
reference book. I always try to read Decanter magazine as well.
TR: What languages do you
JT: I am familiar with Spanish
and I used to speak some German but I lost most of it...
TR: What is your philosophy on food and wine?
JT: Your mental attitude represents both you and your profession,
so think accordingly.
TR: If you weren’t a sommelier what do you think you’d
JT: Cooking professionally or writing.
TR: Which person in history would you most like to share a bottle
of wine? What would you pour?
JT: Thomas Jefferson, and I’d let him pour because I’m
sure he had spectacular taste.
TR: What are your ultimate career goals? Where do you see yourself
in 5 years? 10 years?
JT: I’d like to do many
different things. I’d like to teach and mentor. I taught an
introductory wine class and I’d like to get involved in consulting
private clients and writing while still being able to stay on the
TR: What organizations do
you belong to?
JT: I’m a co-founder
of the Texas Sommelier Conference and the Texas Sommelier Association.
I’m also on the Society Wine Educator’s board.
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