Sommelier James Tidwell  on

James Tidwell
Café on the Green
4150 N MacArthur Blvd
Irving, TX 75038
(972) 717-2420

Wine Tips »

Tejal Rao: How did you develop an interest in wine?
James Tidwell:I studied trade and finance at LSU, and only started cooking as a hobby. My interest got more intense when I lived in Germany, especially in wine.

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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 Finance.

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 wine.

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 in Texas.

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.

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Interview Cont'd
TR: Describe your fondest wine memory.
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 Association.

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 speak?
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 be doing?
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 floor.

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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   Published: April 2007