Christina DeArment, assistant marketing manager at the Oregon Wine Board, attended TEXSOM from Aug. 13-15, 2016 with the goal of learning more about the event and assessing opportunities for the Oregon wine trade marketing program.
TEXSOM is considered by many to be the most prominent and influential wine educational conference in the U.S. offering seminars, networking opportunities and rare opportunities to taste premium wines from around the world.
Conference Attendee Recap
TEXSOM boasts an impressive list of attendees including sommeliers, retail wine buyers, distributor/importer executives and sales reps, Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, wine educators, consumer and trade media and producers from all over the world. Interestingly, there are four groups of attendees:
- 1,200 general conference attendees from 31 states and 10 countries (France, Italy, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Chili, Japan, Canada and Argentina). Of the 1,200, more than 800 are industry buyers, beverage directors, management, retailers, distributor reps, importer reps and media.
- Educators comprised of 37 Master Sommeliers and 11 Masters of Wine who present the seminars throughout the conference
- Conference sponsors including wineries, distributors, importers and regional associations
- Hundreds of volunteer sommeliers from top restaurants around the country who work the conference in exchange for being able to attend sessions for free
While TEXSOM is primarily an educational event, most of the activities outside of the seminars are geared towards networking. The resulting atmosphere of the event was like old friends getting together for a big annual reunion.
The main TEXSOM program takes place on Sunday and Monday with a few events happening on Saturday. The official program consists of several types of events:
Master classes range from 90 minutes to two hours, led by experts, predominately Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine, on a diverse set of topics in wine, as well as beer, spirits, coffee and tea. Master classes are determined by a TEXSOM committee; they are not sponsored content. Some of the seminar topics this year included:
- Wines of the East: Slovenia, Turkey, Georgia, Greece and Armenia
- Viticulture: Site to Senses
- Regional Focus: Italy’s Islands
- The Future of the Wine Market; The Future of Sommeliers
- Iconic Wines from Unusual Places
- The Old New California Wines
- Regional Focus: New York
- Iconic Winery Retrospective: Robert Mondavi Winery Fume Blanc Reserve
- Beer: Lineage of the Pilsner
- The History of Coffee
Tasting breaks occur for 15 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon. These breaks are put on by winery, importer or distributor sponsors.
Educational lunches are sponsored by regional organizations, importers, distributors or single wineries and are the only TEXSOM sanctioned meals throughout the two full days. Eight lunches occur in separate locations during the lunch break. Attendees choose the lunch they want to attend when they register for the conference. At the lunch there is generally a 15 minute program discussing the wines being poured while guests eat. For the rest of the lunch guests casually eat and taste through wines at their table. Some of the lunch sponsors this year included:
- Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco
- Napa Valley Vintners
- Rhone Valley Wines
- Wines of Chile
- Wines of Portugal
- Champagne Taittinger
- Diamond Wine Importers
- Kistler Vineyards
- Wines from Spain
There are no official TEXSOM dinners as it’s a popular time for distributors to take customers out to dinner or for general networking.
On Saturday and Sunday evening, 12 sponsors each night host conference attendees in Hospitality Suites. The furniture from a set of hotel rooms is cleared out, tables with white table cloths are set up and rooms are used to host a wine tasting happy hour. Attendees mill in and out of each room for a couple hours before heading to dinner.
TEXSOM Grand Tasting
The conference finale is the TEXSOM Grand Tasting on Monday night. The grand tasting comprises 100 producers, regional associations or importer/distributor portfolios pouring three or four wines each. The Oregon producers pouring at this event included:
- Alexana Winery (via Revana Estate Portfolio)
- Archery Summit (via Crimson Wine Group)
- Left Coast Cellars
- Lemelson Vineyards
- Rex Hill Winery and Francis Tannahill
- Zena Crown Vineyard
2017 Opportunities for Oregon Wine
In conclusion, TEXSOM lives up to its reputation as a preeminent educational conference for wine professionals, and could be a prime opportunity for the Oregon wine industry to get more involved. The Oregon Wine Board marketing team has begun conversations with the organizers of TEXSOM and will be exploring potential sponsorship opportunities.
One recommended way for your individual winery to get involved in TEXSOM is to participate in the TEXSOM International Wine Awards. The judging for this competition takes place in February and highly awarded wines are showcased at the TEXSOM Conference in August. TEXSOM International Wine Awards will begin accepting wine submissions at the beginning of October. Additional information on the Awards and how to submit wines will go out in the Grapevine newsletter at the end of September.
Although there is not yet a specific opportunity to get involved through the Oregon Wine Board, if your winery is interested in learning more about TEXSOM or potentially interested in participating next year please contact Christina DeArment. Note: per conference guidelines, wines poured at TEXSOM must be available through a distributor in Texas.