Best Sommeliers In DFW

October 31, 2012 5:00 AM

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

During the middle ages in France, sommeliers were officers in charge of transporting supplies, but the duties of modern-day sommeliers encompass a much wider scope than simply bringing wine to the table. Sommeliers are in charge of everything from managing restaurant wine cellars, purchasing wines and negotiating prices, to keeping up with current wine and food trends. Their expertise extends far beyond wine — they’re proficient with mineral waters, beer, ciders, spirits, liqueurs and even cigars. Besides having an incredible sense of smell and taste, certified sommeliers undergo extensive education and pass rigorous exams. While some may have the notion that sommeliers are unapproachable, these folks love sharing their love of wine with others. If you’re interested in tasting the most amazing wines around, then have a chat with these Dallas-Fort Worth sommeliers — they’re the best in town.

James Tidwell
Café on the Green
Four Seasons Resort and Club
4150 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Irving, TX 75038
(972) 717-2420

James Tidwell’s passion for wine led him to become one of the 197 master sommeliers in the world (and one of the six in Texas). He’s also a certified wine educator and the co-founder of TexSom, one of the premier sommelier events in the world. Since 2002, Tidwell has been in charge of wine and beverages for the Irving Four Seasons, creating an impressive wine list with more than 450 selections. He says his favorite part of the job is not only tasting amazing wines and traveling to spectacular places, but also his interaction with people. He said he once had a customer that asked for a beer to go with his steak and another who asked for a cocktail to pair with lamb chops. He chose a rich Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale for the steak, and a minty mojito to go with the lamb. He said he’d found that the customer liked mint jelly with her lamb, so a minty mojito ended up being the perfect solution. “Wine is about context, so my (favorite) changes depending upon food (or lack thereof), season, time, place, occasion and — most of all — people. I am an equal opportunity imbiber.”
Barbara Werley
Pappas Bros Steakhouse
10477 Lombardy Lane
Dallas, TX 75220
(214) 366-2000
pappasbros.comBarbara Werley became interested in wine 20 years ago when she was writing up wine lists for the Ritz in Washington, D.C.
Already having a degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Art Institute of America, Werley decided to take on the challenge of completing the master sommelier program at a time when only 20 American graduates existed.
She is one of only 18 women in the world to have achieved the title. Now, as master sommelier at Pappas Bros, she oversees the beverage program, which includes a global wine collection of 25,000 bottles that spans decades. The wine menu reads like a 108-page novel — a daunting task for anyone to decipher, but her expertise and easygoing manner sets customers at ease right away. For a challenge, she chose a white wine instead of the traditional red to go with beef,  a California Chardonnay to provide a balanced, not-too-tropical wine with the right acidity for beef. She said she enjoys judging competitions and searching for great wine finds, but she says her favorite part of being a sommelier is “introducing people to different wines they may not have even thought about, or heard of.

Related: Best Chefs Heating Up The DFW Culinary Scene

Ryan Tedder
1617 Hi Line Dr. #250
Dallas, TX, 75207
(214) 684-7049
ft33dallas.comRyan Tedder had his first formal wine training at 19 years of age while working at an Arkansas restaurant. The restaurant’s manager was a wine lover and taught Tedder everything he knew about wine during Sunday dinners. Since then, his wine journey has led him to the top where he was recently awarded the best sommelier in Texas at the TexSom competition. His latest endeavor has been creating an innovative beverage program for Matt McCallister’s new FT33 restaurant. He said his priority at FT33 is to “bring in classic wines from around the world that are balanced, well-made and offer good food synergy.” He said his favorite wine changes with the seasons: “When it’s hot, I’m a riesling and chardonnay guy,” he said. “When it’s cold, I go pinot noir, nebbiolo and sangiovese.” His job isn’t just the wine, he said. “I love people, hospitality and wine. I basically get paid to do one of my favorite things in life: share a table, an experience and a bottle of great juice with friends.”

Paul Botamer
Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton
2121 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 922-4848
fearingsrestaurant.comAfter 35 years in the business, including a three-year stint at the Mansion, renowned sommelier Paul Botamer is now in charge of an extensive wine collection at one of the trendiest restaurants in town. Responsible for the restaurant receiving the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence several years in a row, he said he enjoys sharing his wine passion with customers. Always on the lookout for good value wines, he offers great value options to pair with beef. “A great inexpensive wine with steak would be Spanish grenache from Campo De Borja or a malbec from Argentina — both under $40.” When it comes to his favorite wine, Paul said he has a new favorite wine every three weeks — especially when he’s made a new discovery.

Cef Zambrano
Zambrano Wine Cellar
910 Houston St. #110
Fort Worth, TX 76102
(817) 850-9463
zambranowines.comSince the mid-80s, Cef Zambrano has fed his fascination with wine by joining wine clubs and taking wine courses, including passing the first level of the Court of Master Sommelier program. In 2007, after 10 years of managing a multi-million dollar wine program at Del Frisco’s, he decided to open his own wine bar and restaurant offering more than 325 global wine selections, including 50 choices by the glass. Known in the community as one of the most trusted wine sources around, he said he enjoys enlightening customers on wine basics and the finer details of wine and food pairing. He says he loves California, French and Italian wines. However, the Bordeaux blends from California’s Harlan Estate are his favorites. To Zambrano, the best part of being a sommelier is “seeing someone get started in the enjoyment of the wine world.”

Related: Best DFW Bars For Professional Networking

With a passion for adventure, Ilene Jacobs has spent 25 years traveling around the globe. A native of Dallas,Texas, she has also lived in Europe studying and working in marketing and tourism. Ilene is constantly researching interesting places to visit and enjoys sharing her findings with her readers. Her work can be found at