Master Sommelier James Tidwell ’98
CIA Alumni Bio
James Tidwell is a Certified Wine Educator from the Society of Wine Educators, a Certified Tea Specialist from the Specialty Tea Institute, and a Certified Sake Professional from the Sake Education Council. He passed the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier test in 2009. Only 164 people in the United States, and 255 people worldwide, have successfully accomplished the task of passing the rigorous exam. “My diploma capped eight years of study and progressive testing,” says James. In his career, James has served on several beverage industry Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards, including the Court of Master Sommeliers – Americas; GuildSomm; the Society of Wine Educators; the Specialty Tea Institute; and the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. In 2019, he joined the Decanter World Wine Awards as the Regional Chair for the USA & Central America.
What are the common qualities can be found in those attaining the title of Master Sommelier? “The most important of these qualities is passion. Your enthusiasm must transcend the consumption of wines, beers, and spirits to include research, service, and business,” explains James. “In studying for the Master Sommelier exam, you spend hours doing research about places, laws, grape varieties, spirits and liqueurs, cocktails, and service rules. In addition, you’ll honed math skills for buying and pricing options, strategies and techniques for sales scenarios, and diplomacy skills for guest relations,” James says.
Peers and mentors are important because only a handful of schools for sommeliers exist. Dedication, self-motivation, and self-discipline are essential for success. Aspiring sommeliers do not have instructors encouraging them to perform, nor do they have regularly scheduled classes to assess their progress. Yet, hundreds of hours of traditional study are involved to attain the Master Sommelier diploma. Developing a routine, especially with a core network of fellow sommeliers, helps maintain motivation and discipline. “Now, as with all Master Sommeliers, I get the opportunity to assist and encourage others along this path,” says James. “And in the end, that is the real reward of the accomplishment.”
Master Sommelier James Tidwell majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He is a consultant at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts in Las Colinas, TX. James is the co-owner and founder of the TEXSOM Conference, a judge at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, and the Regional Chair for the USA and Central America for the Decanter World Wine Awards.