The anticipation continues to build for our first CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, where we celebrate the movers and shakers of the local food and beverage industry.
We've covered many categories so far, from the city's pastry chefs and rising stars to the best breweries and bars. We've profiled the best bartenders and paid homage to Dallas-Fort Worth's best chefs. We've asked readers to help determine the best new restaurant, and we'll reveal all the winners at our big event on May 6.
This next category celebrates the elegant sommeliers, who've wowed us with their mastery of the noble grape. Like wise matchmakers, they assess our preferences and budget, then cross it with our dinner orders to find just the right complimentary sipper.
Meet the candidates for Best Sommelier/Beverage Director:
Michael Flynn, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
Having served nearly 20 years as a wine director or sommelier for fine-dining restaurants across the country, Flynn came to the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in 2007. He's been nominated three times for the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Wine Service Award, and he has an advanced diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He oversees the wine lists and beverage menus in the Mansion restaurant, chef's room and bar, and he is also responsible for wine service, staff training, wine pairing menus and wine tasting events.
Makes his mark: He's successfully demystified the wine process by hosting informal wine chats at the Mansion every Thursday night at 6:15 pm. They're $35 and require no reservations.
Hunter Hammett, Pyramid Restaurant
Prior to joining the Pyramid, Hammett was sommelier at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas. He currently directs the wine program for Pyramid Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont Dallas hotel, where he seeks out unique varietals, orchestrates menu pairings and familiarizes the staff with the extensive wine cellar. His Grape Expressions series explores underrated varietals and growing regions from around the world.
Makes his mark: He creates his own liqueurs, which are now prominently featured on menus throughout the Fairmont Dallas.
Gottlich earned her bachelor of arts from the University of North Texas while working in restaurants, including a stint at the Capital Grille, where she began to refine her talents in pairing wine with food. She and her husband, Scott, opened Bijoux in 2006, and Second Floor at the Westin Galleria Dallas in 2008. In addition to helping run the restaurants and oversee the wine programs, she also hosts sessions spotlighting wines from different regions paired with canapes from the chef.
Makes her mark: She has always been a champion of French wines, even when they weren't in vogue.
Courtney Luscher, The Grape
A native of Highland Park, Luscher is renowned for her skills as a manager and hostess, honed at restaurants such as Dakota's and Routh Street Brewery, where she met husband Brian, chef and co-owner at The Grape. In addition to running the front of the house, she is also a Level I Sommelier and handles the Grape's long-legendary wine list.
Makes her mark: She has established an incredible wine-by-the-glass list whose scope and boutique appeal has almost no peer.
James Tidwell, Four Seasons Resorts
A graduate of Louisiana State University as well as a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Tidwell is beverage manager and sommelier at Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving. After much study, Tidwell passed the Master Sommelier examination in 2009. He's a published wine writer and a popular participant in judging competitions.
Makes his mark: In 2005, Tidwell co-founded the Texas Sommelier Conference, an annual event that draws wine professionals from around the country to participate in seminars by leaders in the wine industry.
Barbara Werley, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
One of only 17 female Master Sommeliers in North America, Werley has been beverage director at such prestigious institutions as The Greenbrier luxury resort. In 2007, she joined Pappas Bros. Steakhouse as wine director, where she's responsible for its world-class collection of more than 33,000 bottles of wine, including one $70,000 3.0L bottle of Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Makes her mark: As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who began her career in the kitchens of such notable places as the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago and the Jockey Club at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., Werley has a unique knowledge of the food part of F&B as well as beverage.
Come celebrate the Tastemakers with us on Tuesday, May 6, at Seven for Parties in the Dallas Design District. To learn more about the event, including information about our beneficiaries, judges, participating restaurants and ticket sales, visit our Tastemakers website.