Where Are Houston's Female Sommeliers?

Categories: Wine Time

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Photo courtesy Adele Corrigan
Vanessa Trevino-Boyd, left, and Adele Corrigan, two of Houston's handful of female sommeliers.
Quick, name all of the female sommeliers in Houston.

OK, if you can't name all of them, name at least ten.

Trick question. Here in Houston, we have only a handful: Vanessa Trevino-Boyd (60 Degrees Mastercrafted), Samantha Porter (freelancing), Annette Amaya (Cru Wine Bar), Angie Chang (Sonoma Wine Bar) and Cathy Nguyen (Mark's). There's also Adele Corrigan of 13 Celsius, who many people consider a sommelier, but who hasn't actually taken the test because, as she says, "I just don't need it right now."

"I feel like the word "somm" now days is to describe the position you have, not necessarily your certification," Corrigan explains. "There are so many different schools now that sommelier has become a generalized term. You can call me whatever you want: Sommelier, beverage director, wine lady."

Whatever you choose to call her and her fellow "wine ladies," it's a fact that there are far fewer women in the industry than men. This is true nationwide, but the numbers are particularly startling here in Houston.

On the Court of Master Sommeliers website, one of the frequently asked questions is "How many Master Sommeliers are there? How many are women?" The answer: Of the 140 people who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier, only 21 are women. Fifteen percent. In Texas, we have only two female Masters, both in Dallas.

"The restaurant business definitely lends itself to chauvinistic stereotypes," says Jeremy Parzen, our wine guru. "The pretty girl greets you at the door, and the man opens the red wine. Think about the general oil mogul in Houston. He wants it to stay that way."

Corrigan, too, thinks the lack of female sommeliers in Houston could have something to do with the machismo in the oil industry, where many of the city's wealthy drinkers and diners acquire their riches.

"Even in the oil business, there are no women," Corrigan says. "Maybe because the men are so used to dealing with other men, they want that relationship in the restaurant, too."

Of course it's easy to blame a number of Houston's foibles on the oil business, but looking at the number of female sommeliers and beverage directors across the country, Houston--and Texas as a whole--is behind.

"If you go to other markets like New York, there are so many more high profile woman wine directors," Parzen says. "Even in Portland and Seattle, there are so many more women. Our market is starting to catch up with that. Look at how many women are at the Houston Sommelier Association seminars. I'd like to think that the number of women wine professionals in Texas is growing."

This story continues on the next page.


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18 comments
deniseehrlich
deniseehrlich

While I agree there are not enough women running restaurant wine programs in Houston, this article is a little fuzzy about what it takes to be called a "sommelier" and the number of women in the larger wine business with some kind of sommelier certification, or other wine certification.  Anyone running a wine program top to bottom is a sommelier.  Persons who've passed various levels of exams are entitled to use titles like Certified Sommelier, Master Sommelier, etc. even if they are not currently running a wine program in a restaurant.  Of the two female Master Sommeliers mentioned in Dallas, only one is running a wine program last I checked. There are significant numbers of women working in the supplier and distributor tiers of the wine business in Houston that have some level of certification from the various education organizations - although there are currently no female Master Sommeliers in Houston.  Many women who used to run restaurant wine programs are now working in the supplier and distributor tiers where their representative numbers are slightly better.

Cheers!

wineguy999
wineguy999

You don't need to a pass a test to be a sommelier. All you need is the appropriate knowledge and abilities to do the job, and to run a good program. Thanks to the Court, that has been forgotten.

Julian Garcia Jr.
Julian Garcia Jr.

i love how this article seems to suggest that the reason there are not alot of women wine experts is because of Big Oil....(lol) and male (Machismo). Maybe there are not alot of women wine experts is because they just dont want to be a wine expert. This is 2014, you got to stop pointing the finger when something does not lean in your favor. Now if there are women all over being turned down just cause they are women, now thats a different story but my guess its not otherwise we would be reading about that.

Erica Murphey
Erica Murphey

Noah M. Horwitz, a sommelier is a waiter in charge of all the wine in a restaurant.

markzuluaga
markzuluaga

You left off the female somm from Masraff's Michael Churchill.

markzuluaga
markzuluaga

You left off the female somm that works at Masraff's.

markzuluaga
markzuluaga

You left off the female somm from Masraff's Michael Churchill.

Heightsrift
Heightsrift

Interesting piece, but not sure about the armchair sociology: the average oil mogul gives a damn whether it's a wine girl or guy advising him and decanting? I doubt it matters much to him.

wineguy999
wineguy999

Erica, sounds more like you're describing a wine steward. A sommelier is the person in charge of developing and managing the wine program in a restaurant. Much more detailed.

janusch
janusch

@Heightsrift Right, if they were really so Texas uber-macho they'd be ordering none of that effete grape juice, and second they'd actually prefer a hottie decanting it anyway

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@janusch @Heightsrift The people I talked to admitted that might not be the reason, and it might in fact have something to do with their own mindsets. I don't think there's a right answer.

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