First Woman Master Sommelier in Texas, 4th in US: Barbara Werley

Barbara Werley

You have to be at the top of your game to be the first woman Master Sommelier in Texas and one of only 23 female MS’s in North America. Barbara Werley MS, Wine Director for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Dallas, oversees one of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award winning wine programs. Pappas Bros. has consistently won this award for several years both at their Dallas and Houston Restaurants. Barbara oversees an inventory of more than 33,000 bottles of wine and 3000 selections.

Barbara Werley, MS met with us for a Q&A session this summer to discuss her background and her approach to wine service. After she graduated from the University of Iowa and the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York, Barbara worked at notable restaurants like the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago and the Jockey Club at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. When she became the Wine Director at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Barbara was pursuing her true love for wine.

While in Las Vegas, Barbara Werley taught as an adjunct professor at Harrah’s School of Hotel Administration at UNLV. She has also worked at the Arizona Biltmore, The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA and was beverage director at The Greenbrier, a AAA Five Diamond resort.

In 2007 D Magazine named Barbara Werley “Best Sommelier” in Dallas. Barbara serves as a wine judge for the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition, is co-chairman of the Lone Star Wine Competition, and serves as a speaker at the annual TEXSOM conference.

Pappas Bros. Wine Cellar_Dallas

Q& A with Barbara Werley, MS and Tricia Conover, PRiME Magazine Wine Editor

Question (Tricia Conover, CWP)

How do you select the wine for your list?

Answer (Barbara Werley, MS)

We are known for our Burgundy’s, Bordeaux’s, California wines, and some famous Italian and Spanish wines like Paolo Scavino Barolo and Vega Sicilia’s Unico. We have over 33,000 bottles and over 3000 selections for our customers. Some new and notable wines are old bush vine Grenache from Australia like Yalumba, some dry Portuguese reds, and Tasmanian Pinot Noir. We are also known for our vintage Ports and Madeira’s, which our Executive Chef, James Johnson, and I pair with desserts like our Chocolate Midnight Cake.


Chocolate midnight cake


Q: (TC)    What do you consider some of your biggest successes? What are you most proud of?

A: (Barbara Werley, MS)

I was the 4th to pass the Master Sommelier exams in the US as a woman. Even though I was trained as a chef at the Culinary Institute of America I was the first CIA graduate to become a Master Sommelier and the 35th American Master Sommelier overall. I am also very proud of Pappas Bros. for winning the Wine Spectator Grand Award for our wine program since 2011. We are one of only 81 restaurants with this award around the globe.

Q: (TC)    Tell me about your staff of sommeliers.

A: (Barbara Werley, MS)

We have four Somms. They have to have an innate sense of people and how to understand their beverage preferences. The Somms’ prior experience had to be in a fine dining background before coming to Pappas Bros. With a wine list this large, you have to know literally wines around the world and understand their vintages. That’s a lot of wine knowledge and our staff has it.

Q: (TC)   Why did you choose to come to Pappas Bros in Dallas? Can you tell us a little about your customers?

A: (Barbara Werley, MS)

I wanted to leave the big resorts and focus on a single, well-run restaurant with a great Executive Chef. The Chef and I have a symbiotic relationship. We get along so well and feature special dinner events like our Barbour Vineyards Wine dinner this summer featuring Jim Barbour. (See Women in Wine Series article on Celia Welch, Winemaker for Barbour in PRiME Magazine.)

From Monday to Thursday our restaurant has many business travelers. On weekends we have more local clientele and I’m noticing a broadening of our demographics. We’re also a banquet and a “celebration” restaurant – anniversary’s and birthdays. And of course, our special events and wine dinners occur regularly.

Q: (TC)   What are some of your “best value” wine recommendations?

A: (Barbara Werley, MS)

Varietal Nebbiolo from Italy are a very good value…. they do not have to be a Barolo or Barbaresco. A nice Grenache from Australia is a good buy. Chateau St. Michelle from Washington does a great job with their Chardonnay, an extremely good price. In Texas, Inwood Estates has killer Tempranillo blends. For other regional wines: New York, Dr. Frank Wines does well with Rieslings and Pinot Noir and Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc in Virginia is great.

Q: (TC)   Do you have any fashion tips for women sommeliers?

A: (Barbara Werley, MS)

Ha! You need pockets in your outfit for your openers and equipment. Black fabric is good for red wine stain camouflage.   With a fine wine program, silent and discrete service is warranted, so your attire should match that.

Some PRiME Wine Recommendations:

Ca Veja Nebbiolo 2011

Paitin Ca Veja Nebbiolo d’Alba 2011 (varietal Nebbiolo) Robert Parker 91 Points Rating $28

Juicy Red cherries, flowers, and spices burst form this big, rich wine.

Find this Wine






Vega Sicilia Unico

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva Tinto 2004 Robert Parker 97 Ratings


Famous Spanish wine from Ribera del Duero with amazing red and dark berries, pipe tobacco, vanilla aromas. A multi-dimensional, complex fine wine.

Find this wine:



Paolo Scavino barolo 1997

Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric 1997   Robert Parker 93 Points $125

Well-known Barolo producer. This garnet colored offering is full-bodied, has saturated fruit layers, and intense aromas of coffee, smoke, herbs, and leather.

Find this wine:




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