Gretchen Thomas | Wine & Spirits Director, Barteca Restaurant Group
Get to know SommCon presenter and panelist, Gretchen Thomas.
What led you to a career in wine?
I went to the Culinary Institute of America for Culinary School and fell in love with wine during wine studies in my second year. I received a scholarship from the school and Kobrand to study wines abroad for a summer, and that solidified my career path in wine.
What is your approach to building wine lists for restaurants as part of the Barteca group?
My approach has so many angles! I want a fun, eclectic, value-driven, geeky, food friendly wine list. Spain is our forte, but there is no rule that the list needs to be only Spanish wine because we have a Spanish themed restaurant. I look for wines with great personality, and terroir-driven styles, from producers that really care about their impact as farmers. I hunt for great wines everywhere I go and change the list up pretty frequently.
What is a trend sommeliers / beverage directors need to abandon as part of their wine program?
Looking for “exclusive” wines for their program. Being the only place to sell a certain wine is not a selling point. In fact, it just tells a guest, “we don’t want you to know how much we are over charging you for this wine.” I think choosing an off the beaten path wine, from small producers, allows you to have a unique list, while also supporting those small producers in their path to success.
Are you seeing differences in the palates of millennial wine consumers?
I’m seeing that millennials and other young generations are wonderfully adventurous. They are excited to be surprised with new flavors and varietals, and they are more confident in knowing what they do and do not want in a wine. It’s not necessarily that their palates are much different, but their willingness to try new things is more elevated.
Give me one Spanish Wine that should be on everyone’s list?
Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia blanco. It has all the personality of Spain in a bottle and will pair with any food you want to put it up against.
What role does training and education play at Barteca?
It is THE role. We are continuously training our team members. I fly around teaching classes every month, and we have great people dedicated to developing innovative training materials and experiences. In order to find success on our service team, you have to embrace all the continuing education. It’s a big part of the job!
You’ve got five minutes and one glass of wine. Who are you with, and what are you drinking?
I’m with my sister-in-wine-adventures, Emily Nevin-Giannini (the newly appointed Barcelona Wine Bar Wine Director) who shares my passion for wine and supports my whims for changing the list all the time. We’ll be drinking Chateau le Puy Emilien, and probably not saying much to each other. Just silently enjoying our 5 minutes of peace.
Learn more from Gretchen at SommCon
Gretchen Thomas serves as Wine & Spirits Director for Barteca Restaurant Group, overseeing all wine, spirits and beer selections for both Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant and Bartaco concepts; as well as seasonal cocktail creations, wine and mixology training and development, and beverage-themed events including wine dinners, wine classes and cocktail classes.
Gretchen will be speaking during SommCon in Washington, D.C., July 22 – 24. Schedule and registration details may be found at sommconusa.com.