Speaking the Language of Wine
If there’s one thing Gretchen Thomas has learned in her career as a wine professional, it’s that when it comes to wine, people around the world speak the same language.
Her job as wine and spirits director for the award-winning Barteca Restaurant Group has taken Gretchen across the globe to find just the right wines. “I go to Spain, I go to France, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile,” she says. “I’m looking for those little pieces of passion, just really honest, heartfelt wines.”
During a break between her sophomore and junior years at the CIA, Gretchen studied wine in France and Italy while working at some of Europe’s most prestigious properties. After graduation, she worked as a sommelier and restaurant manager in various restaurants in the Hudson Valley, most notably Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, NY.
Joining Barteca Restaurant Group in 2005, which includes Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant and bartaco, Gretchen supervises the largest Spanish wine program in the United States, with more than $4 million in annual sales with 350 labels from 11 countries; oversees all wine, spirits, and beer selections for the group’s 22 restaurants across seven states; manages wine and mixology training and development; coordinates beverage-themed events and classes; and is the wine buyer for Barcelona Vinoteca wine store in Atlanta. In 2017, Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant’s 13 locations each received the Best of Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator. “It’s a great honor to be included as a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner among all the other great restaurants being recognized,” says Gretchen. “It’s a great association to be a part of.”
She has earned various levels of certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is a certified Spanish Wine Educator from the Wine Academy of Spain, where she scored in the top 15 in the world. Gretchen managing a line of directly imported wines in her own Gretchen Selections portfolio, bringing in new wines from small producers in Spain and South America. She has recently spent time in Mexico blending a private-label tequila for bartaco.
And according to Gretchen, all of this happened because she first discovered her passion at the CIA. “I would not have been introduced to wine if it wasn’t for The Culinary Institute of America,” she says. “While you’re at the CIA, every door in the restaurant business is opened up to you, so even if you’re not really sure what you want to do, you’ll figure it out while you’re there. It’s like speaking and mastering a new language.”
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