Gretchen Thomas ’05, Beverage Director
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 Barcelona Wine Bar has taken Gretchen across the globe to find just the right wines for the award-winning restaurant group. “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, she 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.
At Barcelona since 2005, 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 all Barcelona restaurants; and manages wine and mixology training and development, as well as beverage-themed events and classes.
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 is currently 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.
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.”