Sommelier Gretchen Thomas ’05, Speaking the Language of Wine
CIA Alumni Bio
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.
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.
Gretchen joined Barteca Restaurant Group in 2005, which included Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant and bartaco. There she supervised the largest Spanish wine program in the United States, with more than $4 million in annual sales with 350 labels from 11 countries; oversaw all wine, spirits, and beer selections for the group’s 22 restaurants across seven states; managed wine and mixology training and development; coordinated beverage-themed events and classes; and served as the wine buyer for Barcelona Vinoteca wine store in Atlanta. Her job has taken Gretchen across the globe to find just the right wines. “I go to Spain, France, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile,” she says. “I’m looking for those little pieces of passion, just really honest, heartfelt wines.”
In 2017, Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant 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.” In July 2018, the Barteca Restaurant Group was acquired by the Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group.
Gretchen 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 manages a line of directly imported wines in her own portfolio, Gretchen Selections, 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.”
Sommelier Gretchen Thomas majored in culinary arts management at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She is the vice president of beverage at Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group in Dallas/Fort Worth.