The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2013

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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH FRED DAME A Conversation with Tonya Pitts Wine Director, One Market, San Francisco photos by Andria Lo Tonya Pitts with Fred Dame, Master Sommelier, VP of Prestige Accounts for American Wine & Spirits of California. Fred Dame: Tonya, it's heading toward noon and I have this lovely bottle of Miura Pinot Noir, Silver Eagle Vineyard. Let's pour a glass! Tonya Pitts: One of my favorite regions for California Pinot Noir is the Sonoma Coast. I love the wines from these super stressed vineyards with its unique geography and weather. Fred: Emmanuel Kemiji, who is a Master Sommelier, really works hard to make wines that reflect the region rather than trying to make a statement about style. Tonya: I agree, this wine is very rich and, well, sultry! I would love to walk this vineyard with Emmanuel and listen to his own words. When I taste with a winemaker I haven't met before I let them know that this is going to take an hour or so. I really want to understand the vineyards, the winemaking techniques and most of all why they do it the way they do. Fred: How did you get started in the hospitality world? Tonya: I was pre-law in college and then moved to fine arts for a painting degree. All my friends were supporting themselves working in restaurants. I couldn't drink yet but I would always smell the wines and discovered I had a gift. I had my first Château Lafite when I was 22 and that did it for me. Fred: You left St. Louis and came to San Francisco. How long have you been at One Market? Tonya: I've been here for five years. I was at Bizou with Loretta Keller and she urged me to pursue the sommelier profession. Fred: What's your favorite part of being a sommelier? Tonya: Learning something new and different every day. I love the smile on a customer's face when they take a sip of wine I've recommended and you see the epiphany. Having someone say to me, "Wow, I would never have thought of this pairing. The wine completely changed the dish." I love creating a moment that enhances the dining experience. And a memory! Fred: What makes your list unique? Tonya: The list is completely domestic; it always has been. There has been much discussion on adding imports but we have decided to stay true to the original concept of the restaurant. Fred: I really like your list at One Market because I understand it. It reads well, has great selections and is very manageable in size and content. There is nothing more distracting in a wine list than someone going totally eclectic. Who understands that when that sommelier isn't on the floor? I've always found that you sell a lot of wine by the glass with a list like that. Tonya: You thing you always have to remember when putting together a list that you are creating it to make the customer comfortable. Fred: Staff training is paramount. Do you taste often? Tonya: I will pull unique things from the cellar periodically to keep the staff interested and to give them a broader perspective. I bring them imported wines to taste, especially if it is a varietal they have never had before. Fred: I love to taste with you, Tonya, because you are so refreshing and honest in your opinions. I'm sure that One Market hopes that you are here another five years. 32  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2013 TP0713_001-33.indd 32 6/24/13 5:36 PM

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