Interview with Sommelier Tonya Pitts

Can you share more about the moment that you remember when you knew that you wanted to be a Sommelier or pursue a career in the wine Industry rather than law school (where you were at the time of this epiphany)?

I had been working in restaurants for years and as a Sommelier. But, the epiphany happened when someone tossed my name into the hat for a scholarship for the CMS certification. This was the beginning of the CMS in the States. The first level certified you as a Sommelier, it was called Beringer Blass Wines in conjunction with CMS.

What was your first wine job?

It was working with Chef Loretta Keller at Bizou Restaurant in San Francisco. I knew Chef Keller from my days at Stars Restaurant. You must understand, I was not a Sommelier or a Wine Director when I went to work there. I tell young people all the time, you never know who is watching you. Unbeknownst to me, Chef Keller had been watching me the entire time over the years. She needed some help with the wine program. She pretty much said “You are not supposed to be captain. You are supposed to be a Sommelier. You can do it.”

You have been the Wine Director at One Market SF since when? Share more about that role and all the exciting events you help curate at that restaurant (before COVID of course). I loved the Women in Wine Event you helped plan over the years, can you share more about that?

I have been in my role at One Market for thirteen years. Over the years, there has been Tonya’s Summer Wine School, The Light House for the Blind Blind Wine Tasting, Burgers and Bordeaux, Tonya’s Favorites.

What formal wine education have you taken? Are you in the Court of Masters Sommelier Track or the WSET Track?

I am included in both.

With the current conditions of COVID and San Francisco Restaurants having to evolve their model how have you evolved your wine services (in addition to your Sommelier expertise). What other services are you offering?

I am offering virtual tastings, pairing wine with arts, new product development and wine list management.

As a Sommelier, you taste (and spit) lots of wine, what wine do you feel bad about spitting because you LOVE it so much?

Any wines…

What was one of the biggest mistakes you have made in your winemaking career?

Not taking enough time to smell the roses and all the other beautiful flowers in the garden.

Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?

Larry Stone MS

What is your favorite after-work drink?

Champagne

What is your favorite local spot in San Francisco (besides of course One Market SF where you work)?

Zuni Café, Boulevard

Tell us something that would surprise people about you?

I am down to earth….

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