Best New Sommeliers of 2013


Josh Thomas, Prospect, San Francisco

Thomas was in the wrong place at the right time, getting to take over as wine director of Aqua just one year before it closed. It turned out to be a leg up into Prospect.

Texas native Josh Thomas worked in restaurants all through high school, graduating to Biga on the Banks in San Antonio, where he trained at every station in the kitchen, from salad to fish to pastry. To further his career, he moved to California and took a sauté position at Michel Richard's Citronelle in Santa Barbara.

But local rents sent him into sticker shock, and he began looking for a part-time job. He ended up selling wine at Lazy Acres Market for two years until he decided to move to San Francisco. He started there at Blackwell's Wine & Spirits, a small shop on Geary in the Richmond District with a tight collection of high-quality wines. Then he joined Masa's as a food runner and expediter, where he met Master Sommelier Alan Murray. Murray introduced him to the Court of Master Sommeliers, and Thomas began taking every wine course he could find. By the time he moved to Aqua in 2006 he was able to work his way up from food runner to captain. When the wine director left, Thomas stepped in to manage the wine list until the restaurant closed in 2010.

Meanwhile, Chef Nancy Oakes and her team at Boulevard were readying to open Prospect, near the Embarcadero. They hired Thomas as assistant sommelier. When his boss, Amy Currens, left in December of 2012 to head up the list at Farmshop in Larkspur (profiled as a W&S New & Notable Restaurant in this issue), Thomas took over as wine director. Having passed his Advanced exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers in April of 2012, he's currently studying for the MS. —Patrick Leveque

California Cuisine

In California, when heirloom tomatoes are around, I eat as many as I can get my hands on. I like to grab some bread to make olive oil–soaked croutons, add some chopped basil from our garden, and cheese.

No Sour Grapes

Traveling to Germany, seeing the steepness of many of the vineyards, the black slate and the danger involved in tending these vines, was truly mind-blowing. It was interesting to hear Johannes Selbach speak about global warming. He believes the wines of the Mosel have never been riper than they have been for the past two decades. The last vintage he can remember that actually had "sour grapes" was '87.

The Season for Beaujolais

We did a dish in the spring with three preparations of goat on the plate—a chop, a braise and a roast. The dish had pea shoots, fava bean relish, a vinaigrette—subtle spring flavors. I found that Beaujolais really worked—a 2011 Régnié from Domaine de Colette. The dish needed something with acid and minerality that could stand up to a strong protein while not overpowering the subtle flavors of the dish. It really sang.

Post-Shift

Champagne is always up there. But sometimes after a long day in the restaurant a crisp, lighter beer like a Schrimshaw Pilsner can be really refreshing.

Somm Break

I like to ride and to tinker with motorcycles when I can. I used to have a Harley Davidson Sportster but it was damaged outside of Prospect. Now I ride on a Harley Dyna Fat Bob. For a getaway, rides north through wine country or through the Santa Cruz Mountains are great.