Gretchen Thomas of Barcelona Wine Bar Launches “Gretchen’s Selections”

Emma Jane-Doody Stetson

Exciting news from Barcelona Wine Bar and Barteca Restaurant Group!  Selections from their award-winning wine list, recognized by publications like Wine Spectator and The Wall Street Journal, are now available online.  Newly unveiled “Gretchen’s Selections” features approximately 25 wines that are directly imported and offered to Barcelona’s guests.  Each wine was hand-selected by Gretchen Thomas, acclaimed Wine and Spirits Director for Barteca Restaurant Group.

“I’m always looking for great wines for the Barcelona wine program, whether they are sold through my trusted suppliers or not,” says Thomas. 

Sometimes she comes across amazing bottles here at home.  Vineyards will ship wines to her or she will be introduced to someone in the area doing something new and exciting.  Other times, her quest takes her overseas.

“Usually once a year I go to Barcelona, go to my favorite wine store, and buy dozens of bottles that I’ve never seen or tried, and just try them in my hotel room nearby,” she reveals.  Gretchen admits to being “very picky,” but has discovered truly outstanding wines in her travels.

The idea for Gretchen’s Selections took root in early 2008.  The dipping economy started to take its toll on the wine and restaurant industry, especially with wines coming from Europe where the Euro proved much stronger than the dollar.  Thomas searched for a way to secure her wine list.  She wanted to continue to work-with high quality products without raising prices on the menu.  A direct import portfolio provided the answer.

“In this country, I simply cannot buy directly from a winery and then put it on my menu. It must go from winery to importer to distributor to restaurant… to consumer,” she explains.  That multi-step process results in higher prices, as there are costs built in during each phase.

“‘Direct import’ is something unique in Connecticut,” she continues. “In this state, an importer can also be a distributor.”  By eliminating intermediate steps, Thomas can purchase wines for 30-40% less and pass more savings along to the patrons.  She can offer premium wines by the glass at incredible prices.

To make her vision a reality, Thomas began looking for an importing partner.  She reached out to Dominic Rodriguez, owner of Classic Wines based in Stamford, and has been working with him ever since.  They got to work right away.

“I must have traveled to South America 5 times that year, and Spain 5 times the year after,” she reflects.  In that year they picked up wines including Palacio de Fefinanes Albarino, Celler Laurona and Cerro Anon Reserva from Spain along with Earth First and Monte Quieto from Argentina.  They remain some of the restaurant’s bestselling wines.

Seven years later, some these selections along with other favorites retail on  The online marketplace started in Norwalk and has evolved into a national brand.  Scott Lawson, Bartaco Restaurant Group’s President and co-founder, knew John Caplan, President of, through the industry.  Whimsical conversations between the two turned into plans for a partnership.  Thomas calls the “perfect partner” in their endeavor.

Although Gretchen’s Selections just went live, Thomas is already looking to the future.

The wine world is constantly changing, and I’m chasing what’s new and interesting,” she relays.  “I love adding new wines into the portfolio.”

She’s even experimenting with her own creations!  The Vino de Mercado wine, for example, is a wine she blended in Almeria, Spain with the organic winery Pagos de Indalia.  It currently sells on for $17.99.  In addition, she just completed her own Cava, the Spanish answer to champagne.  The sparkling “Barcava” arrived in the United States last week and will be ready for New Year’s Eve.

She already has trips planned to South America, Spain, and Germany in the upcoming year.

“It’s a never-ending search!” she exclaims.

As Gretchen continues to bring us amazing wines, visit for Gretchen’s Selections!