Correction and clarification: Several changes have been made to this story since it originally appeared. The Houston Press apologizes for all errors and misunderstandings in its original account.
Lindsay Thomas was at a lunch presented by a Napa Valley winery when Matt Stamp, a master sommelier leading the wine tour, sat down next to her. In Arlington, Virginia, she had just passed her introductory and certified levels with the Court of Master Sommeliers and won this enrichment trip through the Guild of Sommeliers.
"At that point I knew I wanted a mentor," she says and expressed her wish to Stamp. A day later at a tasting in Sonoma, soon-to-be master sommelier David Keck mentioned to Stamp his need for a general manager. The connection was made and after a few interviews over Skype and a visit to Houston, Keck offered Thomas the general manager position at Camerata.
Soon after taking the position she remembers one special night when the dimly lit wine bar was swarming with giants of the industry. Camerata was hosting a book release dinner for author John Bonné and on top of that the In Pursuit of Balance association was in town. At the time, In Pursuit of Balance was a series of conferences related to the movement of California winemakers pulling back from the region's hard-to-shake reputation of largely extracted, high alcohol, high fruit wines.
That night, Rajat Parr who Thomas remembers coming through the doors with ten bottles in hand, popped and poured a 2008 Clos Rougeard Brezé Saumur Blanc and within moments had the room in a roar. She remembers this chenin blanc from the Loire Valley to be especially mesmerizing, “I heard everybody going crazy for it, and I loved it too, but at that point I realized how much work I needed to do—I needed to figure out why it tasted special.”
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With the elegance and style befitting a movie star of the forties, Thomas, now an advanced sommelier, graces the dining room floor of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse on Westheimer. After working a year and half under Keck at Camerata, when he made the jump at the end of 2016, so did she. Thomas, who by the time she was 30, and in only three years since she began her focus on wine, blew through the introductory, certified, and advanced levels with the Court of Master Sommeliers, passing each on the first try. With her eye set on a pair of MS letters to follow her name, she is chipping away at the theory part of the exam and hopes to master it with more time and experience. And working under the Pappas' nationally recognized wine program and Master Sommelier Steven McDonald, with all those classic producers at her fingertips, she couldn’t be in a better place.
But wine, after all, wasn’t her first career. Just like Houston, indeed wasn’t her first home. Born in New Mexico, Thomas grew up familiar with the taping of brown boxes as her parents, both doctors, moved frequently. Her father, who worked in emergency health, would specialize in improving a particular department and when the job was done, they would move on. Growing up she remembers her father who occasionally collected Bourdeauxs and Napa cabs would sometimes pair them with her evening meal. “I was introduced to a higher echelon of wine at an early age that I just had no business tasting,” she says laughing.
In 2008 over Thanksgiving dinner, she remembers her father filling their glasses with a decanted ’91 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet. “Not only did it have this incredible, velvety Napa fruit on it, but it had all of those savory things as well, earth, tobacco, spice, it stopped me in my tracks.” Thomas says. “With 15 years of age, everything was beginning to work wonderfully, it was this prime window where the wine was just—good.”
Despite having an undergraduate degree in theater from Indiana University, and some acting experience in New York City and across the country, Thomas all the while worked service industry jobs to supplement that career. In 2013, when she accepted a position as wine director for North Side Social Coffee and Wine in Arlington, it was then she decided to rechart her course toward a study of wine.