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Unreserved Wine Talk

263 EpisodesProduced by Natalie MacLeanWebsite

The Unreserved Wine Talk podcast features candid conversations with the most fascinating people in the wine world. Your host, award-winning journalist Natalie MacLean, dives into how it feels to compete in the nerve-wracking World's Best Sommelier Competition, the shadowy underground of wine forgery… read more


226: Navigating Big Restaurant Wine Lists + Sommelier's Key Role with Tonya Pitts

Are you curious about what it takes to manage a list of 500 different wine labels at one of America’s best restaurants? Why is wine so powerful in creating memories? What is the most important role of the sommelier?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I'm chatting with Sommelier of the Year, Tonya Pitts.

You can find the wines we discussed at



How did art play a major role in Tonya’s life growing up?

Why is wine so powerful in creating memories?

What motivated Tonya to switch from pursuing a career in law to becoming a sommelier?

What was Tonya’s introduction to working in restaurants?

Why is smell such a significant part of Tonya’s tasting process?

What’s in Tonya’s mental wine Rolodex?

What was it like to taste a 1900 Rothschild?

How did a tasting of the 1976 Chateau Lafite compare to the 1900 Rothschild?

What makes older wines so special?

What does it take to manage a list of 500 different wine labels at one of America’s best restaurants?

Why is it even more powerful to visit the place wine comes from?

How did Italy win Tonya’s heart?

What does Tonya love about the service aspect of being a sommelier?


Key Takeaways

I found Tonya’s insights into what it takes to manage a list of 500 different wine labels at one of America’s best restaurants fascinating.

She also shares some great behind-the-scenes observations on the role of the sommelier.

My favourite part is when she talks lyrically about how she’s transitioned from the artist’s canvas to using a plate of food and wine to tell a story and paint a picture for someone.

I also think she’s bang on when she says, “Wine takes you on a journey, you can go anywhere in the world, with a bottle of wine. The reason I still do what I do, and why it means so much to me, is that I can actually smell a glass, it transports me right back to that time and place when I originally had that bottle of wine. It's amazing.”


Join me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live

Join the live-stream video of this conversation on Wed at 7 pm ET on Instagram Live Video, Facebook Live Video or YouTube Live Video.

I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?

Want to know when we go live? Add this to your calendar:


About Tonya Pitts

Tonya Pitts is the Sommelier and Wine Director at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco and she has been crowned 2022 Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Sommelier of the Year. Tonya has been a notable mogul within the wine industry for over 30 years. Outside of her Wine Enthusiast recognition, she was recently inducted into the Hall of Femmes (an award that requires being nominated by other women), awarded membership for Les Dames D’Escouffier, added to the advisory board of Women in Wine’s Leadership Symposium, and has become an integral contributor to Wine Unify.




To learn more, visit

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