Sarah Thomas brings diverse experiences to Bar Marco's new wine room | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sarah Thomas brings diverse experiences to Bar Marco's new wine room

"Organic chemistry has actually paid off."

Sarah Thomas describes her role at Bar Marco's Wine Room this way: "It's like I'm hosting a fantastic dinner party, except I didn't have to cook."

Located in the Strip District restaurant's wine cellar, the candle-lit Wine Room is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, with two seatings each night. At the 6 p.m. First Seating ($55 per person), Thomas pairs wines with four courses from executive chef Jamilka Borges; the 8 p.m. Main Seating ($125) features between 8 and 12 courses and pairings. Seatings are limited to 10 people; prices include tax, tip, food and wine.

Thomas took what might seem like an unconventional path to wine service. The 26-year-old studied poetry as an undergraduate, and earned a master's degree in English literature from Cambridge University at the age of 22. She was on a path toward medical school before deciding to become a sommelier.

But the Wine Room, she says, is the perfect setting to maximize her diverse interests.  For her, literature is story-telling and poetry is people. Her interest in research and technical details, meanwhile, comes from her science background. "Organic chemistry has actually paid off," she says.

When devising the pairings, Borges comes up with the menu first, and then the duo talks and makes minor adjustments to suit Thomas' desired wine selections. Thomas' selections lean toward Old World wines, but guests should expect something a bit outside the mainstream. For example, a recent First Seating featured: a semi-dry, herbal French vermouth; a briny, yeasty sherry; a soft floral Austrian white; and a funky, semi-effervescent red from Italy.

Thomas says that while the primary factor in selecting each wine is ensuring harmony with the food, the stories behind the wines are also part of the experience.

"It's the people behind the wine that draws me to them," Thomas says. "It's the farmers and winemakers and the people who are devoted to each bottle. That's what moves me when I buy wines."

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