Thomas Renshaw

Certifications: Advanced Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, California Wine Appellation Specialist®

Native to the SF Bay Area, Thomas has been working as a sommelier and wine director for 10 years, with a focus on the wines of California. He passed the Advanced Sommelier Exam in 2016 and after passing the Theory and Tasting of the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination, he started teaching with the San Francisco Wine School with the hope of paying it forward. He is currently preparing for the Practical portion of MS Exam, in between working, teaching, and raising his amazing son Oliver.

Get To Know Thomas

What is your favorite wine region to visit?

Anything new! It’s inspiring to engage with the people who make the wine, the food of of the region, and learn how their wine fits in context of the local traditions.

What is your favortie class to teach?

Anything to do with California or blind wine tasting. Many of our students are more familiar with Californian wine regions, promoting lively discussion about everyone’s favorites. I also love shining a light on lesser-known areas of California that offer something really special. In blind tasting classes, I particularly enjoy de-mystifying the topic; it’s not a magic trick! There are objective qualities that act as trail markers that an experienced taster can follow to the correct conclusion - once they learn how to understand them!


What's your most memorable wine experience?

At my first staff training as a server at a restaurant/wine bar, the sommelier (a term I didn’t know until then) threw me in the deep end with a crash course of about a dozen German Rieslings. I remember being overwhelmed with the terminology, and being struck by the incredible differences from wine to wine. How could one kind of grape from one place have so many different expressions? To this day, I always think back fondly to that day whenever I teach about German wine.

Why did you decide to become an instructor?

I’ve always loved teaching, and being a part of a community that lifts each other up to their greatest potential. David Glancy, the founder of the San Francisco Wine School, was an early mentor of mine, and I felt honored to be able to participate in helping others in their own path to knowledge.


What's your most memorable food and wine pairing?

When visiting Bordeaux, my wife and I had the privilege of tasting many of the local wines with local duck-based dishes. And, of course, Sauternes with foie gras...


What's the biggest challenge in your job?

Putting big concepts into understandable language requires really internalizing the information, as well as an understanding how best to communicate to each student. Everyone is on their own journey, and like pairing wine with food it’s important to know how to match the presentation of information to a student’s needs.


What other passions aside from wine do you have?

Coming up with silly songs to sing to my son!


Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.

I’ve always felt that when it comes to real-world wine lovers, the most difficult task is finding a great wine that over-delivers for the price. A recent favorite is the Victorine de Chastenay Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé, a sparkling wine from Burgundy made entirely from Pinot Noir and aged 20 months on the lees, crafted with a seriousness that transcends its price point. Also, the Piedrasassi Rim Rock Syrah from Arroyo Grande is astonishingly expressive, and the 2015 Caraccioli Cellars Brut Cuvee remains among my favorite domestic sparkling wines.


What do you think is the most unappreciated wine of region in the world?

California Syrah! Great examples from Peay, Radio-Coteau, Drew, Failla, Piedrasassi, Pax, etc provide an amazing combination of Californian lush fruit with smoky, peppery, savory tones that are just divine!