Kat Thomas has been working in wine in Las Vegas since 1997, tending bar at some of the city’s most popular restaurants and helping to expand customers’ palates and minds. She spent most of the last five years as the training and education manager for the Hakkasan Group’s domestic operations, a gig that took her already varied experience to the next level.
But Thomas has been enjoying suburban life this year, helping to open Ada’s Wine Bar at Tivoli Village and working to reset expectations for wine programs in the Summerlin area.
“There have been a ton of places that have claimed to be wine-centric in Las Vegas but even if the original [concept] was meant to be that way, it’s a bar with gaming, or the spirits had to take over because that’s what makes money,” she says. “People lose sight of what wine functionality can be.”
Ada’s is staying focused on wine and Thomas is continuing to guide her customers through new adventures and experiences to which they may not have been exposed in Las Vegas or anywhere else.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the boys at Garagiste [Wine Room in the Arts District]. They really did help pave our way and my way to believing we could do something unique,” Thomas says. “And [Ada’s owner] James Trees really gave me the platform to try it and see if we could handle Summerlin people. It’s a unique beast up here.”
What is it about the experience at Ada’s that makes it such a unique wine destination?
People are so accepting here. It’s the most cool thing I’ve experienced. When I traveled with the Hakkasan Group, there were some cool places they had restaurants, but this is the most accepting place I’ve seen as far as unique styles of wine. I’m loving the vibe and the community and the connection we get to have, and the flow of energy between regular guests and people coming off the Strip. The fact that people from out of town are traveling to come up here, I’m just in awe of that, just giddy.
Are people generally more adventurous now with wine than they were a few years ago?
I think people are always experiencing a shift and wanting to learn about everything. Learning through technology is great but when you get face-to-face with somebody, that’s the best. People always ask, What does this taste like? Is this sweet? Is this dry? I’m like, nope. You get three glasses and you tell me what it is. My dry is maybe not the same as yours. And my memory plays a lot into it, and your memory plays a lot into what your tastes are. Then we can have that conversation and my education and background can come into it.
You’ve given us some great Halloween candy and wine pairings this week, but about dessert pairings in general?
I have worked in some great restaurants and there’s always somebody in the back who’s a crazy, badass pastry chef making the best desserts. But nobody ever wants dessert. Here, we had two gelato and one sorbet when we first opened, and suddenly everybody wanted dessert. Now we have a few different ones that I’ve put with a pairing and one is a bread pudding with a Madeira. For me, introducing people to dessert wines is the most glorious thing ever. Our wine list has a little flight you can try with a sherry, a port and a Madeira and it’s super cool. And now that we’re eight months in, the new menu we’re about to roll out is expanding and we’ll have four or five desserts including a cheese-with-cider pairing.