Canvas Rebel – Meet Thomas Perez
We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Thomas Perez a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Thomas, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Can you share a customer success story with us?
Plane & Level evolved from an at-home freshly baked empanada and wine delivery offering to my neighbors and surrounding neighborhoods during the pandemic. It became so popular, I was making over 100 empanadas a day and chimichurri sauce by the gallons from herbs from my garden. The overwhelming positive response from everyone inspired Plane & Level, a Spanish tapas and wine bar and we took a leap of faith and opened during COVID. Our customer loyalty and patronage not only kept us afloat in our first year of operation, but allowed us to expand during our second year to host larger parties. Now we’re headed strong into our third year of service and we couldn’t be more thankful for our customer support!
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
A native El Salvadoran with nearly 25 years in the industry, Thomas Perez, world-class sommelier is Co-Founder and Culinary Director of Plane & Level.
At a young age Perez escaped war-torn El Salvador with the goal to finish middle school. Little did he know that attending a wine tasting, at the renowned Masters of Food & Wine event, while he was working as a busboy at Highlands Inn in Carmel, that his life was about to change. Wine stole his heart and in 2004 Perez graduated from Escuela Superior de Enologia del Pais Vasco, Spain where he received his Masters in Oenology and Viticulture, becoming one of few sommeliers in the world that is also an oenologist.
Perez has engaged his extensive knowledge of winemaking techniques and education from time spent with Fidel Fernández at Bodegas Luis Cañas, Spain, Jean François Coche at Domaine Coche-Dury, France, and with Aubert de Villaine at Domaine de La Romanée-Conti, France, to deliver some of the world’s most exquisite wines. With this experience, he became founding winemaker of Kristi-Lynn Wine where he creates fine wines that showcase the pure identity of the varietals from Santa Maria Valley, California; Willamette Valley, Oregon; Mendoza, Argentina; and La Rioja, Spain.
Monterey County Weekly magazine boasts of Perez’s talents and humility by saying, “they simply do not make many wine whisperers like Thomas Perez. With Perez there’s no ego, only an oenology degree and profound understanding of the connection between how the wine is made and how it acts in the glass. ” It is this deep understanding of wine that has him named one of the three top wine experts in the nation by Men’s Health Magazine in 2010.
Thomas has worked as wine director and sommelier at high-profile properties such as: Aubergine L’Auberge Carmel Relais & Chateaux, Cantinetta Luca and Marinus at Bernardus Lodge, The Inn at Dos Brisas Relais & Chateaux, The Clubs at Houston Oaks, Bandol Wines and La Table.
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
The restaurant industry is fierce. As an owner, it was very important to me to be there everyday, nurture the staff and create family atmosphere. I think spending this extra time at the restaurant, personally interacting with all the guests built as sense of community and trust that built a steady customer. This following provided priceless marketing, the power of word-of-mouth.
How did you build your audience on social media?
Social media is a combination of everything! High-quality content coupled with engaging stories is key. Partnering with the community, working with bloggers and influencers, paid advertising, charity involvement, you name it. Social media is all about the reach and it’s important to activate all aspects. It’s also constantly evolving so it’s important to pay attention to what’s trending, market research and new technology.
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