Sommelier Gillian Ballance of PlumpJack Café - Biography

San Francisco, CA

March 2007

Wine may be serious business in California, but that doesn’t mean you need to take it too seriously. Gillian Balance, Wine Director for the PlumpJack Group in the Bay Area, has put together a wine program for their restaurants that keeps the focus on enjoying wine and exploration. It all starts with prices: wines at Jack Falstaff, PlumpJack Café, and the other restaurants in the group come in at retail prices instead of the usual markup. Wines by the glass are also a priority at PlumpJack Café, which offers almost thirty selections. Those who know the PlumpJack Group’s own wines will not be surprised to hear that screwcap wines have their own special place on the list, and at Jack Falstaff biodynamic and organic wines are the focus.

Gillian started into wine at the Rainbow Room in New York, where she was introduced to Andrea Immer. That contact led to a position as Cellar Master at the Window on the World restaurant. After time at Cello and at Terrance Brennan’s Picholine, Gillian decided to head west and took a position running the wine program at the Bacara Resort and Spa in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Her list there won the Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence,” as has the list at Jack Falstaff.

Gillian herself won the Bronze Medal at the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ National Young Sommelier Competition. She has earned the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust’s Diploma in Wine and Spirits and Higher Certificate of Distinction, and last year she completed the Advanced Sommelier level of the Court of Master Sommeliers program. The pleasure she takes in her work comes through in her wine lists and training, and is a perfect match for the relaxed lifestyle concept that is central to the PlumpJack company.