The Court of Master Sommeliers was established in April 1977 to encourage improved standards of beverage service, particularly wine + food pairing, in hotels and restaurants. In honor of the Master Sommelier Diploma Exams held this week at The Nell, we’re taking a look back at all 10 Master Sommeliers, from first to most recent, who have worked for The Nell’s wine team since the hotel opened in 1989, the most of any establishment in the U.S.
1) Sur Lucero worked at the restaurant at The Nell in the early days. In 2012, he was honored by the Court of Master Sommeliers for being the organization’s 14th Krug Cup recipient, meaning he passed all three sections of the exam on his first attempt. He’s now the National Director for Wine Education for Jackson Family Wines in his native Napa Valley.
2) In 2005, The Little Nell’s then-beverage manager Jason Smith flew to London to take the Tasting portion of the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam. After a brief but intense 25-minute blind tasting, he returned home to Aspen several days later, a member of the Court. Smith now serves as Director of Wine for Bellagio in Las Vegas.
3) As the only female Master Somm from The Nell, Virginia Philip earned her red pin in 2012, becoming the 11th woman in the world to achieve the Master Sommelier accreditation. She now runs the Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy in West Palm Beach, Fl.
4) From 1995-2000, Bobby Stuckey worked at The Nell as the wine director. On his watch, the restaurant received numerous awards for wine and service, including Forbes’ Five Star Hotel + Restaurant Rating; Wine Spectator’s Grand Award + a nomination from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine Service. In 2004 he passed his MS exam and co-founded Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. In 2015, Wine Enthusiast named Stuckey Sommelier of the Year.
5) Richard Betts was the wine director at The Nell from 2000 – 2008. In 2003, he was the 9th person to be presented with the Krug Cup, passing all three parts of the Court of Master Sommeliers’ MS Diploma Exam in one fell swoop. He co-founded his first wine label Betts & Scholl in 2003 and also co-founded Scarpetta Wine. Today, he is guiding his highly-regarded mezcal project, Sombra.
6) Brian McClintic began his career in wine at Morton’s Steak House then spent 16 years working at restaurants including The Little Nell, Il Mulino + Matsuhisa Aspen before earning his MS Diploma in 2011. He was a star in the 2012 film Somm by Jason Wise and is a co-founder of Les Marchands Wine Bar in Santa Barbara.
7) Dustin Wilson’s wine resume includes roles at notable establishments such as The Nell, Frasca Food and Wine, RN74 and Eleven Madison Park. A star in Somm the movie + also seen on Esquire Network’s TV show Uncorked, Dustin’s a familiar face among Master Somms. He is a co-founder of Anvil Wine Co – a farm-to-table wholesale wine business in Colo.
8) In 2009, Jonathan Pullis passed his MS exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers + also landed the job of Wine Director at Montagna at The Nell. The first wine that made him say wow was a 1978 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon + he chooses Krug as his favorite wine and Champagne as his most cherished region. A self-proclaimed “Food & Wine Freak,” Jonathan is the CEO of Chef’s Club Aspen.
9) Savvy Somm Sabato Sagaria left his mark on The Nell in many ways – one being his creation of the Aspen Oasis mobile champagne bar with Veuve Clicquot. In 2012 Sab passed his Master Sommelier Diploma exam + oversaw the transition of Montagna to element 47. After retiring from The Nell as F&B director, he went on to become Chief Restaurant Officer for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.
10) Carlton McCoy is currently the Wine Director at The Nell. A chef at heart + graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he left the kitchen to work the floor + study wine. At age 28, he earned his MS diploma, the 2nd youngest to date to pass the Master Sommelier exams. Carlton introduced the wine cellar at The Nell as a subterranean speakeasy + tasting room. He also takes great pride in developing the team of somms on staff at The Nell, which now numbers an astounding 43.
To close our tribute from today to the ten Master Somms from The Nell, there’s one person who deserves special recognition. Though he may have never clocked in nor been on payroll at The Nell nor will see this as he abstains from social media, Jay Fletcher has been a guiding light for many of the Masters who have come through the hotel. In 1996, Jay became an MS through the Court of Master Sommeliers and has since taken somms at The Nell under his wing, offering his insights, support and encouragement through the process. A true mentor.
Dine with us at element 47 at The Nell and add a visit to the cellar on at the end by calling element 47 at 970.920.6330.