Into The Little Nell’s Wine Cellar [Q&A with Carlton McCoy]

The Nell Wine Cellar

The wine program at The Nell is known around the world for acquiring sought-after bottles, recommending varietals, and setting trends in the industry.

Recently I sat down with Carlton McCoy, Master Sommelier at The Little Nell, to discuss a rather new aspect of the wine program: The Little Nell’s Wine Cellar.

Whether you’ve been visiting The Nell for 25 years or are making your introductory visit this fall, exploring The Cellar is an experience you shouldn’t miss. And with The Little Nell being named to Wine Spectator‘s Grand Award winners’ list for 2017, making it twenty years in a row, you’re in for a special treat. Here’s a look inside.

First off, what is your process for selecting wine for The Little Nell’s Cellar?

CM: It depends. We have many outlets, processes, and price points. When I look at selecting wines, we look at needs and styles to fit the hotel and cellar collection. We make sure to select a wide variety with guests top of mind.

How do you and The Nell ensure that you acquire wine in high-demand?

CM: Some of the most sought-after wineries have long standing relationships with us. We have supported those wineries for a long time; we are loyal to them and they are loyal to us.

Yet the reality is that those great wineries of the world see huge demand so allocation is something we work hard on.

With so many new wineries opening their doors, how do you explore/experience them?

CM: We don’t jump in and buy at first. We watch those producers for years to see if they start to produce wines that would fit well with The Nell’s program.

The Cellar

The Little Nell's Wine Cellar Experience

How did you come up with the Nell Cellar concept?

CM: A lot of our guests have never seen our cellar but they have been supporting our wine program for 25+ years. I wanted them to be able to experience the wine cellar and what we do every day. Most things in The Nell are very prim, proper, and modern, but the cellar is the opposite—a working cellar. Cases are literally being thrown around.

We opened the Cellar to our guests a few years ago and they’ve taken it well. We’re lucky.

About how many wines are added to The Nell’s collection each year?

CM: A lot. We sell a ton of wine. Right now, we have about 3,000 selections and we maintain that throughout the year.

It’s important to note that every wine gets the same respect and attention. If it’s an inexpensive wine, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be in the cellar.

What is the Cellar Experience like?

CM: It depends. We can customize a full 6-course pairing dinner or we can offer tasting from a single bottle and casually chat about the wine. It’s up to each group.

Favorite trend of the past five years?

CM: I love that consumers are trying to educate themselves about wine. Plus, people are supporting smaller producers.


Any last thoughts?

CM: While certain wines are exclusive (because of their price points), that’s not what it’s about. Wine is supposed to be inclusive. That’s why there are so many different styles. There is something for everyone which is why we want guests to explore our restaurants and cellar and find something they love.

If you want a wine experience in Aspen, swing by element 47 and get recommendations from Carlton himself. If you’re a guest at The Nell, request a tour of The Little Nell’s wine cellar. You can see the day to day life of our sommeliers and experience a new varietal or winery as well as learn about the origin and region.