Little Nell adds a master sommelier

By Real Aspen
May 23, 2012

Sabato Sagaria, the director of food and beverage for the Little Nell hotel, has just received his master sommelier diploma, joining an elite group of 122 top wine professionals in North America.

Sabato Sagaria

The Little Nell has had more masters come through its wine program than any other establishment in the country, now with nine masters working or having worked on property. Hotel managers said they were proud to host the master sommelier exam in Aspen from May 20-23. The exam, dubbed “the hardest test in the world,” has a pass rate of approximately 10 percent and was being held for the first time in Colorado.

“I wouldn’t say I had a home field advantage taking the exam here. With the kind and amazing team we have at The Little Nell, I’ve been enjoying their support throughout this entire process, every step of the way,” said Sagaria.

As a master sommelier, Sagaria has now achieved the highest distinction afforded in the wine industry by successfully completing an intense examination that requires extreme focus and determination. The overall examination consists of a verbal theory test where other masters ask 150 questions on anything and everything relating to wine, spirits and sake, while a service test expects candidates to correctly address mock service scenarios including wine decanting, champagne service and pairing different wines with food. Finally the candidate must also blind taste six wines in less than 25 minutes, successfully determining the wine’s origin, grape and vintage.

Fifty candidates sat for the exam at The Little Nell this week, with just four passing. Among the candidates was Little Nell Assistant Wine Director Carlton McCoy, who passed both the tasting and the verbal theory portions of the exam on his first try.

The Little Nell’s Wine Director Jonathan Pullis received his master sommelier diploma in 2009.


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