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Carlton McCoy is one of the youngest master sommeliers in the world and the second African American to earn the diploma

Aspen, Colorado (July 19, 2013) – Carlton McCoy was named wine director of The Little Nell today -- marking an incredible rise through the restaurant industry that began with a high school culinary program for underprivileged youth.

Carlton is one of the youngest people in the world to have earned the master sommelier diploma and is the second African American to do so.

Just 28 years old, Carlton earned his master sommelier diploma in May, joining an elite group of 133 wine professionals who have achieved the highest distinction afforded in the wine industry. With a pass rate of 10 percent, the master sommelier exam 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.

"Growing up, there wasn't wine on the table at my house," Carlton said. "But wine is for everyone. Every time I approach a table or talk about wine, it isn't coming from a place of snobbery or elitism. It's about figuring out what people like, finding new things guests might like, and spending time with friends and family."

He was raised in a rough neighborhood of Washington, D.C. but spent his time assisting his grandmother with her church-based catering business. In high school he enrolled in the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), which helps underprivileged youth get a head start on culinary careers. He was awarded a scholarship to The Culinary Institute of America, where he was called to his true passion: wine and service.

Carlton has a sense of adventure, travelling the world in search of great wine and spirits. He has graced several celebrated restaurants including Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit, Tom Colicchio’s Craft Steak in New York, Eric Zeibold’s CityZen at The Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., and with Doug Anderson at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Carlton arrived at The Little Nell in November 2011, inspired by the hotel's Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning program and the property's exciting reputation as a training ground for master sommeliers. The Little Nell has had more masters come through its wine program than any other establishment in the country, with 10 masters working or having worked on property.

He follows Master Sommelier Jonathan Pullis as the wine director at the five star, five diamond Little Nell. When Carlton is not serving, studying or tasting wine, he is probably out fishing, camping, hiking or skiing in the mountains of Aspen.

About The Little Nell

Cosmopolitan yet intimate, contemporary yet timeless, The Little Nell invites guests to experience Aspen’s only ski-in/ski out legendary hotel and the newly opened element 47 restaurant. For more information, and for reservations, call 888-The-Nell (888-843-6355) or visit www.thelittlenell.com.

©2012 The Little Nell