Almost a year ago now, Brett and I stumbled across a little gem on Netflix called Somm. It’s a 2012 documentary that follows four sommeliers as they attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam – a test with one of the lowest passing rates in the world. I was blown away by the sheer volume of information that these sommeliers must retain to even have a chance at passing the exam. After watching the film, not only did I gain a huge amount of respect for anyone that aspires to reach such a level as a wine educator, but I asked the obvious question: Are there Master Sommeliers in Colorado? You bet there are. In fact, there are 13 throughout the state. Looking over the list on the Master Sommeliers website, I realized the other day that I had even met one of them and wasn’t even aware that he had achieved this rare distinction – Bobby Stuckey, of Boulder’s Frasca.
A little background: Stuckey teamed with Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson to open the restaurant in 2004 and it is now arguably one of Colorado’s finest restaurants. And the pair actually worked together at world famous restaurant, The French Laundry. It was here that Stuckey earned the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine Service Award. Suffice it to say, Stuckey knows his wine and he loves sharing what he knows.
I picked his brain recently on a handful of topics. Here’s what I learned:
1. [Ryan] You were once a pro cyclist, how did you get interested in wine?
[Bobby Stuckey] I was into wine before I was a pro cyclist. I’ve been bussing tables since 1983 (and still do to this day). While I was a domestic pro in the early 90’s, I couldn’t afford just to be a pro cyclist. It turned out to be a great thing that I stayed in the industry while riding, because it was during that time that I found out I wanted to be in the hospitality business the rest of my life.
2. The food scene has improved considerably in recent years in the Denver and Boulder area. How has the wine culture changed in Denver/Boulder since opening Frasca in 2004?
3. As a wine educator, you have done much to popularize Friulian wine. What is it about this region that you find so appealing?
We’ve spent the last 12 years at Frasca in the exploration of Friulano cuisine and wine. Friuli is the one region in the world that I’ve found to have so many expressions of the same varietal, so many different styles, all executed very well. For example, on the same block, you might meet a producer making a Tocai Friulano in a crispy, non-oxidative style. His neighbor might be making it with a lot of bâtonnage (stirring the lees by hand) and malolactic fermentation (bacteria conversion), very powerful when combined with French oak. They’re all right, but they just have different points of view. Very rarely do you encounter that in any other wine region. In fact, very few regions can handle that many winemaking styles. In Friuli, they’re all appropriate, and they’re all correct.