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Meet Aspen Sommelier LeeAnn Kaufman

Being a sommelier in Aspen, CO. – the most beautiful and seductive restaurant and wine destination in the world – is simply amazing.

Working in a restaurant can be best described as hours of boredom followed by 90 minutes of pure madness. Working with celebrity chefs is a learning experience that produces a different challenge every day.  recently arrived without a reservation. The hostess did not recognize him and said there were no tables available, but he could eat at the bar. He declined and left the restaurant. A customer later told the hostess that she turned away one of the most recognized celebrities in show business. Reservations are recommended in Aspen, even if you’re Jay Leno.

One of the questions I get asked most often as a sommelier is “How do I get a job like yours?” The short answer is you have to drink a lot of wine and remember what you drink. Sommelier means wine steward or simply wine guy.(In my case wine gal) I have many areas of responsibility, but as a wine “gal” when the restaurant doors are open, I am ready to help you through one of the great mysteries of life: how to select a wine!  Lists can be very intimidating even for the most experienced diner. I help eliminate the fear factor by being available during service to explain the different wines, what they taste like and offer suggestions on wines that you may want to try.

As you look at a list that can be anywhere from just a few wines to over 2500 there are probably a good number of wines you have never heard of, but I can assist you in determining what you are looking for. Wine does not have to be expensive to be a great bottle of wine. I have found that there are many great bottles of wine that cost much less than some of the more “name brand” wines. Anyone can order a Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon; it is a wine almost everyone has heard of, but what about a IO Rhone Blend from Santa Barbara? Possibility one of the sexiest wines on the market today.

When you are looking for a wine to enjoy with your meal you do not have to try 300 different wines. Simply ask the sommelier to select a wine that will go well with your meal. Don’t be surprised if the sommelier selects a wine you would not normally associate with going with that dish. That is part of the fun of the job figuring out what really goes with what. Most people would never pair a fish with a red wine but there are some truly delightful combinations such as an Oregon pinot noir with a grilled salmon steak or Beaujolais with a sautéed swordfish. The old rules of white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat do not have to be followed. What really matters is the wine does not overpower the food and the food does not overpower the wine. It should be a balance.

There is an old saying in the wine trade: “It’s easier to buy a used car than buy a German wine.” So when you are dining in the fastest growing food and wine destination in the world and a sommelier offers her assistance don’t be afraid to ask questions and take their advice. You may be surprised at the results!


LeeAnn Kaufman MSA, CWE
Sommelier, St. Regis Resort Aspen

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