Aspen-based Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy goes from hydration drinks to grand cru Burgundy before running a sub 4-hour marathon in New York.
In our series, Liquid Diet, a professional drinker journals every sip of one beverage-packed week. Here, Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy, wine director of The Little Nell and its restaurant Element 47 in Aspen, Colorado—and a formidable runner—documents a week of espressos, grand cru Burgundies, hydrating sports drinks and the occasional craft beer before running the New York Marathon.
5:30 A.M. I landed in Aspen last night around 9pm, from Rome, and finally fell asleep around 1am. My hope was to sleep until seven, but our cat, Soba, had other plans. At five he/she was on my chest, meowing in my face. So, good morning. I start the day with an espresso—Boxcar Roasters’ Stella espresso, from Boulder. I feed Soba, bid her farewell and head to the office.
10:00 A.M. I’ve been away three weeks, so there’s a long list of emails to work when I arrive at The Little Nell. But by ten it’s time for more caffeine. I head up to the restaurant. This is not a rushed process; I take my foam very seriously. Proper technique took me years to master while I working at Cityzen in D.C. I drink an ice cold San Pellegrino along with the coffee.
12:00 P.M. Meeting with a local wine rep. We taste through Oregon producer Walter Scott Wines’ current releases, and the 2016 La Combe Verte Chardonnay is on fire! Plus the price is right. We’ll pour this in all five restaurants by the glass for the winter. The rest of the day I spend prepping for inventory tomorrow. We have four cellars to count every month, and it’s an all-hands-on-deck ritual.
6:30 P.M. Back at home, a special box has arrived: the final prototype for a beer project I’ve been working on with Jared Rouben of Moody Tongue Brewery. He’s an old Per Se alumni of mine and is now an amazing brewer. The beer fresh, crisp and super well made—I’m essentially creating my favorite daily beer with him.
7:30 P.M. Fellow master somm (and former mentor) Jay Fletcher wants to have dinner. I meet up with him and the family, and begin with an Aperol Spritz. Fletcher orders the wine—I never choose when he’s at the table. Apparently he’s in the mood for something big, because he orders a 2012 Guigal St Joseph and a 2011 Numanthia Toro. Party time: No way to get away from this table without a strong buzz. I head home after dinner, take some melatonin for my jet lag and drink another San Pellegrino.
4:45 A.M. So, the Melatonin didn’t work. I have a couple of espressos, watch an episode of Parts Unknown (Bourdain is the man), and head in for inventory.
12:00 P.M. My cappuccino foam is great, the count is going well, and it looks like it’s going to be a great day. One of our sommeliers, Erik Elliott, is heading off to take his advanced exam, so I’m pour him one last flight for us to taste blind together: 2013 Louis Michel Vaudesir Grand Cru Chablis, 2015 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Gris, 2012 Hirsch Gruner Veltliner Lamm, 2007 Domaine Joguet Clos du Chene Vert Chinon, 2011 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello di Montalcino, and 2005 Chateau Rouget Pomerol.
He does pretty well. Also, I always like to treat the staff with something educational on Inventory Day, so we taste 2015 Kunin Jurassic Park Vineyard Natural Chenin, in homage to my incredible friend Seth Kunin, who just passed away. This wine is spectacular. Then the boys blind me on a 2015 Ostertag Riesling Grand Cru Muenchberg and I nail it. The kid’s still got it, so to speak!
The restaurant is closed for dinner tonight, so I’m free. I head over to The Omnibus Gallery where my girlfriend Elleree works, where I’m greeted with a great “welcome home” bottle from her boss George—a 2002 Pommery Cuvee Louise. I haven’t had this wine in a very long time. Afterwards, we call it a night and head home, where I have a San Pellegrino and try this melatonin thing again.
5:30 A.M. Our cat wakes me up again. I start the day as I always do, with an espresso en route to The Nell around seven. I’ve got a lot to accomplish today as I’ll be heading to NYC tomorrow for the marathon. I spend almost the entire day at the desk getting caught up and finalizing inventories.
8:00 P.M. I get a call from Elleree. She and George want to go to dinner and extend the invite to me, too. We head to Zocalito, a killer Mexican restaurant in Aspen. I prepare myself for a tasty Margarita, but George has other plans, and I arrive to a pretty incredible line up on the table. We drank a 1997 Domaine Weinbach Gewurtztraminer SGN, 1996 Billecart Salmon Clos St Hilaire, 1983 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage, 1985 Vega Sicilia Unico, 1996 Clape Cornas, and a 1996 Domaine Comte Lafon Meursault Charmes. So much for not drinking much before the marathon.
5:00 A.M. I wake up, have my ceremonial espresso and head to the airport for my flight to New York. I buy a sparkling water and the largest drip coffee they sell. The coffee is horrible, but it does the job! I spend the entire flight working on label design for the La Carafe website, a cool charity wine project I started with a partner a couple of years ago. The first vintages are just being released. Very exciting.
8:00 P.M. I’m in New York, and pre-race nerves are starting to kick in. I head to Stumptown for a coffee before meeting a great friend at New York Noodle Town. I’ve been coming to this place since college. We order all the classics and tell the server to keep the TsingTaos coming until we say stop.
6:00 A.M. Up early to answer emails and run errands. I head over to Stumptown for a cinnamon roll and a cappuccino. Today is about carb-loading, hydration and relaxation, so I head over to the Russian Turkish Baths and hit the hot room (Raj Vaidya at Daniel introduced me to this place a few years ago). This place is epic, a weird nook of old NY. I order a carrot juice and a big bottle of water before heading into the cave.
1:00 P.M. A text from Craig Lewis says to meet him, Bobby Stucky, Kenyon Neuman, and Courtney (all fellow sommeliers) at Charlie Bird for a bowl of pasta. I start lunch with a Kolsch. After that things got a little serious. Our cacio e pepe is accompanied by 1999 Domaine Rousseau Clos de Beze—a simple pasta with a world-class Burgundy. I run a few more errands, including a trip to Flight Club to check out the new release of the Nike Air Jordan 1 Flyknits. They are absolutely gorgeous. You can take the boy out of DC….
6:30 P.M. I have an early dinner at 15 East with my friend Sabato Sagria to help him celebrate his new job at BarTaco. It’s game-on, so I tell the sushi chef to star the omakase tap-out session and keep the pieces coming until I say stop! We start with Soba-Cha tea and then move into beer—Koshihikari Echigo Rice Beer for me and Hitichino White Owl for Sab. I prefer beer with sushi, especially crisp, ice-cold beer (go ahead and judge!). Then I head home to get some rest. Tomorrow is the marathon and I’ve got to be up early. I drink a Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration drink before heading to bed.
4:30 A.M. It’s race day and I’m feeling great. I drink another Skratch Hyper Hydration before heading to the bus. At the corrals before the start, I drink six cups of drip coffee—maybe a little overboard? But I was pumped! Throughout the race, I drank water at every mile and Gatorade every other mile.
5:00 P.M. I finished in under four hours, so I’m pleased. Usually after a race, I have no appetite for a while. But as I’m headed to the spa for a little post-marathon massage the most amazing thing happens: I discover that there’s a Popeyes Chicken only a few blocks from my hotel. I find the energy to make a detour. I order a 3-piece with red beans and rice and drink a Coke with it. This is the first soda I’ve had in probably ten years, but it is exactly what I need.
7:45 P.M. Pasquale Jones for dinner. The team has closed the restaurant for the night and invited all their friends who ran the marathon to join them for dinner. The food is exceptional. And, of course, you are in the House of Robert Bohr, so the wine is both incredible and plentiful. Here’s the crazy list of what we opened: 2007 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Tessons double-magnum, Bereche Brut Reserve Champagne double-magnum, 1981 Montevetrine Pergole Torte double-magnum, 2009 Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga double-magnum, 2003 Isole I Olena Cepparello magnum, 2005 Giacomo Conterno Cascina magnum, 2007 Poggio di Sotto Brunello magnum, 1999 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet, 2014 Bernard Boissoin Vadot Meursault Genevrieres, and 2001 Domaine Gilles Barges Cuvee de Plessy. It’s crazy. Then Bobby Stuckey and I finish the night with a couple of ice-cold beers. Today was a good day.
6 A.M. It’s been a long week, but that’s sort of my norm. With the Marathon behind me, it’s back to business. I grab a coffee before spending the morning in meetings with a possible national distribution partner for La Carafe Wines. The discussion goes super well, and on top of that they have an amazing coffee machine at their office—always a great sign!
1:00 P.M. Lunch is with a few old college buddies to discuss a restaurant that they’re opening. We meet at Tim Ho Wan for dim sum and I down a couple of Tsing Taos. Then we head over to Mercer Kitchen for a bottle of Champagne Billecart Salmon Rosé just because.
7:00 P.M. I’ve got this thing about noodles. On my final night in New York, I decide to have dinner solo at Ippudo. They make an honest bowl of Ramen, and the service is fast and efficient. I drink an Orion, a killer beer from Okinawa. It was amazing, so I order another. I just ran a marathon, right, so why not?