Exclusive: Aspen's the Little Nell Names New Wine Director

Head sommelier Chris Dunaway is getting promoted at the luxury resort's Grand Award–winning restaurant
Exclusive: Aspen's the Little Nell Names New Wine Director
Chris Dunaway is now the wine director for one of the country's most lauded luxury resorts for wine. (C2 Photography Chris Council and Emily Chaplin (left) & Shawn O'Connor)
Apr 10, 2019

Wine Spectator has learned that longtime Grand Award winner Element 47, located in the Little Nell hotel in Aspen, Colo., has a new wine director. Head sommelier Chris Dunaway will take the reins from Carlton McCoy, who is ending his six-year tenure for a new role as president and CEO of Heitz Cellar in Napa Valley.

"It's a very humbling experience to step into this role. I still cannot believe that it has happened," Dunaway told Wine Spectator. "I have always dreamed of being a wine director and having that kind of influence on other sommeliers and others in the industry and to help grow and promote something great. It is an incredible challenge, one that I have been looking forward to. And having the opportunity to step into this role is truly a dream."

"Chris came to us with a wealth of experience already, and from the beginning, he showed the leadership skills necessary to move up in the company," said McCoy. Dunaway joined the Little Nell's team in 2015 as head sommelier. Prior to this, he worked in New York City at chef Daniel Boulud's Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, as well as at Corkbuzz wine bar.

"It was a difficult move because the market in New York has so many resources and so many opportunities," Dunaway said about leaving the Big Apple for the luxury ski town. "But when you get the opportunity to come to a place with such an incredible legacy and incredible talent, it's very difficult to say no."

Dunaway follows a long line of accomplished sommeliers that have maintained the Grand Award–winning wine program, which currently offers 2,800 selections with strengths in Burgundy, Bordeaux, California and more. When the restaurant earned the Grand Award in 1997, Bobby Stuckey, now owner of Best of Award Excellence winner Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo., was the wine director. Stuckey left the Little Nell in 2000, and was succeeded by Richard Betts and then Jonathan Pullis in 2009. McCoy joined the wine team in 2010 and became wine director in 2013.

Csaba "Chubby" Oveges, the Little Nell's food-and-beverage director, has no doubt Dunaway will shine in his new role. "Chris' excellence in connecting with clients and customers is unparalleled in the industry," he said. "He's one of the first people to manage to bridge that gap and start meeting some new clients for the Little Nell and really bring in a younger generation and reenergizing the program. I think it's a big part of his skill set."

The Little Nell celebrated its 20th consecutive Grand Award in 2017 with a party that Wine Spectator editor at large Harvey Steiman attended. It included food prepared by chef Francis Mallmann, and a reunion of many of the hotel's previous wine directors.


Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Aspen Dining Out Restaurant Awards News

You Might Also Like

Tony Parker Doubles Down in Southern France

Tony Parker Doubles Down in Southern France

The NBA star's newly purchased Rhône wine estate, Château St.-Laurent near Avignon, will …

Nov 30, 2022
Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune Charity Auction Hits a $32 Million Record

Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune Charity Auction Hits a $32 Million Record

Thanks to enthusiasm over the 2022 vintage, 802 barrels of Burgundy raised the event’s …

Nov 29, 2022
‘Straight Talk’ Podcast Episode 3 Spotlights Champagne for the Holidays

‘Straight Talk’ Podcast Episode 3 Spotlights Champagne for the Holidays

James Molesworth and Alison Napjus chat with Roederer's Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon and grower …

Nov 29, 2022
Antinori's Piedmont Estate Prunotto Buys Vineyards in Serralunga d'Alba

Antinori's Piedmont Estate Prunotto Buys Vineyards in Serralunga d'Alba

The Italian wine company expands its Barolo presence with 8.4 acres in Cerretta

Nov 28, 2022
Study Finds Heavy or Binge Drinking by Younger Adults a Key Factor in Alcohol-Related Deaths

Study Finds Heavy or Binge Drinking by Younger Adults a Key Factor in Alcohol-Related Deaths

Looking at Americans 20 to 64 years old, researchers link alcohol to one in five deaths, …

Nov 22, 2022
Fraud Trial Roils Bordeaux

Fraud Trial Roils Bordeaux

For several years, a group of wine professionals trucked in millions of bottles worth of …

Nov 21, 2022