Carlton McCoy caught Napa Valley by surprise. After leaving his post as wine director at the luxury hotel The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, and moving to Napa Valley in 2018 to join Heitz Cellar, the rumour mill churned. Napa locals wondered in what direction this Master Sommelier would take the iconic label.
For Gaylon Lawrence Jr, the billionaire investor and Heitz Cellar’s owner, hiring McCoy was a no-brainer. The two had become friends at The Little Nell and Lawrence recognised all the traits of a born leader.
A rapid rise
After winning a scholarship to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York, McCoy graduated in 2006 and found work at Thomas Keller’s Per Se and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit. By 2011, he made his way to The Little Nell. Just two years later, he would achieve the title of Master Sommelier – all by his 28th birthday.