In this world, where innovation and ideas are at their peak, there are lots of ways in which you can earn your living. No matter whether it be any sector. Be it the Public Sector, Private sector, or may it be Joint Sector. Some make money by working in the office, some by writing, and some by drawing, designing, cooking, and some by serving. None of the jobs is deemed to be inferior to others. Every other position has its own importance, respect, and way of performing. Everyone works in order to feed themselves and their family and to lead a decent life. Some people work under a Boss, and some are themselves the Boss. Carlton McCoy is one such person. He is an American Businessman and a Master Sommelier.
Who is a Sommelier?
Sommelier might be a new word for many. For those, let's get a quick note on it. A sommelier is basically a trained wine professional who has specialization in wine services and pairing food with wine. They look after the temperature and the glassware in which the win is served and are responsible for the health and safety guidelines to be followed. They are primarily employed in some high-fi restaurants. But, mind you wine waiter and a sommelier are not the same. The work of the latter is more specialized. The sommelier also looks after the vineyards and manages cellars to keep a check on the wine storage, its stock level and delivery.
Carlton McCoy's Birth and Schooling
The background for this businessman's birth in America was hit by the deadly heroin epidemic of the late 1970s and 1980s, along with crack cocaine's tsunami and the rise in the level of crime and violence. In his childhood, he describes himself as a self-trouble kid. Also, he reached the point as a leading figure in the world, with the tag of being a high school dropout more than two times. He was banned from D. C. Public Schools and Virginia School. D.C. He was allowed to come back but in Anacostia High, which is, to date, known for its poor student outcome and violence. But the school also gave Carlton, one of his mentors, who opened his eyes to newer possibilities.
Carlton McCoy's growing years
He grew up in southeast Washington, DC. But his growth as a kid was not much likely to his massive rise in the wine industry. He was named the Master Sommelier in the year 2013. In his home, however, he had very little exposure to wine, as his family preferred beer or whiskey. But the time he spent with his grandmother's in her catering business turned out to be the place where he got to know about his interests. Here he learnt about the basics of the kitchen, preparing vegetables and also cooking. Carlton every time says that his grandma was a fabulous cook and that she was one of the leading influencers behind his career in the restaurant business.
Carlton's Parents and his upbringing
Despite his many accomplishments, achievements, and titles, Carlton is very down-to-earth and never forgets where he comes from and what his background is. He is a friend, a brother and a grandson to someone. Due to addiction, Carlton lost his mother and father at a tender age, like many other children of that era. He was brought up along with some of his cousins, who were also orphans. His story depicts that there is much power in the human spirit and that any person always has someone or the other in his life who uplifts him and provides refuge, and bears resilience. The leader who satisfied this factor in Carlton's life was the one who raised him since his childhood. She was his grandma, Dr Rose Elizabeth Bess. He says that she is the most influential person in his life.
Dr Bess served in the Independent Church of God as a Pentecostal preacher and also owned a catering business. She part timely worked at a funeral home, and including to Carlton, she was a mother to many. Her attitude and work ethic in the church and kitchen and her constant helping attitude has shaped Carlton into what he is today. He also gained his interest and love for food from her. She died in 2006. Post her death, he returned to D.C. The city was then in the middle of the renaissance in culinary, and it was receiving recognition nationally as an epicurean town.
Carlton's specific education in Culinary and especially in Wine
Inspired to continue his likes in culinary art, he got into the class sponsored by the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) when he was in high school itself. C-CAP is a non-profit organization whose objective is to provide mentorship, scholarships, and competitions in order to create or convince underserved students to college and career opportunities in hospitality. It was through one of the mentors of C-CAP, Ian Barthley that Carlton got to know that becoming a chef can be a profession, not just a hobby. He got a complete scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Hyde Park, N.Y., by winning a C-CAP city-level competition.
There is CIA, one of his classes, with Steven Kolpan, on wine was a revelation to him. He says that it was an eye opener for him and took him to a different world. And he made sure to sit in all of the sessions to learn about wine as much as possible. Similarly, Stephen Koplan also took McCoy's attention and was eager to learn from the notice. Carlton has tasted his first wine in the class of Koplan. CIA's study curriculum is a complex combo of the French kitchen and the military code. Carlton says, "You'd better show up clean shaved with crisp-pressed aprons. It was tough." But, as he was aware of the fact that he was the first of all the grandchildren to Dr Bess to get the opportunity to go to college, he took advantage of that opportunity and excelled at it. He went on to be among the toppers of the class and tutored and assisted in teaching. He felt easy in the culinary classes with lots of experience in his kitty. He was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to assist Professor Kolpan in Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, and Tuscan. This made him head to the Ecoffer Room, which was a restaurant run by students. Carlton also finished his hospitality management degree from the CIA.
Carlton starts to work
Carlton tuned up his skills in prestigious institutions, such as Eric Zeibold's CityZen at The Mandarin Oriental in Washington, DC, Marcus Samuelsson's Aquavit, Tom Colicchio's Craft Steak in New York, and Thomas Keller's Per Se, after completing his graduation in 2006. He got serious about wine at the CityZen when he landed a job over there and initiated his education for certification in the Court of Master Sommeliers, which was under the guidance of Andy Myers, who was himself a Sommelier. He, as in Andy, took Carlton under his wings and told him that he might have a future in this industry. At the newly constructed CityZen restaurant, Carlton also met one of his mentors, the CityZen's Chef, Eric Ziebold. He was an alumnus of Thomas Keller's French Laundry. Both of them, i.e. Myers and Ziebold, increased Carlton's interest in the wine and brought him in contact with the vibrant D.C. sommelier wine community.
Along with being in the opening crew of Zeibold's Sou'wester Restaurant, Carlton would keep on his study going. Here working as a sommelier and assistant manager, he had created his own self-designed menu of wine, beer, and cocktails. In the year 2009, he passed The Court of Master Sommelier's Advanced Sommelier exam.
In the year 2011, Carlton joined The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado. None of the other establishments in the country had got more master sommeliers than this through their wine program. Aspen is said to be the Mecca of the wine world, and it attracts people for its wine. Many Wine Spectators and Wine Enthusiasts magazine have recognized their work too. He got promoted to Wine Director after receiving his M.S. title in 2013. He looked over the staff of 150 and acclaimed the Little Nell's 20,000-bottle wine cellar. Carlton met and got connected to the Billionaire investor Gaylon Lawrence, who is a wine lover, in the Private Cellar Tasting room in the Little Nell Resort. Carlton had assured Lawrence then that purchasing Heitz Cellar would be a profitable investment, and Lawrence did it in 2018.
Carlton becomes the Master Sommelier
In the Four Seasons in Washington DC, Carlton got a job to prepare for culinary school. There he worked as a prep cook and manager. The Executive Chef was awesome, as he helped McCoy to prepare for the culinary exams. At just the age of 28 years, Carlton passed the Master Sommelier examination in the year 2013. He was one of four of the 63 candidates who passed this exam. By passing this exam, he became the youngest and second African-American to do this. This test has been given the status of the hardest test in the world by the Wall Street Journal. Because of its lower passing rate of 8-10%.
Carlton reached big heights
Carlton went on to become the very first black CEO of Napa Valley. For about a quarter year, Carlton travelled between Aspen and Napa each week. It was after this commutation that he officially decided to move to St. Helena to take responsibility at the Lawrence Wine Estates. Since his appointment in 2018 as a managing partner, the Lawrence Wine Estates has rapidly grown and underwent huge expansion. Now, he manages eighty employees from ten companies. The company also has some of the most iconic and historic wine brands in California. A project about acquiring the Stony Hill, Winery, Burgess Cellars, and some major vineyards and also the land holdings from the famous Heitz Cellars were suggested by him.
Further, as said in early 2019, he went on to become the CEO and President of the Heitz Cellar. This depicts a typical style of Napa wines: those which communicate to the California winemaking of the earlier era. He is now well versed, being a Master Sommelier in the wines of the world and keen on recognizing the icons. He believes that being American, they should have the perspective of wines being the national treasure as Heitz. And that he feels honoured for being the steward of such a historic and iconic brand.
Carlton's struggles and his attitude towards it
This industry is basically run generational. The costly vineyard lands are passed down along the families. But, nothing like this happened with McCoy. But, as he defines it in his own life, he says, "You can create your own brand actually with initially very little money. You don't need a winery anymore to have a cool wine brand that is very successful. That narrative is changing." Like the other sectors, he believes that the underrepresented should be given access more easily in this world of wine.
Throughout his life, he has had enormous memories of sharing beverages with people. He finds it connecting and hence is the most valuable part for him. Some of the most memorable beverages he ever had have some deep story connected with them. Be it with his friend or his girlfriend. They are the 1978 Hubert de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Rugiens, Lobos 1707 Tequila, 2017 Ink Grade Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1996 Dalla Valle Pietra Rosso Napa Valley. Carlton is very adventurous in nature. He enjoys roaming throughout the world on the hunt for some fabulous wine and spirits. He also enjoys pursuing physically testing outdoor activities.
What Carlton's friend says about him?
It is said by his close friends that becoming what he has grown up to be, is a compilation of two different stories. Firstly it is about his past endeavors. And secondly, the situations that unfolded and will be upcoming in his personal and professional growth as the leader he is today. His friends also say that his success story can provide inspiration to those who are lost in their daily life struggles and have lost the way towards newer possibilities. His path also provides the upcoming executives with a blueprint in order to develop a personality in their profession. And most importantly, they say that his story demonstrates the role of the strength of the family and mentors in the hospitality industry.
Carlton's recent Endeavour
Now, he has brought us a show, "Nomad with Carlton McCoy", all on his own on CNN. His show is produced by Anthony Bourdain and his team of production. His favorite work, i.e., sharing meals and drinks in order to know a person or a location in-depth, is the basic frame of his latest accomplishment. Through the CNN Original Series "Nomad". Here Carlton is seen as finding the "pillars of culture" from various perspectives of lesser seen sides of destinations. Such as Seoul, Paris, etc. Through this show, he wants to know what formulates the identity of various cultures. And hence, he explains that Nomad is all about understanding the process of rapid change in the world and how the population of that place evolves. He connects the link between the people and the food and drinks of each place while exploring the world's art, architecture, fashion and culinary scenes.
Awards and recognition to Carlton
Recently he has been named 30 Under 30 list in the category of food by the prestigious Forbes magazine. Being a respected wine professional, he has now found success in the food and beverage industry. One of his achievements also includes the "40 under 40 tastemakers of 2021" tapped by one of Wine Enthusiast magazine, even though he is still not forty years of age. Recently he was also named by the Culinary Institute of America to its Board of Trustees. Carlton is now also the founder of a non-profit organization, The Roots Fund. The organization is for the BIPOC community in the wine industry, and it formulates educational and employment opportunities for them.
He gives credit to the number of mentors since the beginning along his path to various accomplishments. He has always aimed to lead from the heart and by example, as his grandmother did. He continues to see himself before the mirror, saying that he is more healthy from inside and out today than ever before. He says that listening to books on his runs has become an important part of his life and that it helps to quiet the echo chamber and enhance the speed of his growth.