An Aspen alum comes home
Bobby Stuckey returns for a banner year
Special to The Aspen Times
This feature and others appear in The Aspen Times’ Food & Wine Classic special section, which can be found online at aspentimes.com/magazines.
They say you can’t go home again, but this year’s Food & Wine Classic will see the return of an Aspen alum who spent his formative years in what some call the Harvard BusinessSchool of fine wine: The Little Nell hotel.
Bobby Stuckey, the proprietor of Boulder’s Frasca Hospitality Group and a founder of Scarpetta wines, comes back to Aspen once again to host a pair of seminars in this year’s modified Food & Wine Classic. His seminars, in the rarefied air of what was once his home turf, will focus on “The Brilliance of Dry Riesling.”
“My seminar is going to be great,” Stuckey said with his infectious enthusiasm. “I’ll be pouring world-class dry Riesling from Germany, Austria and Alsace in France, from producers like Leitz, Donnohoff, and Weinbach.”
This is not Stuckey’s first rodeo.
“Last year would have been my 25th Classic,” he said about his extended relationship with Food & Wine. “So I guess because we canceled last year, the streak stays alive.”
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Like his brethren in the hospitality industry, Stuckey and the entire Frasca family were hard hit by the shutdown of restaurants in Colorado last March 17. But with characteristic commitment, he immediately went to work to help the nation’s restaurant industry. As a part of the founding leadership of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), he helped inspire the fight for Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act (a.k.a the Restaurants Act), which is a $120 billion restaurant relief bill introduced to provide restaurants with grants to cover operating costs such as payroll and benefits, food, utilities, rent and more.
“IRC was a journey that started on March 18th of 2020, and I did not know that 16 months later I would still be advocating for our wonderful industry,” he said.
Stuckey began his love affair with Aspen and the Classic in 1995, when he came from Scottsdale, Arizona, to take a job as a sommelier at what was then called The Dining Room at the Little Nell. That period, where he shared the floor with soon-to-be fellow master sommeliers including Richard Betts and Jonathan Pullis, were heady times for the emerging wine culture in Aspen.
“The Little Nell team (which included GM Eric Calderon and Coni Thornburg at the time) and the Crown family did so much for my career,” Stuckey remembers. “I would not have had the joys of the last 25 years without Aspen and the team of the Nell. True story. My father used to send Eric and Coni Christmas cards thanking them for all the work they did for me.”
In 2000, after five years in Aspen, he left his position as wine director at the Nell for an equally high-profile position as the wine director in Yountville, California, at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. Lessons learned and relationships made, including one with chef and now business partner Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson, led Stuckey back to Boulder where in 2004 the pair opened Frasca Food & Wine, which celebrates the wines and cuisine of the Northern Italian Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. 2004 was a heady year for Stuckey as he also passed his final exam in the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Stuckey’s career path has been marked by prodigious degrees of quantity and quality. He and Mackinnon Patterson founded other restaurants (Pizzeria Locale, Tavernetta in Denver’s Union Station, and the European wine bar and restaurant, Sunday Vinyl, adjacent to Tavernetta) and took home James Beard Awards for Outstanding Wine Service in 2013 and Outstanding Hospitality in 2019.
Known for his engaging personality and his prodigious running career, Stuckey still comes back to Aspen. “Aspen is a special little city like no other. (There are) so many things, from skiing Aspen Highlands or Aspen Mountain to running up to Warren Lakes. But most important are the amazing people of Aspen.”
Kelly J. Hayes writes a weekly column “Wine Ink” that can be found in the Aspen Times Weekly, which hits newsstands every Thursday and can be found at aspentimes.com/magazines/aspen-times-weekly.
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