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Former Aspenite follows in Bourdain's footsteps on CNNs 'Nomad'

Amiee White Beazley

By Amiee White Beazley / NewsBreak Aspen

(Aspen, Colo.) Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy ran the wine program at the five-star The Little Nell hotel from 2011 to 2019 in Aspen, overseeing a staff of 150 and its acclaimed 20,000-bottle wine cellar.

Since then, he climbed the ranks to become CEO of Napa Valley's Heitz Cellars and managing partner of Lawrence Wine Estates.

But his most recent gig, a side hustle of sorts, might be his most high profile ever. In late April 2022, "Nomad with Carlton McCoy" hit the airwaves on CNN.

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Carlton McCoy.Photo credit Jessica Chu/CNN

"It was actually in Aspen where the conversations began (with producer Erik Osterholm)," McCoy says on a recent phone call. McCoy was training for the New York City marathon when a number he didn't recognize appeared on his phone. Eager to find a reason to take a break, McCoy picked up. On the other end was Osterholm, a producer best known for his work with Anthony Bourdain on "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown."

"I thought he might be interested in a new travel show about wine," says McCoy, "But he said, being a Master Sommelier was the least interesting thing about me."

McCoy is an expert in food and wine, but he also has a unique identity. He is a half-Black, half-Jewish man, raised in part by his African American grandmother in Washington, D.C. He was introduced to the culinary world through high school, gaining a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America and launching his wine career. Named a Master Sommelier in 2013, at just 28 years old, McCoy was one of the youngest people and the second African American to earn this prestigious title. He understands both the world of luxury and the struggle of the working class, making him an ideal host to provide a new perspective on both sides of travel, food, and the world's evolving cultures.

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Photo credit Jessica Chu/CNN

"Nomad" is a six-part documentary series that takes McCoy to locations around the world to uncover the unknown and untasted experiences thanks to local insiders and some knowledgeable food and wine industry friends, chasing what it means to be authentic and celebrating the similarities and differences across the world. At times deeply personal, McCoy uncovers the wellspring of new ideas, talent, and creation that has formed in some well-known destinations, including his hometown of D.C. in Episode 3.

"I wanted to show my story, and that was a vulnerable moment for me," he says, noting he was previously hesitant to share much about his upbringing or background with colleagues. In the episode, we meet his family members, and McCoy visits the sights, sounds, tastes, and memories of his childhood.

The rest of the series brings viewers to Paris, South Korea, Ghana, Toronto, and Mississippi. Which was his favorite?

"As far as filming destinations, my favorite is between South Korea and Ghana," he says. "Ghana was just such a different universe than I had explored before, and I was challenged to overcome stereotypes that I had. I was raised to think all of Africa was this incredibly impoverished, crime-ridden place, but what I found was a thriving economy, highly educated people and incredibly safe. The food and the culture was so rich, and the people were welcoming and warm. Ghana is a beautiful country, and to go with your eyes wide open, it's a special thing."

With an anticipated Season 2, viewers may see lots more of McCoy and "Nomad." He hopes the show inspires people to get out and explore the world themselves after watching his show.

"People have to be comfortable experiencing the world, and I don't want people to take my word for it," says McCoy. "One of the issues we have in the world is that people are not engaging with others to create their own opinions. I want people to allow (travel) experiences to change their perception of the world and who they are as well."

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Amiee White Beazley is a travel, food and wine journalist whose stories, essays and photography have been featured in publications such as The Washington Post, Departures and Travel + Leisure.

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