This spring, Ericka Briscoe made an attention-getting career choice, leaving a prestigious position in the heart of California wine country as personal sommelier to Bill Foley and wine educator for his Foley Family Wines. She is now sommelier at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, overseeing the hotel’s wine and spirits program. We talked to her about the transition from one resort area to another, her career path from finance to wine, and the crucial arrow in the sommelier’s quiver she’ll never be without.
On moving to Aspen from Sonoma
The wine community here was definitely a factor in my decision. I wanted to be around a community of sommeliers and chefs who are vigilant about their continuing wine education. Sonoma and Aspen sort of mimic each other, so I was drawn to this kind of environment.
The art of pleasing many palates
The St. Regis offers this luxury level of hospitality that’s delivered in a casually elegant environment. We have a diverse clientele, and we need to maintain this high level of quality when it comes to offering an eclectic or dynamic list that speaks to different levels of wine drinkers, from connoisseurs to locals and even wine novices.
The Napa red that changed her life
I was working in finance and lived for a while in Milan and Barcelona. Everywhere I went, carafes of wine were placed on the tables, and in every region there was this seamless connection between the foods and the wines. I remember I just needed to know why. But the one wine that really piqued my interest was a bottle of Cakebread Dancing Bear Ranch from Howell Mountain. I didn’t even know that I liked Napa reds, but I needed to know why it was so good, how this happens. So I changed careers and got into the hospitality business.
Worst wine moment
I was in a hurry on a busy lunch service, and I did not have a serviette [the white napkin used by sommeliers]. I spilled a little red wine ... onto a $60,000 Birkin bag! But I learned a lesson: Do not cut corners just because you’re busy. Always grab a serviette as you grab the bottle, approach the table, and pour the wine. And wipe.
A satisfying introduction
I really like working with people who are not regularly wine drinkers but want to celebrate an occasion with a bottle of wine. I might ask what their cocktail preferences are and then pick a wine that fits that profile. It’s all about making people happy at the end of the day.