In 1996, while working as a server at Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, wine enthusiast Sean Razee came to a realization.
“At the time I was skiing into work, at this cabin surrounded by aspen glades and beautiful pine trees, it was like the most surreal thing you could imagine,” he said. “I was fresh out of school, and yet here I was able to position myself at a place where there was great food, there was great wine, incredible venue, and the guests that were around were just as enamored with the place as I was. Those early days are my fondest memories, and it’s really the time where I realized wine can be a more serious thing, and I can really devote myself to this and make something of a career out of it.”
Flash forward to today, and Razee is one of only 135 master sommeliers in the U.S. He’s also the new beverage director for Vail Resorts’ Mountain Dining Division, a position that was just formed this season. He’ll work across all 10 of the company’s resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Michigan and Minnesota, coordinating with the food and beverage directors, restaurant general managers, and sommeliers at those locations.
“We’re fortunate to have someone with Sean’s expertise, especially with his certification as master sommelier, oversee our beverage programs across the Mountain Dining Division,” said Beth Howard, vice president of mountain dining and clubs for Vail Resorts.
A ‘transcendent’ pairing
So how did it happen? How did Razee go from waiter at Beano’s to a touted talent at a new key position within Vail Resorts?
“I look back on those days at Beano’s Cabin, I would spend all my free time reading wine books, I just couldn’t get enough,” he said. “It was really there that I started to realize for me wine was more than just a personal interest. Previously in my travels to wine country I really liked it and I thought ‘this is great, it’s fun,’ but I didn’t have a sense that I could really make a go of the whole thing from a job point of view.”
Razee studied to become a master sommelier. After that, he went on to complete another internationally recognized diploma from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. He created award-winning wine and spirits programs for The Ritz-Carlton, obtained the position of Key Account Wine Specialist for Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado, and worked as one of the teaching and examining Masters for the Court of Master Sommeliers.
And he also worked with award-winning chefs like Wolfgang Puck at Spago. It was there that Razee really found his calling as a pairing professional.
“My first weeks of working with Wolfgang Puck happened to coincide with white truffle season in Piedmont, Italy, and so white truffles were brought in to compliment the menu,” said Razee. “At that point I had never seen a white truffle before, the venues I had worked in we had never considered being able to bring something like this in ... at the end of the evening we had just enough of the white truffles that we were able to shave over a smidgen for a creamy risotto that the chef had been working on for quite a while that evening.
“Now when Wolfgang was around, we definitely drank good wines,” Razee said. “And that night I had pulled a bottle of Giacomo Conterno Barolo, one of my favorite Barolo producers. We paired it up with this white truffle risotto, and for me that experience was just a revelation of sorts, not to get religious, but for me the pairing was just this kind of transcendent thing, where I had never experienced something that profound in food and wine before. That will leave a mark on me forever.”
Razee’s goals for the new position will be to generate stronger relationships between Vail Resorts and their suppliers, enhance the consistency of the beverage programs, build signature wine and cocktail lists, and generally elevate the company’s beverage service.
“We paired it up with this white truffle risotto, and for me that experience was just a revelation of sorts, not to get religious, but for me the pairing was just this kind of transcendent thing, where I had never experienced something that profound in food and wine before.”
Master sommelier and beverage director of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Dining Division