By Tyra Sutak
In case you haven’t heard, Bobby Stuckey— a leader in the Boulder food and wine scene and co-proprietor of Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Locale—was recently named “Sommelier of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. But for this well-traveled master sommelier, these recent praises in a long line of accolades, haven’t gone to his head. In fact, if you happen to run into Stuckey at one of his downtown Boulder restaurants during dining service, chances are he’s bussing your table.
Like most memorable personalities in the world of food and beverages, Stuckey attributes his success to a humble beginning bussing tables in the early ‘80s at a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Of all of the different paths that an entry-level position in the restaurant industry can lead to, he chose wine.
“As a waiter, I always loved going to wine class,” said Stuckey. “That’s what started this whole journey.”
That journey would eventually lead him to his current business partner, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, an accomplished chef with his own impressive background. Together, the two culinary forces would open Frasca Food and Wine in 2004, an Italian-inspired eatery located on the east end of Pearl Street’s downtown area.
“We landed in Boulder because we wanted a community that was partly based on lifestyle and partly based on professional,” said Stuckey. “We found that community in Boulder.”
Even though Stuckey’s restaurants are located smack dab in the center of a place affectionally referred to as the “Napa Valley of Beer,” the restauranteur doesn’t see the local craft beer industry as a stifling factor to the local wine scene he’s helped develop over the years.
“Over the past ten years, our sommeliers have created such a wine culture, that it wouldn’t matter if we were located in the middle of a brewery—people would still come to Frasca for wine, specifically for wine adventures in the Italian wine trait,” he said.
Between Frasca and Pizzeria Locale, Stuckey currently oversees about fifteen employees that have passed the certified sommelier test. He supports his wine-inspired staff, and customers, with a variety of monthly events to increase educational awareness of all things wine.
According to Stuckey, “There are so many different ways at Frasca that you can learn about food and wine. There are a lot of different ways for people to embrace wine cultures without ever having to get on a plane.”
For starters, every Monday night, Frasca serves a Tasting Menu paired with wines for $50 (wine pairings add an additional $45 to the bill) where customers can taste more and learn more about the art of wine and food pairings.
Frasca also hosts a variety of winemakers each month, giving the people behind the grape a chance to speak about their product to wine aficionados in the Front Range.
And Frasca is also managing a wine university of sorts. The Istituto Frasca was created to educate not only that staff managing the floors of Frasca and Pizzeria Locale, but local wine consumers as well. Classes are held for the public each week and are led by Stuckey himself, and focus on a specific wine region or style. Istituto Frasca classes are always accompanied by a wine flight.
At the end of the day, when the Sommelier of the Year finishes service and sits down to enjoy dinner and a glass of wine picked out from Frasca’s 65-page wine list, Stuckey enjoys a glass of Venica Malvasia Istriana from Fruiuli, Italy, paired with the wonderful citrus flavors of the raw fish dishes currently being served on the menu.
But to Stuckey, receiving the award for Sommelier of the Year isn’t just a one-person job.
“It’s an honor whenever someone says something nice,” says Stuckey. “But being awarded something like this is also really great for small market food regions around the country. It shows that no matter where we are, as long as we work really hard at our craft, we can compete against a national stage.”