Watch Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson just before his departure from Eleven Madison Park, describing his background in the business, building a Michelin-worthy wine list, and his approach to service.
This weekend, the OpenTable team is heading to Aspen for the town’s food and wine festival, where the industry’s best and brightest — think Hugh Acheson, David Chang, Gabrielle Hamilton and many, many more — gather for three days of inspiring talks and tastings.
We’ve partnered with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa to host our second annual Champagne and Sushi party at his restaurant Matsuhisa, where three Master Sommeliers will be popping bottles of Krug, Pierre Peters and Pierre Gimonnet, among other top brands.
One of the Master Somms hosting is Dustin Wilson, who recently left his role as Wine Director at New York’s Eleven Madison Park to start his own company. It’s a retail wine business with a brick-and-mortar space in NYC as well as a robust online presence, launching some time “in the next several months,” he says. We caught up with Dustin right before he departed EMP to capture the video above, in which he describes his background in the wine industry, as well as his approach to building a list and having fun with service.
“EMP is one of the greatest wine jobs in the country — I was incredibly honored to be able to be a part of that restaurant and to have the position I had,” he says. “EMP really gave me an incredible foundation and a great platform from which to take that next step. I felt like I’d reached that point in my career and my life where I’d gained enough experience where I felt good enough going off on my own.”
With his next step, Dustin is excited about showcasing many of the new producers he discovered at Eleven Madison Park and building a company culture with all the same values and attention to detail that Will Guidara and Daniel Humm instill at their restaurant.
He’s also energized by trends he’s seeing in the industry of wine becoming more approachable, and of people realizing that bottles don’t have to come from Burgundy or Bordeaux to be high-quality. A younger generation of winemakers is coming up, starting their own wineries and taking a fresh new approach: making wines that are enjoyable and drinkable.
“What’s really cool now is to see the sommelier community and consumers overall recognizing that really awesome wines can be made in a lot of different places,” he says. “People are starting to realize that wine doesn’t need to be intimidating. Wine is becoming fun!”
And wine — Champagne, specifically — will definitely be fun in Aspen this weekend, where Dustin’s looking forward to an unforgettable party. Chef Nobu will be making toasts and slicing fish for sushi, hip-hop will be playing, and we’re really pulling out all the stops with an ice luge.
“Champagne goes well with a lot of things, but it really goes well with sushi,” says Dustin. “It’s going to all about drinking really great Champagne, having delicious sushi made by Nobu, and just having a great time.”