Sommelier Claire Paparazzo of Blue Hill - Biography
New York, NY
A childhood obsession with a friend’s perfume blending kit was the first indication that Claire Paparazzo had a future in wine. But Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t part of her daily vocabulary just yet. As a young adult, Paparazzo pursued acting initially and worked in the restaurant business as a struggling actor waiting tables.
She discovered her aptitude for picking up on subtle flavor nuances in wine during weekly staff wine tastings when she worked at Larry Forgione’s An American Place. Her manager took her aside and encouraged her to further develop her palate. It wasn’t until she began working at Vong and then under Susan LaRossa and Annie Turso that Paparazzo’s wine career really took off.
LaRossa arranged for Paparazzo to visit some wineries in Sonoma, and Turso then turned her on to studying with the American Sommelier Association. During the 20-week course she moved on to help open Tom Valenti’s ‘Cesca as Assistant Sommelier to Patrick Bickford, which gave her the chance to explore Italian wine intensively.
Paparazzo stepped back from the wine side to work in events for Dan Barber and General Manager Philippe Gouze while they opened Blue Hill at Stone Barns. While not directly involved, she kept her eye on the wine program, and when the wine director position opened at the original Blue Hill location in Greenwich Village, she jumped at it. Four years later, Paparazzo has made herself at home. When not searching for a new wine to round out her wine list, she finds time to be an active member of the Vino Vixens, a weekly tasting group dedicated to fostering the careers of female wine professionals. Paparazzo was just named the StarChefs.com 2009 New York Rising Star Sommelier.