Rising Star Wine Director John Ragan of Union Square Hospitality Group - Biography
New York, NY
A trip to California wine country convinced John Ragan, already a wine lover, that he could actually love wine for a living. So Ragan, then a graduate student in urban planning, relocated to Napa, where he worked at both The Restaurant at Domaine Chandon and the Martini House as a sommelier. Another pivotal experience—a stunning dinner with Chef Daniel Humm at Campton Place—convinced Ragan to relocate yet again, this time to San Francisco to work with the chef himself.
Humm and Ragan made such an excellent pair—they won StarChefs.com 2005 San Francisco Rising Stars Awards for chef and sommelier—that Ragan didn’t have to think twice before relocating across the country to continue working with Humm. In 2006, Ragan took over as wine director of Eleven Madison Park, the fine-dining jewel of the Danny Meyer restaurant empire. Over his years at EMP, Ragan has cemented his pairing philosophy, creating original and interesting pairings that emphasize, and never overshadow, the essence of Humm’s cuisine.
But Ragan’s pairing philosophy doesn’t just impress restaurant guests. Ragan won the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Wine Service.” In 2009, Ragan won the Grand Prix du Sommelier Award for Best Sommelier in the World from the International Academy of Gastronomy. And just this year, he earned the Wine Spectator Grand Award for his wine list, and was part of the team that earned the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Restaurant” for Eleven Madison Park. In 2011, Ragan became the wine director for Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group.