Sommelier Claire Paparazzo
Claire Paparazzo of Blue Hill Restaurant, New York
By Jim Clarke
Young actors who come
to New York looking for stardom may end up turning to the
bottle instead, but for a few, “the bottle”
isn’t a drinking problem, it’s a career in wine.
Claire entered the classic “actor working as a server
while they wait for the big break” life when she took
a job at Larry Forgionne’s An American Place
in 1994. At the staff’s weekly wine tastings she discovered
her strong palate and began to catch the wine bug.
When she moved to Jean
Georges’s Vong a few years later, her interest
really took off under the double tutelage of Susan LaRossa
(now at Polaner Selections, a wine distributor) and Annie
Turso (now at Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel).
Susan arranged for Claire to visit some wineries in Sonoma,
and Annie then turned her on to studying with the American
Sommelier Association. During the twenty-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.
She stepped back
from the wine side to work for Dan Barber and Philip Gouze
opening Blue Hill at Stone Barns, eventually taking
over as Private Event Manager there. 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 back in Greenwich Village, she jumped
at it. She’s made herself at home there and also finds
time to be an active member of the Vino Vixens, a weekly
tasting group dedicated to fostering the careers of female