As a child in suburban Washington, DC, Winn Roberton's dining out experience was limited to family birthday celebrations, but the 'magic' of restaurant operations that entranced him then has had a fast hold ever since. These days, as a member of the wine team overseeing the capital city's deepest cellar, it is his great pleasure to be making that magic happen for others.
Winn’s early food fascination was fed by "Emeril Live" and "Molto Mario" on the Food Network. He waited tables and tended bars while earning a degree in classical music performance [French horn] at Penn State; during the Thursday lunch shift, the wine rep would come by. Winn was paying attention. He ramped up his oenophilic education over the course of five years in Las Vegas, working at upscale establishments from the MGM Grand to the Palazzo. To prepare for the first two Court of Master Sommelier exams, he took a few months off for a course of intensive study with master sommelier David Glancy. Returning to the nation’s capital in 2008, Winn joined the staff of Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, Washington, DC as a server, before being named a sommelier after three-and-a-half years.
With a self-professed admiration for "nerdy, geeky wine lists," as well as the classics, Winn is in his element at Bourbon Steak, where the truly committed wine seeker can peruse a list of over 750 labels, served by a full-time staff of three deeply knowledgeable sommeliers. "It's an unapologetically high-end list, but there really is something for everyone," he notes, adding, "Even the room-service wines, those that might be considered the 'low-end' of any other hotel list, are frankly awesome." However, he and the wine team at Bourbon Steak realize the list can be a daunting a time-consuming read for many people. He encourages people, if they’d like, to not even open the wine list and let him or his fellow sommeliers pick a wine for you based on a conversation rather than pointing to bin numbers over several pages of the wine list. He has a special affinity for Italian wines, but his love of travel and natural curiosity keep his mind wide open; he has ventured to Greece, Portugal, and Austria where he was intrigued and delighted by what he tasted. One secret he holds: The best rosés come from Austria.
Paying-forward the lessons of his own mentor, Master Sommelier Andy Myers [now Wine Director of José Andrés' Think Food Group,] Winn also hosts regular blind-tasting groups for younger wine professionals studying for the Advanced sommelier exam. "Andy taught me to stay focused, to be prepared and consistent, and to have humility." Winn expects to be sitting for the Masters-level exam before long, and whatever happens, he's enjoying the journey.