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Desert Island Wines

Bobby Stuckey Chooses His Wines of a Lifetime

On a desert island, these 3 bottles would sustain the legendary somm and restaurateur

Janice Williams By January 25, 2022
Bobby Stuckey photo illustration
Photo illustration by Pix

The premise of Desert Island Wines is this: You’ve just been shipwrecked on a desert island and there’s no rescue in sight. Worse, the only food the ship was carrying was a lifetime supply of canned soup and spaghetti. But when you boarded the ship, you brought along three cases of wine and — luckily! — they have all washed ashore safely. You chose to take one inexpensive wine, one luxury wine, and another wine in between. These are the wines you’ll be drinking until you’re rescued. Which is going to be a loooong time coming. Choose well.

Navigating the busy floor of a restaurant is like being at home for Bobby Stuckey. So it would be pretty heartbreaking to live out the rest of his days stranded on a desert island with no sounds of pots and pans banging around in the kitchen, no delicious aromas filling the building, no customers to talk to about wine and food.

The agony is fitting, considering the fact that Stuckey — a Master Sommelier and recipient of some of the restaurant and wine industry’s highest honors — has been working in restaurants most of his life. For Stuckey, the energy of the restaurant floor is infectious, and he finds much reward in engaging with staff members and being a part of the joyous moments customers experience through food and wine. 

Stuckey began working as a dishwasher in his home state of Arizona and worked his way up the hospitality ladder, eventually landing a waiter position when the wine bug first bit him in the 1980s. 

“I wasn’t the most competitive student, and I was struggling in high school with ADD and dyslexia, in an era where we didn’t understand that. The hospitality industry was one of the first places I felt really successful. That’s how I found wine,” Stuckey says. 

In 1994, Stuckey decided to make wine his career. After taking a Court of Master Sommeliers introductory course, he flew to San Francisco to take his first exam. “As soon as I left that test, it seemed like my life had a purpose. I knew that I would be a sommelier one day,” Stuckey says. 

Stuckey worked at some of the most renowned restaurants in America, including The Little Nell restaurant in Aspen, Colorado, and The French Laundry in Yountville, California, where he helped lead the team to earn the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine Service award. And in 2004 — the same year Stuckey received his Master Sommelier diploma — he opened a restaurant of his own, Frasca Food and Wine, in Boulder, Colorado, with his business partner and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. Since then, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson have opened three more restaurants in Colorado — Pizzeria Locale in Boulder and Tavernetta and Sunday Vinyl in Denver. 

In 2007, Stuckey launched Scarpetta Wines, inspired by the delicious wines experienced during his many travels through the northeastern Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Scarpetta makes a range of Friulian wines, from Friulano to Pinot Grigio, Barbera Del Monferrato, and Cabernet Franc, among others. Living without access to those wines would be challenging, though Stuckey notes that knowing others around the world could still enjoy them would make surviving desert island life a bit more comforting. 

Of course, washing up along shore with a few cases of bottles would help too. 

“Wine has had such a positive impact on my life. I love being in restaurants, and wine is very much a part of that. Having something to help remind me of home would be helpful,” Stuckey says. 

Easy drinking in the shade

If there’s one thing Stuckey’s time working in the wine and restaurant industry has taught him, it’s that sometimes the best thing for the moment is a glass of something that’s consistently good and easy to drink. For him, that’s Tiberio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018, made by Cristiana Tiberio, that retails for about $25 a pop. 

“It’s hard to think of red wine on a desert island, but I love her wines,” Stuckey says, noting that the Montepulciano, in particular, is a wine he often pops open. Not to mention, it would make an exciting pairing partner for his meals of canned soup and spaghetti. 

Keeping it crisp

There are few better ways to beat the heat than with something crisp and refreshing. And Stuckey is certain a few cases of something as luxurious as Trimbach Clos Sainte Hune 1990 from Alsace, France would help keep him cool under the desert sun. At the least, it will remind him of the many better days he’s sipped on the fruit-forward, minerally fresh wine, even if those memories come with a $900 bottle price tag. 

“I figure if you need one wine on a desert island, you need a Riesling with some flexibility,” Stuckey says. 

Indeed being all alone on a desert island would be a hard pill to swallow. However, having a few great bottles of wine in tow and a limitless supply of happy memories that occurred when drinking them will undoubtedly help it go down.

For the special moments

There may not be many moments to celebrate while stranded on a desert island, but there are sure to be plenty of times when special occasions of the past come to mind. To help wash down the memories, Stuckey would opt for one of the most special wines he’s ever enjoyed — a 1990s bottle of Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, which retails for about $2000 or higher if you can get your hands on it.

“This is a fantastic wine,” he says. “I can imagine myself needing a bottle of something really special that I’ve enjoyed during some of the happiest times of my life, and this is it.”

bottle of Tiberio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2018

Tiberio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2018 (~$20)

This light and juicy Montepulciano hails from the rolling hills of Italy’s Abruzzo region. It’s produced by the Tiberio family, who has produced wines in the area since 2000. The full-bodied wine is easy-drinking yet maintains a certain level of elegance powered by intense aromas and flavors of sour cherry, blueberry, and florals alongside refined, smooth tannins. The finish is quite long and fresh. “It has an entry-level price, but the wine is fantastic,” says Stuckey.

bottle of Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune Alsace Riesling 1990

Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune Alsace Riesling 1990 (~$794)

Maison Trimbach, which has produced wine in Ribeauvillé, within the Alsace region of France, for 13 generations, makes this dazzling Riesling. The grapes come from a vineyard in the village of Hunawihr that the Trimbach family has owned and used for more than 200 years. The Riesling is awash with ripe stone fruit flavors. However, a touch of minerality in the finish balances it all out. 

bottle of Domaine Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 1990

Domaine Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 1990 (~$10,000)

“This is the most fantastic wine when you want something big, bodied, and rich,” says Stuckey. Produced by one of the oldest and most esteemed wineries in the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, France, this Chardonnay is incredibly complex with floral and peach aromas and bracing minerality that’s noticeable on the nose and the palate. Fresh flavors of ripe pears, nuts, and honey are also prevalent, while the finish is balanced with acidity.