On the Job: Sommelier

Certified sommelier Elizabeth Sammuri oversees an acclaimed, 17,000-bottle wine cellar at Flagstaff House.

Authored by Erin Malcolm

Photo by Jon Rose

Curating the coveted wine list at Colorado’s most awarded restaurant isn’t for the faint of heart, which makes Elizabeth Sammuri just the woman for the job. A former professional snowboarder, world traveler, and wine educator, Sammuri now serves as Wine and Beverage Director at Boulder’s Flagstaff House, where she oversees its prized wine program. And did we mention she’s barely 30?

What prompted you to switch career paths from pro snowboarding to the wine world?
“I quit snowboarding at age 20 due to injury and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but the time I spent traveling opened my eyes to food and wine. Metro State University allowed me to grow as a wine professional and I had an internship in France that was the springboard to my career.”

What type of education prepared you for your career?
“I graduated with a Global Wine Studies degree and began studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well. I became a Certified Sommelier in October 2014 and will be sitting for my Advanced Sommelier exam this October.”

Flagstaff House has received 39 consecutive awards from Wine Spectator, as well as others from Forbes Travel and AAA Four Diamond. Is there a lot of pressure attached to your position at such a highly acclaimed restaurant?
“Every year when we send our application to Wine Spectator, I do feel pressure. But every year when I hear we get that award, I sigh in relief. A really important part of my job is fighting to put all the hard-to-get, allocated bottles on our wine list. That’s what makes our list so special.”

Of the approximate 17,000 bottles of wine at Flagstaff House, which is your favorite one to sell?
“Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino. Uccelliera is a small, family run producer in Tuscany and the winemakers are some of the most passionate, humble people in the industry. I’ve seen them make this incredible wine, so I know the passion and hard work that goes into that bottle firsthand. Telling their story at a table, then having the guests be really excited, too, makes it the most exciting bottle to open.”

What advice do you have for people trying to get into the industry?
“I think I got to where I am relatively quickly because I had a lot of unique experiences, like traveling and living abroad. For anyone wanting to get into food and beverage, traveling is one of the most important things you can do. Also, confidence—you have to be confident in what you do. That’s something I tell myself, and still struggle with, every day.”

Flagstaff House
1138 Flagstaff Rd., Boulder