Sommeliers & Cicerones

For more information on Sommelier and Cicerones® currently available, please contact the Wine Key at info@thewinekey.com.

Sommelier | Bernard Erpicum

One of leading wine experts in his field, international wine artisan, Bernard Erpicum, has mastered the art of serving, selecting, and enhancing enticing wine programs, lending more than thirty years of proficiency to the craft.

Belgium born, Erpicum attended college in Geneva, where he received his Swiss Master Sommelier Degree at age 21, the youngest at the time to receive this prestigious degree. He soon relocated to the United States to work for Wolfgang Puck for 15 years, opening Spago in Los Angeles and serving as Sommelier. Eager to apply his learnings with a more personal touch, Erpicum found himself as a hospitality consultant for various film and television networks including Paramount, Universal, FOX Television Entertainment Group and ABC Television Network and worked with numerous industry executives and notable celebrities.

After seeing restaurant focus in Las Vegas shift to fine dining and celebrity chefs, Erpicum made his way to many well-known Las Vegas restaurants such as Michelin-star restaurant Guy Savoy, Michelin-star restaurant Chef Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, Chef Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Prime Steakhouse at Bellagio.

In his current role as Sommelier Service Manager, he has successfully transformed the wine list at Public House at the Venetian Las Vegas, boasting a collection unlike any other program in the competitive Las Vegas market, providing the utmost attention and care to all guests he has the pleasure of serving.  Erpicum frequents “Wine Country” in Napa and Sonoma valleys where he visits purveyors and closes industry confidants and is constant search for finding the perfect pairing.

Sommelier | LeLañea Fulton

Lelañea Fulton has always taken an interest in viticulture since the age of 14 when she discovered the first edition of Hugh Johnsons ‘World Atlas of Wine’ at a book sale.  Originally from the moonshining country of West Virginia, Lelañea moved to Europe at the age of 18 where she traveled to vineyards in Italy, France, and Germany.

After returning to the US, Lelañea moved to Florida and worked with the Columbia Group, and following her time there, Lelañea relocated to New York City where she worked at restaurants such as David Burke and Donatella’s, Jeffrey Zakarian’s Town at the Chambers Hotel, and eventually became the Sake & Wine Sommelier at Megu and THOR; She transitioned to the role of Wine & Sake Director at Ono shortly after.

To supplement her career growth, Lelañea also studied at the International Wine Center and The American Sommelier Association in conjunction with a Brand Ambassador position to Pommery-Vranken Champagne within the metro New York area.  In November 2011, Lelañea joined Crown Group Hospitality working for The Lion and Crown in preparation to become the Wine Director for Bill’s Food & Drink, which opened in November of 2012.  After her time with The Crown Group, Lelañea joined Poulakakos Hospitality as a sommelier for the historical Harry’s at Hanover. Responsible for reinventing the 2400 bottle wine list and maintaining a deep Burgundy, Bordeaux & California Cabernet collection estimated at a 1.8 million dollar inventory.  After earning Wine Spectators 2014 Best of Award of Excellence she then went on to write the 1800 bottle list for the company’s newest restaurant Bacchanal, joining forces with Chef Scott Bryan of the infamous Veritas.  In 2014 Lelañea joined The Major Food Group, hired to write an all French list for Dirty French restaurant at Sean McPherson’s newest boutique hotel, The Ludlow, which was awarded the 2015 Best of Award of Excellence.

Lelañea is recognized for creating & operating a highly respectful program that recognizes the smaller less known wine regions that demonstrates high quality wines.  She has been openly praised for her work via The New York Magazine, Eater, and the New York Times, in addition to being invited to sit on The NY Times tasting panel with Eric Asimov.

CICERONE®| Matthew Alexander

Matthew Alexander is a Certified Cicerone® in the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he has successfully parlayed his love of beer in to a career.

With a full knowledge of craft beer menus and recommendations cultivated from customers’ tastes, Matt has worked as both a bartender as well as a manager. During his tenure as Craft Beer Manager at one of the top-rated craft beer bars in the nation he adopted a “hands on” approach to management, working in tandem with head chefs to create exciting pairings for events ranging from small plate receptions to multi-course Pyramid and Diamond dinners.

Matt was also responsible for coordinating all aspects of several, large-scale tap handle “takeovers”; in which he coordinated with breweries and distribution to create a list of 30-50 draft beers, generated social media awareness, selected daily featured beers, and personally oversaw event bartending.

Matt’s role in Beer Management provided unique insight in to what venues face every day. He is experienced in ordering, invoicing, cost control, budgeting, implementation of buying programs, inventory analysis, communicating with vendors & distributors, and keeping informed of latest trends in the craft beer industry. He has curated and managed a rolling $75-100K draft and package beer inventory, serviced and maintained a 50 draft handle keg room, and managed and maintained proper cellaring of vintage keg and package beer inventories.

A regular in the West Coast Beer Scene, Matt’s energetic and enthusiastic management style has led to such awards as Beer Advocate: Best Draft List, Thrillist: Best Places for Craft Beer in Las Vegas, and Best of Las Vegas: Best Draft List.  He has collaborated with major national craft beer brands and breweries, including Stone Brewing Company, Black Market and Tenaya Creek. He is a regular monthly contributor to CBS Radio/Entercom for “Beer for Breakfast” podcast on National platform Radio.com.

SOMMELIER | Philippe Sauriat

Originally from the Burgundy Wine Region in France, Philippe pursued a passion for wine by working in Europe before moving to The United States.

His career stateside began in the Hamptons as General Manager/Wine Director for The Maidstone Arms, where he was responsible for the two-time Wine Spectator Magazine Grand Award-winning wine program.  Next, he went on to the position of Beverage /General Manager for Jean Luc Restaurants in the Hamptons, where he managed the wine list and inventory for four venues and a team of twenty employees.

Moving to New York City, Philippe was the General Manager Burgundy Wine Company, before he was approached and accepted the Sommelier position with Adour by Alain Ducasse at the Saint Regis, where he worked with a 1600-item wine list, managed staff, and was able to developed tasting and wine-pairing menus, as well as manage private vaults of various customers.

Opting to shift gears and try a new market, Philippe became the Wine Director and Head Sommelier at Le Bec Fin, in Philadelphia, PA where he was responsible for $1.5 million wine program.  His role at Le Bec allowed him to initiate, lead, and teach wine events, dinners, and classes, while he also customized Le Bec’s wine list in an Ipad-friendly format, a new concept at the time.

Missing New York, Philippe chose to accept the Director of Operations/Wine Director Position at prestigious Lotos Club. After several years with the Lotos Club, Philippe accepted the Wine Director position at La Goulue, where he managed pre-opening operations, setting up the wine list, and curated vendor relationships.

Currently, Philippe is the Wine Director- Gabriel Kreuther in New York, voted one of the top 10 most beautiful restaurants in the world by the Tasting Table, where he manages $1.7 million in wine inventory, with over 1400 unique references, and is responsible for the sommelier team.

Philippe has also provided extensive consulting work for venues such as Ginza Project, Frederik de Pue Washington DC for Azur and Table, and Myhoko, 21 Grams.

Philippe continues to be recognized by his peers for his outstanding work, garnering awards including, Three-star New York Times, Two-star Michelin for Adour, Alain Ducasse, 2-time Wine Spectator Magazine Grand Award-winning wine program for The Maidstone Arms, Best Wine Store in NYC 2007; 2008 Zagat for Burgundy Wine Company, and most recently, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, Gabriel Kreuther, 2017 & 2018.

SOMMELIER | Missy Neill

Having spent three years living in Italy before moving to New York, it was there that Missy experienced wine as a culture, not as a luxury commodity.  Upon initially returning to New York, Missy originally worked several years in finance, before ultimately deciding to pursue a career in wine-related hospitality inspired by her previous time in Italy.

Ever since Missy took on the mantle of Sommelier, her professional goal has been to make wine accessible and fun, rather than intimidating and exclusive.  Missy looks at her role as an opportunity to interpret preferences, educate, story tell, and ultimately guide guests to exceptional experiences.

Missy worked the spectrum of casual to fine dining establishments in New York City, where knowing your clientele is paramount to success.  Having started as a ‘cellar rat’ at Del Posto and within in a year was running the wine program at The Lion (now Casa Apicii).  Missy then went on to be an integral part of the opening team for The Clocktower (Stephen Starr and Jason Atherton’s collaboration in The Edition Hotel).  When the opportunity presented itself, Missy took over the Wine Director position at Lure Fishbar, a position that had previously been held by the professional who had been running the program since its inception.  Missy spent more than two years at Lure, managing a list of over 600 SKUs, at the wildly popular SoHo mainstay.

For just over the past year, Missy has been at the helm of wines for the two-Michelin starred, Blanca, located in the trendy Bushwick area, where her primary focus is on the beverage pairing. The 20-course tasting menu for this venue changes with the vicissitudes of the seasons which allows Missy’s creativity to be on constant display.

CICERONE® & SOMMELIER | Raul Gonzales

Raul Gonzales is a food and beverage professional who works at Blue Ribbon Las Vegas overseeing the bar/beverage program. He believes the right beverage can be used to enhance a meal and create a truly memorable guest experience. Raul started his hospitality career as a bussing tables in 1997 and by 1999 began tending bar in what would result in over seventeen years “behind the stick.” He has been part of the opening teams for Aria Resort & Casino, The Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino, Gordon Ramsay Steak, Herringbone Las Vegas, and most recently Blue Ribbon Las Vegas. With a passion for learning, Raul has completed the BarSmarts Advanced spirits and Mixology Course and graduated from the Southern Wine & Spirits Academy of Fine Service as “Top Student.” He is also a member of The United States Bartenders Guild, holding the distinction of Spirit Professional, and currently a candidate for the Advanced Bartender designation. Raul is a both a Certified Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers) and a Certified Cicerone® (Cicerone® Certification Program), earning both distinctions in 2017 within just six weeks of each other.

CICERONE®| Joe Borruso

A true professional starts their ‘apprenticeship’ early. Joe Borruso began his road to becoming a Certified Cicerone® on his dad’s lap sipping foam off of beers like Dortmunder Union and Norway’s Aass Bock.

Joe’s professional career in hospitality began in 2000 when hired at the Hyatt Regency in Lake Las Vegas.  The next 15 years were spent honing service skills in various front-of-house positions for prominent venues, including the opening of Red Rock Casino & Resort and working at such nightlife giants like Hard Rock’s Body English, Rehab, and Marquee, serving celebrities and the glitterati alike.

Currently at 2009 Michelin-awarded, Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio, where he is a contributing member of a team that continues to embrace a passion for beverage and cuisine, Joe continues to acuminate service skills, and delight patrons.

When not working at Picasso, Joe spends his time in pursuit of perfect beer pairings.  From organizing multi-course beer dinners with an executive chef colleague, to simple pairings with dinners at home, Joe’s passion for brew matches his commitment to service.  Constant investigation, learning, and pushing boundaries in pursuit of perfect pairings is Joe’s passion, his motto, “Tried and true is great, but innovation is where progress lies”.