The last time I saw Carlton McCoy he was pouring me a glass of cold, crisp, chablis at The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colorado, where he earned his Master Sommelier designation and was the Wine Director for eight years. The affable, charming, and always smiling McCoy had become a fixture in both Aspen and the global wine world, known for his extensive knowledge and willingness to share it. Now, as Managing Partner of Lawrence Wine Estates, a role in which he oversees five of Napa Valley’s most prized wineries and vineyards—Burgess, Ink Grade, Heitz Cellar, Brendel, and Stony Hill Vineyard—he is drinking wine with the likes of LeBron James and is about to make his national television debut as host of NOMAD with Carlton McCoy, a CNN Original Series.
“It was actually in Aspen where the conversations began,” McCoy tells me during a recent call. As the story goes, Carlton was training for the New York City Marathon when a number he didn’t recognize appeared on his phone. Eager for a break, Carlton picked up, something he wouldn’t normally do. On the other end? Erik Osterholm, a producer at Zero Point Zero Productions Inc., best known for its work with Anthony Bourdain on The Mind of a Chef and Parts Unknown.
Together with Osterholm, NOMAD was born. The show, which premiered in May of this year, is a six-part documentary series that chases what it means to be authentic. Its north star is celebrating global similarities and differences to illuminate the universal threads that connect us all. From McCoy’s hometown of Washington, D.C., to the rural outposts of Mississippi, food, culture, and the connection between people are center stage in such cities as Toronto and Paris, and countries like Ghana and South Korea.
Having a travel show on CNN produced by Bourdain’s former team may conjure direct comparisons to the late cultural icon, but McCoy says NOMAD has unique DNA.
“Food and beverage play a role in NOMAD, but it doesn’t anchor the show,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat. I work out really hard just to have a dad bod, but because we were able to create this concept ourselves, I have an enormous amount of control. The thesis I had for the show was complex but pure and simple at the same time: highlight destinations that often come with clichés and identify what was different than what was on the surface. We have a diverse line up of destinations, with great people and stories to tell.”
What’s more, NOMAD is firmly rooted in the perspective of McCoy, an African American man and wine expert who sees and experiences the world differently than Bourdain, or anyone else.
“We know that the comparison will happen, and we are so honored to continue the Bourdain legacy, but NOMAD is so different in tone. No one can be another Tony Bourdain, and I’m not trying to be. NOMAD is very much my personality, with my music, and my perspective. It’s a different show because of the people who make it and the people we meet along the way.”