Elements wine wall with wine bottles and floral decor.

Culinary, Culture, Arizona

Experience Sanctuary’s Exceptional Wine Offerings

By Editor 2023, January

Imagine you’ve traveled cross country for work, and you just had a long day filled with successful meetings. All you want to do is relax with a great glass of wine, but you're presented with limited options, none of which are local, organic, or natural, let alone exciting.

Laura Bruno, Sommelier at Sanctuary, knows that wine is an important component of our food and beverage offerings and has worked diligently to create a fabulous wine program. As a wine enthusiast, she has elevated the wine selection to its current state, and continues to source and bring in innovative and unique quality wines.

An exciting wine list is meant to promote interaction and start conversations. Through Laura’s expertise, guests at our award winning restaurant elements and resort guests can discover new varieties, producers, regions, and even pick up aromas and flavors, expanding their wine palates and vocabulary. We spoke to Laura about her journey in the industry- read on to get to know her and learn more about the wine experience you can expect to have at Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Sommelier Laura Bruno in a grey blazer swirling a glass of white wine.

Tell us a little about you- how you got into the wine industry, your background, and how your career has grown.

My journey started when I was 16 years old. I went to a vocational high school to study culinary arts, and cooked professionally in Downtown Houston for my final two years of high school. I would study and cook during the day, then drive downtown 40 minutes to be a line cook at night. I even remember working brunch the morning of, and the morning after my senior Prom! When it came time to make a decision for college I accepted an offer from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York. I received my Associates in Culinary Art. During that program I made the decision to dedicate the rest of my studies to Wine. I went on to get my Bachelors and Masters both in Wine Management from the Culinary Institute. At age 21 I sat for both my level 1 and level 2 certifications with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and became a Certified Sommelier and a Certified Sake Advisor. When I graduated, I was recruited by Four Seasons. I helped manage the wine program at the Scottsdale property for two years before joining the team at Sanctuary.

What makes Sanctuary’s wine program so special?

I think one of the most exciting things about the program is depth of selection. When I joined, the program was small, with around 120 different wines from four countries. Within a year, the list now has 550+ unique bottlings: featuring sixteen countries, and representing sixty-six different grape varietals. The list also offers vintage variation spanning six decades, including vertical and horizontal collections of landmark producers.I wanted to create a space where all types and styles of wine could co-exist. We are blessed geographically. Sitting in the heart of the city, wine drinkers of all walks, tastes, and experience levels are constantly flowing in and out of the restaurant.

In addition to the breadth of the list, we have a robust training program to increase staff wine knowledge. We have 12 employees who have gone through a six month training process with me, and will now be sitting for their level one Sommelier certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers. I am in the process of training another batch of 12 employees. The goal is to have the highest concentration of CMS recognized sommeliers in the state.

What are some of the most unique wines we serve?

I am unbelievably grateful to work with passionate importers and distributors who help behind the scenes to source us unique product. While I think the selection in all categories are unique, there are a few that stand out. The first being our collection of 2nd Label Bordeaux. We have a whole page dedicated to this often overlooked category. Beyond that, we have the largest selection of skin contact white wines in the state, about 25-30 at any given time. I also think our Burgundy selection is electric and youthful, while still highlighting tradition. We keep things fresh. The list is always evolving, with wines we are help bring into Arizona for the first time.

Some of my favorite producers on the list are:

· Paolo Bea

· Radikon

· Fred Scherrer

· Paul Lato

· Egly-Ouriet

· Hubert Lignier

· Emidio Pepe

· Bindi

· Vincent Couche

· Château Le Puy

· Ochota Barrels

· Gary Pisoni

· Château Figeac

· Anne Colgin

· Arianna Occhipinti

· Timo Mayer

· Peter Lauer

· Anne Gros

What are the most popular trends in wine now?

I’m seeing a lot of high acid Loire whites like Sancerre, Savenniers, and Muscadet. We’ve definitely felt a massive increase in demand for skin-contact (orange) wines as well. In the restaurant people are leaning more towards crunchy lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Grenache.

One trend I am also seeing, that I can get behind, is drinking sparkling wine or Champagne with an entire meal. We have a lot of great, full bodied sparkling wines that can carry you from start to finish. Bubbles are not just for appetizers!

What are your favorite wine pairings?

Some of my favorite pairings are ones I’ve collaborated with Chef Samantha on here at Elements.  We have worked together for almost 5 years, and we create a lot of  energy when putting together tasting menus. Samantha really is an artist. She works in colors and really understands the importance of  texture and layers when creating a dish. She takes risks, and trusts me to match the enthusiasm in the dish with the wine. Here are some of my favorite pairings we done:

· Roasted Quail, with plum, mint, and toasted hazelnuts paired with 2004 Radikon Merlot

· Island Creek oysters with exotic fruit puree and salsa macha paired with 2006 Daniel-Etienne Defaix ‘1er Cru Les Lys’ Chablis

· Strawberry Shortcake with strawberry mousse, and buttermilk ice cream paired withNV Jean-Paul-Brun FRV100

Oysters on the half shell and wines on table overlooking sunset on Paradise Views patio.

How should we taste wine when the sommelier pours a bit in our glass for sampling?

I hate to be the person to say this, but when we pour you a taste from a bottle you’ve ordered, it is not to see if the wine is to your preference, it is for you to check if the wine is sound and free from a chemical compound called Trichloroanisole aka TCA

TCA is a flaw from the bleaching process of cork wood or barrels used in wine making. It smells like wet newspaper, mold, rubber, and wet dog. This taint is what is referred to when someone says a wine is ‘cork’d’. The flaw can only happen to wines that have traditional cork closures, or that have been fermented in a tainted barrel. It used to be very common, but now with cleaner winemaking practices and synthetic closures, its less of a problem.

So, when a sommelier pours you a small amount after opening a bottle, I would simply smell it for TCA. If the wine does not have TCA or any other flaws like, unintentional oxidation or temperature abuse, then you can give the sommelier a thumbs up to pour for the table. No need to taste the wine, unless you feel compelled to. Of course if the wine is free of TCA, and it's not to your preference, it is ok to engage the sommelier and let them know. Any good sommelier can work with you to find a different wine that you will love.

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about wine?

That wine is an agricultural product. How a wine is produced, or how a winery conducts themselves have implications greater than what is in the bottle. I wish people took time to learn that mass produced wines, and big brand labels, are equivalent to processed foods and big box store brands. The wine world would look much different if everyone understood the realities behind the wines they drink.

If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

If I have no budget? 2014 Egly Ouriet Ambonnay Rouge

If I have a budget? 2018 Mary Taylor ‘Pascal Biotteau’ Anjou Blanc

Which wines are the most frequently requested/ ordered wines at Sanctuary?

For whites, we pour a lot of white burgundy, zippy Italian blends, and skin contact wines. For reds the most popular category dances between old world Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, and Grenache.

Couple enjoying sunset dinner on elements outdoor dining deck.