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The Wine Master: Kevin Vogt

Once a computer science major, UNLV ignited a new passion for this master sommelier.

People  |  Jan 4, 2018  |  By Matt Jacob
man in wine shop

Kevin, '93 BS Hotel Administration, is owner of Wine Country Connection in Yountville, California. (MJ Wickham)

Editor's Note: 

This story is part of a series highlighting 50 intriguing alumni as part of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality’s 50th anniversary celebration


Long before he had his own wine shop… or was the wine director for Emeril Lagasse’s Las Vegas restaurants … or was certified as a master sommelier … or even a Hotel College student, Kevin Vogt was attending community college in Austin, Texas, and headed down a much different career path.

“My initial degree plan was computer science,” Vogt says. “Then I went into the field one summer and realized I don’t have the temperament to sit in a cubicle banging on a keyboard all day long. I had to be out among people and constantly be doing different things.”

So Vogt logged off of computer science, discovered a love for wine as a hotel bartender in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and eventually landed at UNLV’s Harrah Hotel College, where he vigorously pursued his new passion. He credits his alma mater for instilling the kind of disciplined study habits that helped him earn certifications as a sommelier, an advanced sommelier and, ultimately, a master sommelier. He reached the latter threshold in 1999, then becoming just the 88th person in the world and 38th American to earn the distinction.

Not long after earning his degree from UNLV, Vogt embarked on a 20-year career as Lagasse’s right-hand wine man in Las Vegas. As successful and satisfying as his time with Lagasse was, Vogt felt the urge to strike out on his own. He did just that last spring, relocating to Yountville, California, in the Napa Valley, where he and a partner took over an existing wine shop, rebranding it Wine Country Connection.

There, he continues to live out his life passion, while offering advice to current students: “The main thing I’ve learned is you have to dedicate yourself. A lot of people these days don’t want to put in the kind of work it takes to get to that next level. Almost everybody who works is content to spend 40-plus hours a week working for somebody else, but they won’t spend four hours a week working for themselves—working on their own plan, on their own future.”