A Fortune-ate Creeker:

Tanino Privitera

When Tanino Privitera got the call to be on “Wheel of Fortune”, he said he knew in his gut right then that he would win.

He had already lost at two other games shows when he was in his 20s: “25,000 Pyramid” with Betty White, and a charades game. So he said he figured he had to win this time. He also felt confident that the decades of watching and studying “Wheel of Fortune”, and playing Wordle, had prepared him to win.

Tanino’s gut was right. He won a total of $62,450 which included a $45,000 cash prize for solving a Living Thing puzzle in the bonus round. With only the letters G and ALA, Tanino quickly guessed YOUNG KOALA. Fans were stunned that he guessed the puzzle so quickly with so few letters, and social media erupted in disbelief and congratulatory messages.

But in spite of Tanino’s confidence about winning, he said he did experience some nervousness.
“At first, I was concerned about what I would sound like and look like on the show,” said Tanino. “But then I talked myself into not overthinking things and to just be myself. Everything was so surreal, and I experienced a ‘blank’ moment in the first puzzle where I froze. But I snapped out of it and had a lot of fun.”

Tanino is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers—which piqued Pat Sajak’s interest. Tanino recalled Pat telling him during a commercial break that he was “a man after his own heart” in reference to their mutual appreciation of wine.

It’s serendipitously fitting that Tanino’s winnings from the show included a free trip to San Luis Obispo, CA—an area of California that is home to the Paso Robles wineries which Tanino said is known as the “new Napa”. Tanino said he is particularly excited about touring these wineries and integrating his knowledge and experience from the trip into the tailor-made private wine events he does in the area (blind tastings, wine pairing events, happy hours, wine dinners, etc -- sommfun23@gmail.com).

Tanino is originally from California where he sold fine wines in the downtown LA area country clubs and restaurants, and then moved to Cave Creek where, additional to his side gig doing private events, he’s been selling a full book of products—from wines to spirits—to the nearby restaurants, bars, and country clubs. He was recently promoted to a position that now focuses on one portfolio doing events and wine dinners throughout the state.  


What do you like best about living in Cave Creek? The beauty. It’s cooler, less populated and like an underdeveloped Old-Town Scottsdale. My whole family is here and the quality of life is exceptional. I think the people are great up here… friendlier than in the city and we share a commonality—feeling lucky to live and/or work up here.

Most memorable Cave Creek experience: The neatest experience was being the sommelier for my landlord’s wedding in Cave Creek. Nestled in the hilly desert, each window framed a desert scene slightly higher than the house and it was stunning. There were 15-20 guests, the ceremony was performed on their patio, and a catered dinner was served inside on a rare balmy night while I poured wine I’d chosen for the four courses.  Everyone seemed to have a cozy, beautiful, and special time.

What do you like to do for fun: Working out, blind wine tasting, happy hours, spending time with family and friends, interior design.

Favorite restaurant: My absolute favorite restaurant is Pizzicata. They make pizza that has me going over and over for lunch.  In three weeks, I’ve been there five times. I get the “Sajak” pizza:  Sausage, mushrooms, onions, and jalapeño every time and a glass of wine. Pat Sajak mentioned it on a recent Wheel of Fortune show and said Vanna always gets it too.

Talents/hobbies: Speak four languages, respectfully imitate, acting/dancing background, public speaking, and psychology.

What’s something about you that very few people can claim? Was on “25,000 Pyramid: with Betty White when I was 21. And… well, winning $62,000 on “Wheel of Fortune”.

Guilty pleasure:  Reality TV, cheese, olives, and good whole grain La Brea Bakery Bread.

Person who has made a difference in my life? So many… but my mom who embodies so many of my ideals.  Also, my brother with a heart of gold. And my niece, the sweetest thing.

Given your Wheel of Fortune expertise, what’s one tip you can share with our readers? With the bonus round puzzles, they often include any adjective added before the next word that really has no specific relevance. For instance “young koala” (the puzzle I solved) or “yellow tulip”, “squeaky doorway” or “private driveway”.