A few nights in Montreal

One of the best parts about being a sommelier is eating at other restaurants. Whether they are in my own city or another, I am always keen to see what is happening in other places. There are a million ways to do that same thing, and I love seeing the variations. A recent trip to Ontario had me planning to visit wineries and chat to winemakers. But I was hijacked for hijinks by an old friend and ended up in Montreal for a few nights. There are few better places to be enjoying variations in eating and drinking. We got to the city late in the afternoon and were both hungry and thirsty. We found a new wine bar called Furco, quickly settled in and started with a bottle of Georges Descombes Régnié from Beaujolais, a wine made from the Gamay grape. There are 10 crus of Beaujolais and Régnié was the last one to receive such status in 1988. The Gamay grown there tend to be softer and more forward wines. Georges Descombes only has 2 hectares of grapes in Régnié and he knows how to use them. Thankfully his wines are imported into BC by Racine Wine Imports. Furco’s open […]

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Wine Fest Recap

Vancouver International Wine Festival Week Recap Wine fest week in Vancouver is a busy time for trade, and a very busy time for sommeliers at Hawksworth Restaurant, one of Canada’s top rooms and wine programs. Our Somm in the City kept a running log of his week’s wine-fuelled events/insanity for EAT. Monday, February 25, 2013 Late night last night at work as we begin to set up the week ahead. Re-printing wine list to reflect wines that are sold out and the new wines that have arrived. Early morning run in the rain. Breakfast and work by 10:30am. I have to make sure all the buttons are made in Micros, our point of sale system. Each wine that comes or goes on the wine list has a button attached to it for inventory. Each time a wine is rung in, it is accounted for. Technology is helpful, but it still means that each wine has to be physically counted. That’s my first job this morning once I arrive at work. Lunch was the standard rush from 12-2pm. What was unusual was the amount of wine that was sold. Typically Monday guests are not committed to the week by Monday lunch – […]

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Good Days & Bad Days

As a sommelier I start every month by counting bottles. Or depending on the business, I end the month with the dreaded count. But it happens. Every month. When people get googly eyed when I tell them I am a sommelier, I tell them there are good days and bad days. Inventory is never the best. The best, for me, is when things are busy. When people are willing to try the lesser-known grape varities. Or when people tell me that the wine I helped them find on the list was one of the best ones they have ever had. Often it is hard to tell what the night has in store when I look at the numbers late in the afternoon. I have seen it difficult to get through 80 covers or a breeze to do 130. There have been nights when there were only 60 covers in on the books, one waiter is sent home by 7, but 8 the place is packed. “Walk-ins” we call them. Where did they come from? Did the waiter tell them to come in until after their shift was over? Hard to tell, but that is when things get interesting. When we […]

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Grower Champagne

Many people who seek out farmers’ markets are looking for an alternative to the mass produced ingredients they find in grocery shops. So it would come as no surprise to learn that the same trend is happening in the wine world. Small, handcrafted producers are making honest and true wines that express the places they are made. Champagne is a region largely divided into two. The people that grow the grapes, and the people that make the wine. The growers sell their grapes to co-operatives or negocients for processing, blending, packaging and sale. The big champagne houses that we’re all on a first name basis with make an even larger amount of champagne – enough to satisfy tastes around the world. But there is alternative. Some of the farmers that grow the grapes also make their own wines. Most wine lovers call them Grower Champagnes, or “farmer fizz”. They are people that tend to the vine all summer. They know the best time to harvest and are able to express their vineyard through the grapes that they grow. Champagne is made from a combination of three different grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay brings acidity and elegance to the blend. An […]

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Teaching from a Coffee Guru – the Basics of the Bean

I know this is not really about wine, but it is about something else I drink. And it coffee helps if I drink too much wine! I don’t know how you find a guru, or even if they find you, but I found my coffee guru in Kelowna. As a wine guy, I normally visit to the Okaganan to taste wine. This time, however, I ended up tasting bean-based, not grape-based beverages. I was introduced to Greg McMurray through a good friend. Though he has a ‘day job’, he has long been interested in coffee from bean to cup. He bought a small commercial grade roaster and started selling beans to friends. Then friends of friends, and their friends, and well, you get the idea. He’s now the proud owner of Fresh City Coffee, a boutique micro-roaster, located in Kelowna. He still personally delivers it to your house, outside of the hours of his other ‘real job’. When I visiting the valley a few months ago, he was kind enough to share the ways of the bean: the provenance, the roast, the brew. Each step has endless variables, so I’ve tried to simplify Guru Greg’s teachings here, for beginners, like me. […]

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Writings about my passion for wine, and the people, places, and stories connected to it.