In the first of a seventh (and wildly popular) series, we interview some of the most talented up-and-coming Sommeliers in Ontario and occasionally elsewhere.
A few years back I was flicking through the pages of a locally published periodical and noticed that when it came to Sommeliers it was the same names that seemed to pop up over and over again. I was also becoming gradually cognisant of the fact that we more established wine folks were well and truly “losing our edge” to these young blood Sommeliers.
Being well aware of the depth of new talent that was out there I finally decided to get together with a couple of fellow Toronto Sommelier “Old Guard” (Anton Potvin and Peter Boyd) to assemble a line of questioning that would give us an entertaining insight into the minds of these rising stars.
This time around we sit down with Adrian Marquez, a young fellow who can be found at many of the Charlie’s Burgers dinners pontificating upon the pleasures of the grape. Right now he’s in the business of selling Maple Wine to the Japanese…
Good Food Revolution: So Adrian, what is it that you are doing these days?
Adrian Marquez: Well, I started replying to this mostly on the way back from Japan, I’ve been out there setting up a strartup to import Canadian wine and mead. I don’t speak a whole lot of Japanese, so it’s been a very interesting and challenging experience.
Now I’m back to Canada to work on a couple of projects related to tequila. Should be fun.
GFR: And what kind of experience and formal training did you have before this position?
AM: Not a whole lot directly. I did my Somm training at the International Sommelier Guild, with Wayne Gotts and Peter Bodnarod.
My major in college was not business (I studied Cultural Anthropology) and I never thought I would have a hankering for biz but now I find it fascinating… Business really makes the world go round in many ways.
In Toronto I was lucky enough to work alongside Donato Carozza of Grapebrands agency selling wine to restaurants. It was a very different beast than selling wine in a restaurant, but Donato was a great influence and inspiration to develop and learn about the other side of the bottle, sort to speak.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur, I just didn’t know it. So together my studies (all we eat and drink is culturally determined), life experience and curiosity got the best of me. As it often does. . . So off to Japan I went to try my luck.
GFR: How did you become part of the Charlie’s Burgers project?
AM: Really by chance, my brother had worked with Peter Zolstez at 7 numbers and Peter introduced me to Franco. My brother, Peter and I were always chatting separately about looking for ways to eat and drink better and pay less, so hosting potluck parties was what seemed a natural solution. A trial worked, but there was something missing. It wasn’t quite scalable and it was limited to what we could afford. Peter had an idea…
Peter introduced me to Franco at a BBQ in my house, and shooting the breeze he explained his and Franco’s rough idea. We came to put together something, that would change our lives in many ways. Including the name, it had to be something catchy but not too fancy, so “even something stupid like Charlies Burgers’ would be good”, we said… And it stuck. I still like it though.
As an anthropologist I knew it’d be a hit, people LOVE what they can’t have, and the Toronto market seemed perfect for it, with a combination of affluence, snob factor and culinary curiosity. It also helped to be well plugged-in to several networks and Franco is a master of connections. I collaborated in giving them the idea of a website with nothing but a sign up form, and vague promises of something great. Same with forwarding the invitation around our peers and contacts, and the rest just came across very naturally.
In a way I still think of CB as the ‘Fight Club’ of the restaurant world, and a challenge that has made us better as men. It pushes culinary boundaries and the cultural lines between patron and server, food and entertainment to a more interactive and down to earth experience. Its raw truth, served warmthly. A challenge to norms and the status quo. Many chefs rarely interact with the dinning room, and very few times a Somm or waitron will sit down and shoot the breeze with the patrons, but in CB is possible. I do enjoy intensely pushing those lines. The anti-ivorytower sentiment is a big part of what drives us, in different ways.
GFR: And how would you explain the wine program that you have been helping front at Charlie’s Burgers?
AM: The wine program came very naturally, people attending CB loved the wines, but were reluctant to compromise to a case purchase by themselves. Buying wine can be an intimidating minefield, but if you can have it curated for you, it’s half the work done; Less thinkin’more drinkin’.
It was also a big gamble, would guests trusts us that much? As it turned out, yes, they did. Those know have come to the dinners usually end up subscribing to the program, we are that good. So I’m very proud and happy about how it continues to grow.
All aside, I think it’s a good deal. You get something tasty and interesting in the mail, you get a good deal with restaurants and you get to experience wines that otherwise you may not have bought.
GFR: And where do your Charlie’s Burgers cohorts palates lie when it comes to wines?
AM: As your readers might guess, we never get to try the dishes beforehand, and may not know all the ingredients in a dish, so most often it’s a matter of making jazz. . . You put your noodle to work and think what are the best possible solutions like an orchestra or construction zone.
Most often Donato and I coordinate for the selections, he has good taste and very distinct ideas of what to serve, but not the same sense as a Somm. Especially when it comes to the more challenging menus I often get carte blanche, since Donato and Franco know that I am adventurous (I’ve eaten many strange things in my day) and finely tuned palate (or schnoz, not just for good looks ladies!) that has a lot of imagination and vision. Also helps that I am a glutton? Probably.
Sometimes Donato and I argue, I like lots of air-time for the wines and cellar temperature (Lord knows our arguments about temperature and decanting are so often they are almost comedy) but I love the guy! we play well together. And for the record, I’m usually right. Ha.
(Tooting own horn is cool on the internet isn’t it? That’s what Facebook leads me to believe).
Donato is a lot more old school and cautious, but still surprises me sometimes with wild gems. Ultimately sometimes we end up having to do changes on the fly, once we taste the food with the wine. Or depends on the temperature of the day, the flow of the meal, etc
Franco Stalteri loves it all, and just wants to see people happy. He does have a thing for old world, pleasurable, subtler lower alcohol wines. Donato and I do as well, so there is definitely a common trend. Pete Solztez will drink most things, as would my brother, Andres Marquez… Though he appreciates tequila and spirits way more than I do. Francis Bertrand appreciates more the old world and subtle wines, but he is more open to the juice bombs we bring now and then — I guess from experience in his younger years. Ian is a bourbon-and-beer man, and I couldn’t want him around any other way. Adam likes it all, but pedal-to-the-metal wine is his speed. Heather McDougall loves reds, big and burly.
GFR: And are you involved in the Charlie’s Burgers wine club?
AM: Not as much now, though now and then I help. Franco is very attached to his baby.
GFR: Now you have been exporting Maple Wine to Japan… tell us a little about how all of that came about?
AM: I once was in love with a Japanese girl and hated Canadian winters with a passion (still do, she is gone). I was looking for a way to make a living and escape winter and I came across the ‘wines’ by chance while developing the website for Grapebrands (technically the wines are a mead, since there is no grape involved). Donato introduced me to Marco Milan as he needed a new website for Milan wineries. So I built a site for them and was introduced to the meads along the way.
At first I was skeptical (as are 95% of people), but once I tried them I became a believer. They are unique enough to stand out, and yet ‘winey’ enough to be familiar. Also nobody else is making anything close, or so iconic, so I still think it’s a fantastic product with tons of potential around the world.
So I decided to sell my house, roll the dice and start anew in Japan. As I said, I am not keen on Canadian winters at all, and love is a hell of a beast. . . So off I went. As luck would have it, I met through a friend my business partner (Ivo Videnov) that has a lot of experience in Japan and has been also invaluable with connections and expertise. Having someone by your side even to shoot ideas is priceless.
In Japan I cold approached an expat Canadian importer that specializes in Canadian wines — shoutout to Jamie Paquin and Nozomi Mihara of Heavenly Vines in Tokyo!. They are the only 100% Canadian wine shop in the world. We made a deal and they did the paperwork and the other things I couldn’t do, man it was a challenge and a half.
The Japanese are really finicky when it comes to any foodstuff entering the country, brutal. The LCBO certificates were not good enough, the gelatin type used in fining must be declared (WTF?), the levels of everything had to be re-certified, etc etc. we almost lost the shipment (I know many agents here know the feeling) and all the work I had put on the venture.
However with perseverance we managed to bring them in. I brought the meads into the most difficult market in the world, it’s selling and it’s a thrill to see where will it go, but what a wild ride. Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for the faint of heart.
GFR: And Maple Wine? What’s it like? I have to say I don’t find myself immediately drawn to it?
AM: Ah, a skeptic! Understandable. I thought so too at first. However, If you think about it, mead is the oldest alcoholic drink, predating wine by quite a lot. Mead comes in a lot of styles, depending on who makes it and what the bees ate. One of the most fascinating tastings I’ve had was in Kyoto, with a honey/mead importer (shoutout to Miel-mie). Uno-san, the director, retails a bottling made by a winemaker but also one made by the original beekeeper. Same place, same bees, same feed. However, they were totally different. Night and day … Not surprisingly the one by the winemaker was crisper, more modern style, while the other was heavier and more ‘foresty’. Super cool stuff.
Same is maple mead. The maple type you use makes a difference, so does the winemakers, tree subspecies and other myriad factors, just like a wine. Also, they can only come from a very specific place, just like a wine.
I’m calling the meads Wakira(TM) after the Mohawk words for ‘maple sugar tree-drink’ (the sap is from the Mohawk). They are done more like a wine, in 3 categories: sparkling, table white and dessert. The sparkling is a dead-ringer for a Prosecco (winemakers are from Prosecco, no surprises there ); the table white is closer to an Alsace Riesling (floral and mineral); the dessert one is closer to a vinsanto or PX sherry (dried fruits and vanilla-wood galore, truly like a walk in the forest). The coolest part is that none of them see any chips or oak, yet they all smell vaguely woody. There have been other attempts to make a maple mead in the market, but so far it’s all very sticky and heavy. These are a whole different ball game.
And come on, what’s more Canadian and patriotic than maple? There should be a monument to the winemaker who discovered this!
GFR: You’ll have to get some of this Maple Wine to me to taste… any chance of a bottle?
AM: Of course! I’ll get one sampler pack for ya.
GFR: What makes for a good wine agent in your mind?
AM: Oh, loaded question, I have been an agent, and it’s not all that fun some days.
I think an agent should listen more than push, should know the style of the wines you sell and like, and bring you interesting things, instead of yet another generic cab sauv from Chile.
Also they should have wine knowledge, it’s not indistinguishable to sell wine vs vacuum cleaners. But is too much knowledge a bad thing? who knows?, but I’ve come across some that didn’t know or seemed to care about varietals, place, origin, etc. or even worse, cork taint.
GFR: How aware of wine were you whilst growing up? Were you around wine from an early age?
AM: I have a hilarious picture of myself being fed wine by my aunt when I was about oh, 10-14 months or so… Little they knew!
It was pink and tasted like ‘strawberries’. I was 10-14 months old. Must have been one of those ‘boones farms’ things, or white Zinfandel… I didn’t know any better.
I grew up in Mexico City, so I was never really around wine. At Xmas time sometimes there would be a little Spanish cider, mostly for cooking, but it was never a big part of family meals.
It took a trip to (former Russia), Georgia and a wild night to really get me interested in wine. It was one of those peak experiences that lingers in your memory and later on in life comes back to haunt you. But that is a different story…
GFR: When do you feel children should be introduced to the wonderful world of wine?
AM: Watered down, with meals, in family I think 8-10 would be a good age. That way it’s something normal and civilized, a complete part of a meal, not an excuse to binge drink as North Americans do.
GFR: When did you first decide that you would like a career in wine?
AM: I had a mentor (Richard at the Wildfire grille) that told me that his dream job was to be the guy that puts the oil on swimming suit models before photo shoots. Since he couldn’t find that job, he thought the second best would be to get paid to drink. And by god, I think he was on to something…
All joking aside, what attracted me was the aura of esoteric elitism and snobbism around it… I hate both, so I had to find out more. Destroying myths is something I enjoy on a spiritual / philosophical level of belief. I am a nerd, so the pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake has always been high on my list. That started a good 15 years ago at least…
Then it turned out I had a natural gift for it (big nose jokes aside), an interest from an anthropological point of view and a good memory. So it has been a easy fit. Also, I quickly learned that the more I knew about wine, the more tips I could make; nothing like the forces of the market to motivate a young hustler.
GFR: So who or what gave you your first insight into the world of wine?
AM: It would be Hugh Johnson’s book the World Atlas of Wine. Seeing all the maps, the density of info to absorb and history was like crack cocaine for a nerd like me.
GFR: The Sommelier world is notoriously full of pretentious arseholes, and after seeing that film Somm I worry about the emergence of a new Bro culture… I’d love to hear your thoughts?
AM: Yes, I hear you… I find wine to be the type of product that attracts a certain type, mostly afflicted with knowingalitis. However the beauty of wine is that you can’t never know it all, truly. So that will limit the appeal for those types.
However I think as more people get into wine we will see a lot more huffing and puffing overhyped maketing and snobbism especially in North America. Inevitable, sadly. I do believe that wine is and should be a beverage of pleasure, not a contest. It bores me to tears when people recite labels and drop names and years. Great, let’s get to the meat of the matter, does it go well with the dishes? Am I getting an experience from this? Is it good QPR?
Overall I think and hope that as people drink more wine and more kinds they will realize that there is no end of the rainbow.
GFR: Which wine regions have you had the opportunity to visit?
AM: Sadly only Niagara, and Napa quickly when I was younger. I need to get out there… Italy is top of my list.
GFR: Have you ever thought about making your own wine?
AM: Yes, but you don’t have control over how the grapes are grown, and I’d like to do organic. Also, I may never leave the house if I have a stock of cheap and cheerful wine!
GFR: And where would you like to make wine (in a pipe dream)?
AM: Somewhere warm, sunny, near an ocean and rainforest. Not good for wine, but great for me!
Perhaps somewhere in Italy, with mild winters, funky grapes, lovely food. Maybe even the highlands of Mexico. Great soils there that are worthy exploring, high altitudes make great climates.
GFR: So do you prefer to manage people or bottles and why?
AM: Bottles. People have too many variations and changes… Too many known unknowns. Does not compute to my brain. Can’t wait for robo waitrons / somms.
GFR: What have been your career highs and lows?
How Charlie’s Burgers blew up for sure.
Meeting Noam Chomsky, Ramsay, Nobel prize scientists… meeting people from all walks of life, literally. Famous and infamous. I think it gives you great perspective in life.
Interviewed for U Toronto magazine was cool too.
Cracking the Japanese market and bonding with Somms there over wine and little language proficiency was awesome too.
Drinking DRC, Margaux and Mouton for free was pretty damn sweet.
Also, the wonderful women I’ve shared wine with.
Frankly being seriously injured in a restaurant (looking at you N44 and your deathtrap back stairs!) and losing years of my life to recovery and physio. Not to mention I had to stay sober for a good chunk of those years (in a way the sober part was good).
Japan was also a low, the business style is notorious for being closed to foreigners. Not knowing anyone there didn’t help either.
GFR: Who is, in your mind, a real role model for Sommeliers?
AM: Oh, tough call. I think Peter Boyd is as cool as they come. Same for Anton Potvin. I like working with Heather McDougall because she always keeps her cool and pleasant demeanour. All of them are very knowledgeable but not pretentious or arrogant about it.
GFR: Do you ever have nightmares about working as a Sommelier? I do… regularly… and it usually involves being unable to find bottles in a cellar… and the clock is ticking away… in fact I had one last night!!! And I haven’t been in the role for five years!!!
Oh yeah, having roller skates, a round restaurant, patrons that disappear and wine bottles that cannot be opened with orders piling in the kitchen…. Shudder.
Also menus that I can’t read in Japanese, and patrons asking questions… While the phone is ringing and a huge lineup. Good times!
GFR: Sommeliers famously have Sundays off… What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?… or perhaps you have Mondays off?
AM: My perfect Sunday?in all it’s glory of a halcyon dream:
Being woken up by two beautiful girls, good times follow, then brunch: Duck eggs scrambled cooked in duck fat with melty cheese and hearty freshly baked bread. Little salad with sesame dressing. Tropical fruit and a coffee beachside. Then more funtimes with the girls… After, a walk in the park, frisbee, a nap in a hammock (shared with the above mentioned ladies) and then BBQ diner with good wine (Brescia reds FTW!) and a few friends. And more sex.
After guests are gone, not quite that kind of friends of course, I’m not that much of a deviant. . .eh… is this supposed to be PG-13 ?
I think there is a pattern here… My love of food, of course, get you minds out of the gutter people.
GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink in Toronto.. perhaps tell us a hidden treasure of our lovely city?
AM: I love bold flavours and interesting textures so these days I go a lot to African Palace Ethiopian restaurant. (Bloor and Dovercourt). Delicious, inexpensive, and warm hospitality. Very interesting food, satiation guaranteed.
To drink I like 416, always interesting wines there. I like Valdez’ patio, and Fonda Lola margaritas.
GFR: Do you cook yourself? What’s your favourite dish to cook these days?
AM: I am a very proficient cook and live a very spartan lifestyle, so I cook at home all the time. I love simple food and I eat paleo.
I’ve been fiddling a lot with rice cakes (not quite paleo but damn satisfying) given it’s what I had in the area to eat, so there have been many variations of griddled rice cakes with cheese, spices, veggies and duck. Learned to make a mean ramen too, can’t get enough of that. The secret is good miso. That’s it. So simple.
I also love cooking black lentils first frying garlic and onion in duck fat, then collards and adding lentils and a Morita pepper or two. Man Alive, that is good eats. Another favorite is boiled cassava sautéed in coconut oil… NOM NOM NOM
And for the winner, Mexico City style tacos. With just a squirt of lime juice and a pinch of cilantro.
GFR: And have you had any cooking disasters recently?
AM: No, I’m pretty conscious when I cook I’m a all-in focus kinda guy. Though I had a curry turn vicious on me, made me tear up, hallucinate and sweat. It was still damn delicious though. 10/10 Would make again.
GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines? Any current favourites?
AM: Canadian wines have come a loooong long way in the last, I’d say, 10-12 years. Better fruit, older vines, less labrusca. Better marketing / information material too, about a hundred years late, but better late than never. Also the confidence of the consumers has changed a lot too, so that is always great to see. The local movement is really bringing a sense of place to Niagara and beyond, and that is also wonderful.
Keint-he are making lovely, delicate Pinots. Bachelder is a character and a half, also good wines. If it’s biodynamic or organic I’m interested, for philosophical and ethical reasons. Faults can surprisingly blow off with a little air.
I like Norm Hardie’s Riesling, always thirst quenching and deliciously mineral.
GFR: Do you feel that there is a good Sommelier community in Toronto?
AM: Ah, the word ‘community’ used liberally gives me the hibibe jibbies… It means something very different to an anthropologist.
Maybe I m not the most sociable person in the world, but drinks with someone now and then and making a community is not quite the same in my book. Maybe I’ve been out of the loop and more interactive /cooperative events are happening, but mostly seems everyone has their own thing going on, and somms rarely coincide, hang out or cooperate with each other for other than drinking.
Sure, there are tips traded and gossip here and there, but does that make a community?
Also people bounce around resto jobs a lot… Musical chairs galore. So that leaves you just wondering ‘ where are they now?’ all the time. Lots of knowledgeable cats out there, and good conversations can be had, for sure. But with different schedules and timing, it’s hard to say there is even a hub where winos meet and drink for purposes other than catching a buzz. Maybe we need a ‘Somms for children’? ‘Somms helping seniors’? ‘Somms for AA meetings’? I bet we’d be popular (or present anyway) in the latter…
GFR: How do you feel about Toronto as a wine and cocktail city? Where do you go if you need to get your wine or cocktail on?
AM: I don’t care much for cocktails, they are always the same. Follow the steps and you can have a Singapore sling here or in Singapore with similar results (tested). But wine will always be different and change.
When I need to get wined I go to 416, Chantecler, Terroni, midfield, Mercatto. I’m all ears for more though.
GFR: What would you be doing if you were not a Sommelier?
AM: Creative stuff. I’m a crafty man, so I’d be an engineer or something along those lines. Architect? I’d love to do home renovations for a living. I do web stuff for kicks, so maybe something on those lines… Creative things in any case.
GFR: What are your thoughts on music in restaurants?
AM: I’m pretty indifferent, to me it becomes wallpaper. Shouldn’t be too loud though, I’m there to chat with people not shout at them. Also hearing sweet, sweet disco music played and not get down and boogie seems almost criminal to me.
If I’m listening to music I rather focus on that and not have it compete with the food and wines, company, etc. If it were up to me I’d have DJ’s making custom music that fits the vibe of a bar, but that’s too much work and money. For restaurants I’d have silence only. Let the diners be the music.
GFR: Do you have a favourite food/wine related scene in a film/movie or show?
AM: The feast scene of Big Night. Awesome soundtrack, great wines and good times.
GFR: I’m guessing that you have non-industry friends… how do they feel about what you do for a living?
AM: I have very few friends outside the industry. They think it’s all glamorous wine drinking comped meals and parties of course; they don’t see the crazy hours, the no social life, the emotional drain, the impossible demands…
They find it amusing that someone could hate their jobs so much and yet love it all the same. To them it really takes a masochist to take the lifestyle. And I think they are partly right.
GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?
AM: Love it. Humbling, and teaches one to really tune in and filter out everything else. As far as I am concerned all wine bought should be tasted blind, to eliminate all the other noise. Then maybe see the label, but as an after thought. Your palate should be your guide.
Not to name-place drop, but in Tokyo these days the trend is to do ‘black glass tastings’ in wine bars… Triple blind but if you guess right your wine is free. Obliviously nobody or rarely ever does. Good business if you ask me. . . Shuts up the snobs, brings out the real wine lovers and makes a dollar for the bar. Plus makes you think you are doing something more productive than just drinking. Win-win-win-win.
GFR: Are you a better blind taster with or without a bad hangover? I’m definitely the former…
AM: No hangover, thank you. If I overdid it night before there is no telling what would happen if I smell alcohol again the next day.
GFR: What’s your current favourite wine region?
AM: Northern Italy: Brescia, Friuli, Gattinara. Frilly wines, undiscovered grapes, great quality. Low alcohol delicious wines.
GFR: What do you feel is “hot” in the world of wine right now… don’t say Maple Wine.
AM: Bio and natural wines. A natural progression of boomers aging, consumer education and aversion to unnecessary manufacturing. Also the ethics of environment strain of grape production.
Maple wine too of course, come on, it’s so cool nobody knows about it…
GFR: And what’s not so hot? What has fallen out of favour?
AM: Chardonnay and Cab. Progressive restos are phasing them out, soon only the old timers will drink them. But then the pendulum will swing right back again…
Australia is definitely not so hot anymore, and that seems to be an universal trend. Too much alcohol and juice, great for tastings, not so good with food.
GFR: When it comes to wine is there anything that you feel is overrated?
AM: Silver Oak and California overall. Australia. Chile. Super Tuscans. Also new or double oak, eww, if I want wood chip wine I would make it at home.
GFR: What is your favourite wine pairing right now? Perhaps a dish from your brother’s spot, Fonda Lola?
AM: Not much wine at Fonda Lola, I have to try more things. Margaritas and guacamole together 4 ever though.
My favorite match nowadays is Thai curry with Alsace Riesling, brings it to a extra dimensional level.
GFR: Okay… three pairings with me on the spot?… but with some of Charlie’s Burgers guest Chefs.
What would you suggest for them wine or beverage-wise… and why?
1: Fergus Henderson (St. John)
AM: Strikes me as the kind of guy who would ‘get’ the maple meads.
2: Matt Binkley (The Chef who did the bug dinner)
AM: Oh something crunchy and light. A nice mineral Ontario Riesling like Vineland Estate’s. Or a herbaceous sauv blanc. You know, match the bugs meals to the wine. Or something super kinky, like an orange wine from Sicily (la moresca comes to mind) or friulian pinkish wine. Adventurous wine for adventurous palates.
3: Justin Leboe (Model Milk)
AM: I seem to recall he was more of a beer vs wine kinda guy, so I’m gonna go with antigravity by flying monkeys winery. Something refreshing and light after a long day behind the stove is what the Doctor ordered.
GFR: Do you often drink beers or spirits?
AM: Not much for spirits at all, they make me belligerent… Beer now and then, but definitely second fiddle to wine.
GFR: What is your least favourite part of your job as Sommelier? For me it was doing inventory…
AM: The pompous know-it-alls that now and then you get… The ‘ ‘I’ll never drink Ontario wine types’, the ‘I had better in the French laundry’ types, and those bitter souls that nobody can make happy because they are so angry at themselves and the world. Also entitled princesses, both guys and girls. . . They amuse me, but how does anyone go though life and find a mate with that attitude boggles my mind.
GFR: What is your weapon of choice when it comes to a corkscrew?
AM: Whatever is handy. Pull tap double action is ideal.
GFR: Speaking of which, where do you stand on the screwcap vs. cork debate? And how do your customers feel about that?
AM: Screw caps are handy and I don’t see what is the big deal for short term aging. Synthetic cork is fine for mid term I would think, but for the long run I don’t think we’ll ever find a substitute for real cork.
For the most part customers are getting used to alternative closures, and what matters more is what’s inside, as it should.
GFR: Due to us always being around alcohol, many people in our industry often have quite the increased tolerance for wine/booze, or they develop issues. What is your limit and how do you keep yourself in check?
AM: Oh yes, this is the dark side of the moon. I actually drink a lot less than people think on a regular basis. I’ve tamed my demons for the most part. I’d say that if I drink two bottles of wine a week is a lot. Though CB events don’t count…
I hate hangovers, and lost productivity, so often if I go out (maybe twice a week) I’ll have two drinks, call it a night. Alcohol really disturbs my sleep patterns, so if the next day I have to be ‘on’ I may not drink at all. I may have a wilder night once a month and that’s usually mostly wine with dinner and friends (for Science, of course).
But overall there is always the risk of needing to drink to function. I’ve seen it many times. Also it’s interesting what happens when you go sober, people drop off, or treat you differently. Very peculiar.
I keep myself in check by stopping when I’m starting to feel really good. Lots of water between drinks also helps keep me in that sweet spot between wreck and ‘Hollywood glamour’. I believe in ‘sobria ebrietas’, that is to use alcohol to soften the rough edges, empathize with others, understand oneself and improve ones’ character. Good times need not be ragers.
GFR: Have you ever been “cut off”? If so, where and when was the most recent time?
AM: Let’s just say there is no cutoff in Japan, so there were a couple interesting nights. . . Riding a bicycle blind drunk across Kyoto is not something I’ll do again for a long, long time. I really don’t know how I made it home. Robots brought me home, perhaps? Ninjas carried me over? Who knows.
GFR: Do you have a good hangover cure?
AM: Hot jasmine tea. Just wash it down. Not pleasant, but does the job.
For a more pleasant experience, I go with organic apple cider (non alcoholic) sipped slowly and Melba toast. If and when I get hungry then something salty and greasy, I’m a huge fan of duck confit. Coffee is also good too.
Else there is always the ol’ hair of the dog…
GFR: How many wines do you taste in a week?
AM: Depends, but I’d say three is average.
GFR: When do you choose to spit or swallow?
AM: It depends, do I have more things to do later or I can get by with a little buzz? Context is important.
GFR: What’s your “house” wine at home?
AM: ERA montepulciano d Abruzzo. Delicious, organic, opens up very nicely as the night goes on, and it’s under 10 dollah. Can’t beat that. In fact, I double dare people to find better wine for the money.
Whites vary, but I do love Ontario Rieslings.
GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?
AM: Chateau Petrus 1990. It really is all that jazz. Amazing. Layers and layers of flavour, very distinct. And it was free. Can’t beat that.
GFR: What is your perfect glass (or bottle) of wine at the end of a crazy night at Charlie’s Burgers?
AM: Whatever is left, I’m not snobbish. Usually white since I’m super thirsty by then. Or low tannin red, not a big fan of mouthfuls of tannin after working drinking all evening. A nice Pinot or crisp white does the trick.
GFR: And now the cheesy question Adrian… If you were a grape varietal what would you be? and why?
AM: Pinot Noir. Heartache, sexy, hard to tame, and a little wild but will amply reward further investigation and time investment.
GFR: Thank you for taking the time Adrian… those were some… errr… colourful answers… that I had to edit down for fear of frightening the horses!
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution.
Peter Boyd has been a part of Toronto’s wine scene for over two decades. He has taught the Diploma level for the International Sommeliers Guild, and has been the sommelier at Scaramouche Restaurant since 1993. He also writes about wine, food and pop culture and raises show molerats for fun and profit. He’s also one of the most solid guys in the business.Trust this man. Seriously… he knows his shit and is slowly taking over this city. And today he is celebrating his 66th birthday!
A well-known and much respected figure on the Toronto food and wine scene for almost twenty years, Potvin has worked in many of the city’s very best establishments including Biffs, Canoe, and Eau. In 2004 Potvin opened his incarnation of the Niagara Street Café, a restaurant that has gone from strength to strength year after year, with universal critical acclaim. Anton spends much of his time traveling and tasting wine and has been ranked highly in consecutive years of the International Wine Challenge. Anton just opened his exciting new project DaiLo with Chef Nick Liu.