In the fourth of the twenty-first series (can you believe that?!), we interview some of the most talented up-and-coming Sommeliers in Ontario and beyond.
A few years back Many years ago 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 and often underexposed stars.
This week sees the turn of Aryn Pepper, sommelier at Ottawa’s Le Poisson Bleu.
Sometimes I feel we are a little too Toronto focused, so it was lovely to speak with some rising star from our capital city.
Aryn was heartily recommended to me by GFR scribe Heather Heagney… thanks so much for that Heather; I owe you one.
Good Food Revolution: So Aryn, what is it that you are doing these days?
Aryn Pepper: Currently, I’m the sommelier at Le Poisson Bleu which is owned by my good friends Alex, Eric, and their cousin Sophie. It’s a sustainable seafood restaurant that focuses on nose-to-tail (or gill-to-fin…sorry), dry ageing, curing, and generally treating fish like red meat. First of its kind in Ottawa and an incredible adventure. I’ve also recently taken over our marketing and social media accounts.
GFR: Please describe your role at Le Poisson Bleu… What does a normal day entail for you? Is there a normal day?
AP: My role is pretty dynamic for a sommelier. My background before being a sommelier was in branding, comms, and marketing so I’ve sort of blended that into my position. I design our menus, take care of our socials, and (of course) take care of our wine program. Normal days exist, and honestly I live for them. A nice, normal day is a brief inventory, updating our menus, and preparing for a full dining room.
GFR: Hopefully we are on the other side of this pandemic *fingers crossed*… how did the pandemic impact your professional life?
AP: Professionally it was a bit of a dumpster fire but personally it was incredible. I got to take a lot of time to reflect on myself and what I was working towards which led me to better positions on the ‘other side’ of the pandemic. The growth was palpable and I actually look back on the experience as hard, but worth it. The biggest let down was sacrificing my UK work visa, as I did not travel back to the UK in 2020 despite having a position waiting for me because I was terrified of getting sick in a foreign country.
GFR: Please tell us a little about your Sommelier history? What kind of experience and training wine-wise did you have before doing what you are doing today? And looking back, if you could, would you have made different decisions?
AP: I have almost no regrets in how I focused on wine. I was finishing my undergrad at Carleton while taking my sommelier training at the Vendage Institute. It was a bit overwhelming as I was also working in fine dining at the time. I tend to flood myself with school and work though, so it sounds about right. Within the first two years of being certified Level 3 WSET, I had this overwhelming imposter syndrome and I didn’t feel comfortable judging wines without having made wine myself. That’s how I started in winemaking.
In 2017, I packed up and moved to Prince Edward County for 2 months and lived at Trail Estate where I learned how to make wine for the first time alongside Mackenzie Brisbois, who remains an inspiration to me. She makes a vast and impressive portfolio of wines and experiments a ton, so I got to work with many styles of wine. Since 2017, I’ve made wine in 4 different countries (Canada, the UK, France, Germany). From 2017-2019 I was also working for a boutique importer, so I saw the sales side as well. I like to keep things dynamic.
GFR: When did you first decide that you would actually like a career in wine?… and was it with a view to being a Sommelier?
AP: It’s super hilarious actually. I had always been around wine lovers and collectors in my family, but what really sealed the deal was working at…Wine Rack. My manager happened to be a sommelier from the UK and he thought Wine Rack was a small independent wine shop when he came to Canada. He passed me a lot of his knowledge and basically said that if I wanted to take wine seriously, I needed to run from Wine Rack (he quit shortly after haha).
I asked my roommate about moving into hospitality, and that’s how I started at the Arc Hotel. The sommelier there trained me and let me experiment with pairings and see if I actually liked the hospitality industry (spoiler alert: I did!). I do think about leaving everything behind and go into winemaking full time (at least once a year), but I still enjoy the hustle of the city, which is what keeps me a sommelier.
GFR: So who or what gave you your very first insight into the world of wine? Did you have a wine epiphany?
AP: My very first insight into the world of wine was through my grandparents. They are incredible hosts and wine collectors. We always had classic wines and fine foods when company came over and I always saw it as very fun and glamorous. This led to me hosting little dinner parties in high school and then trying to figure out a career path where I could do that for a living. So I guess that’s how I ended up a sommelier.
GFR: How aware of wine were you whilst growing up there? Were you around wine from an early age?
AP: Very aware. My family introduced me to wine quite young (we were allowed to have tiny glasses of wine for special occasions) and treated it with the same importance as food.
GFR: You lucky devil… none of that for me!
Can you remember your first taste of wine?
AP: The first time I was allowed to have a sip of wine was Y2K! I was 9 years old for New Years Eve for the year 2000, and my grandparents had some bottles of champagne. Their house was designed really cool and we used to hang out under the stairs and play. I very specifically remember being under the stairs when my grandmother came over and gave me a splash of actual champagne (hilarious) in a tiny crystal glass and let me try it at midnight.
GFR: When do you feel children should be introduced to the wonderful world of wine?
AP: I was introduced extremely young. I would say no earlier than 12 personally. At the same time, when kids are desensitized and introduced to something in a controlled manner, I find they don’t see it as sneaky or taboo, and therefore treat it a little more respectfully.
GFR: The Sommelier world is notoriously full of pretentious arseholes, and after seeing that film Somm a few years back I still worry about the emergence of a new Wine Bro culture… also, I recently picked up on a LOT of that vibe from some of the usual suspects in the mixology crowd, full-on Jordan Peterson fans and all that stuff.I saw one of the usual suspects defending Andrew Tate the other month. WTF is going on there? I’d love to hear your thoughts?
AP: Honestly, I usually hate being in a room full of somms. Room full of winemakers? No problem. I have been on panels and in the presence of panels where I’m the only woman. It’s exhausting.
The bro culture is alive and well and it’s taking sneaky new forms. People who don’t fit the ‘bro’ look still gatekeep and ignore growth in the industry.
I do my best to make wine inclusive and empathetic. At the end of the day, wine is supposed to be fun, fascinating, and delightful. It’s to be enjoyed, not used as a tool to exclude. It’s rotten grape juice, and some people need to relax.
GFR: I wholeheartedly agree with you on that…
Speaking of which, we are having some really important conversations right now about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, and what can be done to eradicate it from the culture.
I’d be interested to hear your take on the topic, and perhaps what you have witnessed yourself during your time in the restaurant world… big question I know, but I feel it’s a topic that deserves discussion.
AP: I don’t think it’s possible to eradicate it, but it is possible to put our money where our morals lie. There have been a handful of bigger sexual harassment/assault cases in the Ottawa restaurant scene (and the Ontario wine scene), and I choose to not put money in their pockets, and I openly discuss their disgusting behaviour in hopes others feel the same.
It’s a long conversation for sure, but it’s not impossible to just not support them and to actively boycott them. Frankly, I’m angry but not surprised at how many people continue to support certain abusers even with the details released.
GFR: Yes… I think I know what you are talking about here…
So, natural wine is basically the new normal… I’m pretty choosy when it comes to my personal forays into that world. What’s your take? And how do natural wines fit into your program with at Le Poisson Bleu?
AP: I find it funny to hear the term ’new’ and ’nature wine’ together. Natural wine was the norm far before the new ‘conventional’ wine was invented in the last 100 years (if you will) and is being brought back in an age where a lot of people don’t want to consume additives.
GFR: Okay, okay… I know…
AP: I’ve worked in both natural (or low intervention) and conventional winemaking and I must say, I don’t like additives. Small doses of sulfur here and there doesn’t break my heart, but *Freshprotect* does.
My program at LPB is about 95% natural wine, and a select few of low intervention and maybe one or two conventional wines. I’m not dogmatic about natural, and I always remind myself that the wine list isn’t necessarily *for me*, it’s for our guests. I design the menu specifically to pair with Alex’s food which is an experience in it’s own right, and I want to match that excitement on the list. I also match our sustainability and family-owned restaurant ethos by purchasing sustainable wines and focusing on small, family-owned producers.
The wines I’ve chosen are meant to showcase that natural wine doesn’t have to be the weirdest, freakiest wines. There’s space for them on the list, but I want guests to warm up to natural wine as a norm, not as an esoteric experiment. I also hate yeasty and brett notes, so many of our wines are acidity and minerality driven, rather than dank, reductive, or intense.
GFR: I believe that you are a bit of a Pét-Nat fan… I’m curious as to your love of this wine style? Please tell me more!
AP: I love ancestral methods for sparkling. Mackenzie Brisbois and I made her first Pet Nat for Trail Estate together which was a super fun experience. I love unfiltered sparkling wine in general because I find their profiles to be more dynamic. One of my favourite styles of sparkling is actually Col Fondo, which is an unfiltered style of Prosecco. I had it for the first time in London, and I fell in love.
GFR: And you are partial to a bit of rosé, right? Now we are talking! Please tell me a little about your best rosé experiences?
AP: You’d be absolutely right! I drink more rosé than anything else, and I find it’s the easiest wine to enjoy with most food. My grandfather and I are both obsessed with rosé and it’s an ongoing joke at the dinner table. It depends on how I’m feeling but the styles I love are more savoury rosés (Umathum Rosa, A Vita Rosato), Tavel, light reds that play like rosé (served chilled), and I even prefer rosé champagnes over classic. Yeah, I guess I just really like rosé.
If the wine list was genuinely for me, it would be 90% of the menu. I do carry a pretty heavy amount of rosé on the list regardless of season, because I think it’s an under-utilized wine that gets put into a cheeky pigeonhole as a summer-only non-serious wine.
GFR: How would you say that your palate has evolved over the years?
For example, I went through an old vine Zinfandel phase. I revisited such wines last year back… Hmmmm… interesting, but really not for me any more.
I really struggled with one last night actually!
AP: Well, unfortunately my tastes have gotten more expensive over the years. I suppose that happens naturally when you’re in this field. I am also VERY sensitive to sugar content in wines, which didn’t use to bother me as much. Over the years, the most notable switch for me is that I’ve been more into natural wine and ciders. I have a strong dislike for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, as it was rubbed in my face for years when my family got into it. I can smell it from a mile away now haha. As mentioned before though, I never left my rosé phase.
GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines?
AP: Love them. I have a few faves, notably Neon-Eon, Trail Estate, Paradise Grapevine, Stanners…I’m also obsessed with the Quebec wine scene and their use of hybrids (Vignoble Negondos, Pervenches, Nival, Desrochers, Pinard et Filles etc) Super underrated, and it’s frustratingly difficult to get QC producers on licensee for the restaurant in Ontario.
GFR: What do you think that we do well here in Canada, and how is the interest for them at Le Poisson Bleu?
AP: I think we do hybrids super well (especially in QC), I love how experimental we are and I like that we’re a bit underrated. I’m especially picky with Canadian wines and carry a handful of them on the list. I am asked why there’s not a ton of Canadian wine on the menu, but it’s mainly price. The wines I like from Canada are a bit more expensive, and sometimes it’s harder to sell Canadian wines for premium prices. It’s getting better, but I get a lot of turned up noses when discussing Canadian wine with older crowds.
GFR: And what do you feel we should really give up on?
AP: Pretending to be France. I’m tired of seeing “our version” of French wine blends or French styles. Grow what works well here, stop copying other styles, make Canada it’s own terroir and style.
GFR: How do you feel about Canadian support of our local wine industry?
AP: I think it’s really lacking, but I also think it’s not as much the consumers fault as it is our legislation. The LCBO doesn’t support smaller local wineries with their practices, we have to import wines from other provinces as if they were different countries, and the prices are really high because there’s very little support from our government or subsidization.
GFR: Just as there is from everywhere in the world, there is quite a lot of dreadful wine coming from Canada (BC, Quebec, Ontario et al.) also. How do you feel about the issue of people simply promoting something because of it being local, and not because of its quality?
AP: I hate it. Don’t even get me started on the mass produced Canadian wine industry. Local does not necessarily equal better, and I preach that often.
GFR: Has your job allowed you to travel much?
That’s one thing that I really missed through the pandemic, going on wine trips… although I don’t know if I’ll ever want to get on a plane again!
AP: I travel a lot for winemaking but not as much as a somm. I did my first international flight since 2020 just this past fall when I went to Germany to learn more alongside Michael Voelker of 2Naturkinder. I hate flying though, funny enough. I’ll be back in Germany this coming fall, but I hope to go to Italy soon, as I still haven’t been which feels like a sin as a sommelier.
My bosses are super supportive of my travelling for wine endeavours and I’m very grateful. Most recently, I was in New York for Karakterre’s first North American event. Karakterre is Austria’s natural wine festival that focuses on Central and Eastern European wines. It was nothing short of incredible.
GFR: Which wine regions have you had the opportunity to visit over the years?
AP: I have been to a few now! I have been to: Niagara, Prince Edward County, West Sussex (UK), Catalonia (Spain), Banyuls-sur-Mer (France), and Franken (Germany). I still have a lot more exploring to do.
GFR: I know that you have made wine, both in Germany and Prince Edward County… please tell me a little bit about that? And what’s this Larry David reference? I’m confused…
AP: Ha! The Larry David reference is my extremely dry humour and wit. I’m also pretty neurotic about a lot of things, so it’s a bit of an ongoing roast. I’ve made wine in Germany, France, England, and Canada. They’ve all been such vastly different and special experiences. I would say I prefer the smaller family-owned wineries over the larger companies. This is mainly because when you work on a small winery, you get to dabble in all aspects of the wines’ production from vineyard to lab to labeling. When working in a larger winery, you tend to get one job that you do over and over. You get a section you’re in charge of, rather than moving around sectors. You see less of the full process.
GFR: And where else would you like to make wine (in a pipe dream)?
AP: I would love to live and work in either New Zealand or Australia. Not necessarily a pipe dream, I usually manage to travel where I want to and I have some connections in both countries.
GFR: So do you prefer to manage people or bottles and why?
AP: Bottles. In my pipe dream, I would be a wildly overpaid cellar master that just organizes and collects bottles all day. I’m not totally introverted, but I don’t love managing people. I’d rather work alongside people and manage bottles.
GFR: What have been your career highs and lows?
AP: Career highs: Opening Le Poisson Bleu with my friends, travelling to make wine, and being invited to cool wine events. Career lows: the pandemic, burning out last year and having to overcome it.
GFR: Who is, in your mind, a real role model for Sommeliers?
AP: I think sommeliers need to look to winemakers as roll models rather than other sommeliers. Sommeliers need to ground themselves a bit more and phase out the ‘rockstar’ stuff. My favourite people who talk about wine aren’t sommeliers.
GFR: And for Wine Agents/Importers?
AP: Oh I don’t know. I really love import agencies that send their staff on R+D trips to meet winemakers and experience regions. I find agents I work with that have that experience are much more involved, charming, and excited about their products.
GFR: Do you have nightmares about working with wines? I do… regularly… and it usually involves being unable to find bottles in a cellar… and the clock is ticking away… I have them all the time, and I haven’t been in the role for over eleven bloody years!!!
AP: I have weird nightmares when I can’t open the bottle or I drop the bottle. It has literally never happened to me and it just repeats itself a lot. Can you tell I have anxiety?
GFR: Wine folks famously have their Sundays off… What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?
AP: My partner does not work in the hospitality industry, so my Sundays are pretty sacred because it’s our main day off together. My perfect Sunday is a warm sunny day in Chelsea (Quebec) at my family’s place, eating cheese boards and my grandmother’s cooking, drinking a nice rosé. Alternatively, I’d be at the Nordik Spa in a snowy December.
GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink in Ottawa… perhaps tell us a hidden treasure of our city?
AP: I’m pretty easy to find as I tend to go to my favourite haunts regularly. My favourite places to eat are defined by the occasion. Casual and regular dining you’ll find me at Chez Lucien or The Third. For more of a ’night out’ I love Two Six Ate, Cantina Gia, Corner Peach, and honestly, I love eating at Le Poisson Bleu. I’m a seafood fiend and Alex is an insane chef. I love his food. I love Quebec restaurants too.
If I have access to a car and would dine at Soif, Les Fougeres, and L’Orée du Bois more often. I have my license but I live downtown so there isn’t really a point in owning a car just yet.
As far as hidden treasures are concerned, it’s not really a restaurant but I love the Chelsea Smokehouse. If I’m in the area I spend literal hundreds there on wines, snacks, smoked seafood, etc.
GFR: Do you like to cook yourself? What’s your favourite dish to cook these days?
AP: I love cooking. I often cook a lot of whole fish and Korean-style dishes. I eat an unholy amount of rice and kim chi. My favourite thing to cook though is buttermilk brined whole chicken a la Samin Nosrat. It’s so good. It’s completely changed how much I love chicken (which I usually find pretty boring).
GFR: And have you had any cooking disasters recently?
AP: No not really. I was taught how to cook at a young age from my grandmother and my mother was a chef briefly when I was a kid (she switched careers after my brother was born) so I’ve had a lot of experience. The only thing that bothers me is the darn fire alarm every single time I sear anything. Drives me bananas.
GFR: Do you feel that there is a good Sommelier community in Ottawa?
AP: I think it’s pretty decent. I wish there were more events for us all to meet up at, and I wish it was a little less cliquey. That’s my two cents.
GFR: Do you hang out often with other Sommeliers? And if you do, do you only shoot the shit about wine?
AP: A couple of my close friends are also somms and we talk about wine a little bit but mostly not. I do love it when the occasion calls for it and we all sit down and blind taste or share really cool wines that we love together. I tend to have more fun with winemakers and chefs than other somms.
GFR: How do you feel about Ottawa as a wine and cocktail city? Where do you go if you need to get your wine or cocktail on?
AP: I think it’s getting there. It’s certainly come a long way from when I started in 2012. It’s funny I don’t really drink cocktails anymore other than a martini here and there. I love a classic 50/50 martini. If I want to get my wine on, I cross the bridge and go to Soif in Hull or I hit up Arlo down the street.
GFR: What do you feel you would be doing if you were not doing what you are doing today?
AP: I probably would’ve pursued my interest in branding and design. I have a bachelor’s in communications and a post-grad certification in digital marketing and have always loved design.
GFR: Do you have a favourite food/wine related scene in a film/movie or show?
AP: Sweet Berry Wine with Dr. Steve Brule on Tim and Eric. Get’s me every. single. time.
GFR: Do you have many non-industry friends… how do they feel about what you do for a living?
AP: My best friend is actually a vegan non-drinker that works high up in retail so there’s that haha. Most of my best friends have actually either never worked in the industry or have left the industry since the pandemic for different fields. My partner works in tech and remotely. They think it’s pretty cool what I do for a living but I think people think most of my job is drinking wine when honestly, it’s mostly spreadsheets and budgeting. A lot of my industry friends are also chefs or cooks, rather than other front of house staff.
GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?
AP: I think it’s really fun actually. I’m pretty good at it too. If it’s not too out of left field, I can usually get down to the grape varietals and country. I don’t think it’s a perfect science or anything, I just find it fun. It’s also a great way to trick people into drinking wine they’d usually be snooty about. Surprise!
GFR: Are you a better blind taster with or without a bad hangover? I’m definitely the former…
AP: I actually use cannabis products a lot when I know I’m going to have to taste because it makes my senses more accurate. I don’t smoke anything (it’s bad for you but also for your palate!) but some CBD capsules definitely help. I’m not good at rallying so I hate tasting if I’ve gone hard the night before. Sometimes my hangovers last two days so honestly I try not to overdo it often.
GFR: Some of the best tasters I know are heavy smokers… What are your thoughts there?
AP: I hate cigarettes. I hate the smell and even though I imbibe in cannabis products I also don’t smoke them. The legalization of cannabis products has been great because there’s measured edibles that you can take instead and you can take much lighter amounts. If they’re great tasters and they smoke…good for them I guess? It’s actually funny only two people on our staff smoke, which is weird when back in the day SO many hospitality staff smoked. I used to be the odd one out!
GFR: In your mind what is “hot” in the world of wine right now? And why?
AP: I think Croatia is about to pop off real soon. Their wines are fresh, vibrant, and suddenly accessible in Ontario. I think all age groups are going to get into it. I also think Central and Eastern Euro wines in general are really ‘hot’ right now. Underrated regions are also really spicy and fun. I recent bought some incredible wine from Texas of all places. People are trusting their somms more, and I’ve never had a more fun time introducing guests to new wines that they might’ve never seen or tasted before.
GFR: Aside from these fashions in wine drinking, what’s your current favourite wine style/region? And why?
AP: I love new USA regions and the California ‘rennaissance’ if you will. Younger winemakers are doing really fun stuff in California that isn’t just Cab, Chard and Pinot Noir. I also love Quebecois wine, and wines from more underrated European regions like Serbia and Slovenia. Small Australian winemakers are also doing some really good stuff.
GFR: And what’s not so hot? What has fallen out of favour? Why do you feel that is?
AP: Sugar-laden mass produced wines. There’s like 16 g/L in Apothic Red it’s really, really gross. I hope it falls out of style because I’m tired of explaining to people that a lot of the “full body” they’re getting from wines like that is literally syrup. I think really barnyard and stinky natural wines are falling out of favour as well. At the end of the day, the wine should taste nice, not be a challenge or forgiving faults. There’s a lot of false natural wine too where bigger companies see that it’s popular and they start making orange wine etc to gain favour with younger audiences. Hate it.
GFR: When it comes to wine, is there anything that you feel is terribly overrated?
AP: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Stinky and yeasty natty wine.
GFR: What is your favourite wine pairing right now, something nice and seasonal?
AP: Lambrusco and literally everything.
GFR: You like Gin and Mezcal, not together though, right? What are you currently enjoying?
AP: Not together please no hahahah. Currently:
Gin – Botanist or Bobby’s
Mezcal – can’t beat Profesor Mezcal
GFR: What is your least favourite part of your job as a Sommelier? For me it was the f****** inventory. Oh, and breaking down boxes… and the resultant papercuts (I have such soft hands!)
AP: I hate carrying around wine cases. I had to fix my back last year with physio because of years of moving and lifting wine boxes. Inventory is ok, I like counting and organizing. My least favourite part of the job is being underestimated by other somms during portfolio tastings. I still get talked down to by older sommeliers (sometimes with even less experience or education than me) who assume because I’m young I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s really dumb and frustrating, and frankly, if you want me to buy wines from your portfolio, it’s pretty silly to talk to me like that.
GFR: What is your weapon of choice when it comes to a corkscrew? And why?
AP: I’m not too fussy as long as it’s a good quality double hinge corkscrew. My favourite personal one is completely bright red and my other one is completely matte black. I don’t like heavy corkscrews.
GFR: Due to us 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?
AP: Outside of drinking wine all the time, I try to be really healthy. I exercise regularly outside of work (3-4 hours of hot power yoga a week), I take a cocktail of vitamins (including milk thistle for my liver), eat very healthy (whole foods, veg forward), and my doctor does blood work to check my liver a couple times a year. I’m aware that my career isn’t the healthiest, so I try to offset it as much as I can. I take breaks often, and I don’t really drink on my days off unless there’s an occasion. My partner isn’t a big drinker either, so there isn’t much pressure.
GFR: There’s a lot of open discourse right now around the topic of both drug and alcohol abuse within the restaurant world. Would you care to share a few of your thoughts about that side of the business? To be quite frank with you, the thing I miss the LEAST about working in that environment is the late nights of drinking and recreational pharmaceuticals. I don’t think my body could take it any longer anyway!
AP: I agree, I’m not really into drinking at work or after work anymore and I’m actively trying to step away from it and create a better relationship between myself and alcohol/drugs. I wish it were more common to take care of yourself rather than constantly imbibing.
GFR: Speaking of which, have you ever been “cut off”? If so, where and when was the most recent time? I think it happened to me back in Scotland once… hazy memories… at the City Café.
AP: hahahah I’ve never been cut off. I’ve cut myself off though. I have a tendency to seem completely fine when in reality I’m very intoxicated. I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions in that state, so I try to no longer be in that state.
GFR: Which leads rather neatly into the next question… do you happen to have a good hangover cure? None of the cures given to me by previous interviewees have really done the job for me… well, apart from the suggestion about CBD gummies.
AP: I use cannabis a lot. It’s extremely helpful for my stress levels (outside of work of course). I always have a cold ginger ale with lots of ice, and I make some fried rice with kim chi and an egg. Always works for me. Lots of naps.
GFR: How many wines do you “taste” in a week these days?
AP: Oh my god. Lots. On a big tasting week it could be like 40-50 wines, on a slower week it’s like 15-20.
GFR: When tasting with agents did you choose to spit or swallow?
AP: Day off: swallow. Day on: spit. Expensive or rare? Swallow.
GFR: What’s your “house” wine at home?
AP: Wines that I picked up from little shops in Quebec. I always keep some on hand.
GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?
AP: Sitting in La Buvette (my favourite wine shop in the whole world) in Paris and sipping some really juicy grenache. I got to hang out and talk with Camille and it felt incredible, like I was in a dream. If I were to open a wine shop it would be very similar I feel.
This is pretty even with drinking wine out of a rocks glass at the top of the mountain where I was staying in Banyuls overlooking the town and ocean during a sunset. It felt so surreal.
GFR: What is your perfect glass (or bottle) of wine at the end of a crazy day at work?
AP: If I could drink A Vita Rosato forever I would. It’s one of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted. I also love to sip good quality vermouth on ice with a little slice of orange and an olive.
GFR: Coffee or tea?
AP: Coffee. Sometimes I enjoy green tea but mostly coffee.
GFR: Lemon, horseradish, mignonette, or hot sauce?
AP: horseradish or au naturelle. I hate lemon in my oysters.
GFR: Vindaloo or Korma?
AP: vindaloo!! I love spicy. My spice tolerance is really high.
GFR: Milk or dark?
GFR: Ketchup, mayonnaise, or salt & vinegar?
GFR: Blue, R, MR, M, MW, W, Charcoal?
AP: Blue or R.
GFR: Finally… What three pieces of advice would you give to a young fresh-faced Aryn Pepper, before she bagan her wine journey?
AP: 1. Don’t worry about them, worry about you. 2. Party less, just a little bit less. 3. Trust yourself.
GFR: Thank you for taking the time, Aryn.
It is very much appreciated. As this is a hell of a long interview and you turned that around in ONE DAY.
Edinburgh-born/Ontario-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, educator, and Dad, Jamie Drummond is the Director/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 seriously knows his shit and just celebrated his 85th 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. After working as GM at DaiLo with Chef Nick Liu and Sommelier Pete Hammond, Anton is now selling wine with Banville Wine Merchants and explores the world of mycology in his spare time.