In the second of our twenty-fourth Young Blood Sommelier series (astonishing really!), 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, the same names seemed to pop up over and over again. I was also gradually becoming 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 sommeliers, “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 month, we sit down for a conversation with Kieran Coyne, a young fellow who, after working as a sommelier all over, is just about to open his new wine shop, Chin Chin, in the town of Creemore.




In the delivery van with allocated Burgundy wine.


Good Food Revolution: So, Kieran, what is it that you are doing these days?

Kieran Coyne: Hi Jamie, thanks for having me on the series. I’ve always enjoyed reading these, so it feels auspicious to be the one talking this time.

2024 has gotten off to a wild start for me. After a decade living in Toronto, I recently moved to rural Simcoe County, and I’m now in the process of opening my own independent wine shop in Creemore. I always loved good independent wine shops, something you see quite commonly in England, where I am originally from, so it’s great that such a thing can exist now in Ontario. So that’s been exciting, but it’s also been keeping me really busy.

I also manage a wine list for a wonderful restaurant on Ossington called Union, as well as do some wine sales in the Simcoe-Grey County for a wine agency.

GFR: Please describe a regular work day. What does a normal day entail for you? Is there a normal day?

KC: It certainly feels like no one day is ever the same right now, but they all start the same – with a pourover coffee and looking at my phone. That would be the only Groundhog Day segment, though, because I juggle a few different roles.

One day I could be in Toronto for tastings or trainings for Union or on the road visiting restaurants with fresh samples. Or these days, I’m usually in Creemore working on the wine shop: renovating, reworking floor plans, purchasing, getting all my licenses and permits in order…

You wouldn’t believe how much work goes into giving someone a glass of wine.

GFR: Hopefully, we are on the other side of this lockdown. How did the lockdown impact your professional life? And how have you bounced back?

KC: Well, there was an initial panic. I think restaurants rode some real highs and lows. I was working full-time as a wine sales rep at the time, so I experienced highs and lows alongside them. But overall, professionally, I was very lucky.

In hindsight, the lockdown changed me a lot, personally. It called into question what values were actually important to me. I think I now realize the relationship between personal and professional happiness is more important.

GFR: How aware of wine were you while growing up? Were you around wine from an early age? 

KC: Even though my dad always had a glass of red with dinner, I wasn’t really aware of wine being “a thing” until I was about 18 or 19. My interest in food, which is so connected to wine, began with family vacations to France as a teenager.

In my early twenties, I sought out work in good restaurants with good wine lists so that I could learn more about wines and drink better.

GFR: Can you remember your first taste of wine?

KC: My first taste of wine would’ve been in a plastic thimble in a church.

But my first meaningful sip of wine was a Barolo in a restaurant in Bath, my hometown. That got me intrigued by expensive wine. At the time, it fascinated me that people were willing to part with so much money for wine, and I realized that it was a whole world that I didn’t know anything about.


On a friends rooftop, with a large bottle of Riesling.


GFR: When do you feel children should be introduced to the wonderful world of wine?

KC: As soon as they can hold a wine glass by the stem.

GFR: So who or what gave you your very first insight into the world of wine? Did you have a wine epiphany?

KC: I wish that I had a cool story about a generous winemaker sharing old bottles in their cellar and a young, curious Kieran having some kind of epiphany, but no.

However, one kick-starter bottle for me was Antoine Jobard Meursault, about 15 years ago—a wine that definitely let me know that Chardonnay came to slay.

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?

KC: I did all my WSET stuff twenty years ago. I did CMS stuff in the last decade. And today, my best advice to anyone seeking education would be to travel and taste as much as possible.

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? 

KC: No, I was just working in good restaurants and getting asked to help with wine events. I didn’t dream of being a somm. It was just something that I was good at, and the next logical step was getting certified.

GFR: Tell us a little about the Union wine list.

KC: It’s such a fun list to curate as a staple Toronto restaurant that has been hugely successful. I try to support smaller agencies that have exciting and new things as much as I can, while also filling in the gaps with classics.

GFR: And maybe you’d be open to giving me a little insight into the wine program at my local, Heart’s Tavern. What styles of wine did the crowd there enjoy?

KC: What I noticed during my time working there is that customers were really receptive to a curated wine list that was unique for the area. For most, Heart’s is a destination restaurant, and price-point was less of a factor when ordering wine. When I was somming at Heart’s, Piedmont and Burgundy were among the bestsellers. It’s truly one of the most special restaurants out there.

GFR: Let’s talk a little about the differences in wine culture between the UK and Canada… I’d be very interested in your take on that.

KC: The UK has this undying love for Bordeaux, which I don’t see here. Brits also have to pay less for good wine, and so they drink better as a result.

GFR: The Sommelier world is notoriously full of pretentious arseholes, and after seeing that film Somm a few years ago, I still worry about the emergence of a new Wine Bro culture… Also, I have 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. Believe it or not, I saw one of the usual suspects defend Andrew Tate the other month. What the hell is going on there? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

KC: I’m personally not as familiar on the specifics, Jamie. It could be that I haven’t yet encountered these people, but I believe that they exist. Overall, men in our industry for sure have work to do.


At Union on Ossington.


GFR: 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.

KC: I think that anyone in the industry who says they haven’t witnessed sexual harassment isn’t really engaging. That’s the problem with harassment. No one really wants to talk about it, and it’s “easier” to ignore it, which then normalizes it.

There’s a long-standing power imbalance in the food and drink industry. There’s a lot of work to do, but the least that our industry can do right now is to listen to women, believe women, and doing something about it.

GFR: So, natural wine is basically the new normal in many places, including many spots in Toronto, and the agency you are working with, Genuwine Imports… I’m pretty choosy when it comes to my personal forays into that world. What’s your take?

KC: I’m choosy too, and I think that being dogmatic about any type of wine is limiting. For example, winemakers should be able to put a little sulphur in their wines if it means they’ll make it to Canada in one piece. Importers should let buyers know if the wine is not suitable for BTG—that’s something I think Genuwine has always been really good at—and set an example there.

That said, having tasted and bought hundreds of natural wines, it is still the area of wine-culture that interests me most. Some natural wines that have stopped me in my tracks have been totally sound and sulphur-free. Others have been too freaky, pricey, and left me feeling duped, but that’s happening less and less. Hotly contested topic !

All to say, the natural wine movement is driven by the quest for pure, delicious, honest wines. And when they are on, they are ON.

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… Hmmmm… interesting, but really not for me any more. Although, saying that, I’ve been quite enjoying some of them again recently!

KC: My version of your Zinfandel story is my Riesling story. I went pretty hard on tasting so many of them—especially the OG German ones – a few years back. To the extent I embarked on a road-trip through Germany with a few other Toronto Somm’s pre-pandemic actually. And while so many great German Rieslings exist, I find I am excited to open them and explore them less and less – can’t really explain why that could be.

GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines?

KC: Sometimes I feel guilty that I should love them more than I do, since they are local. I’ve tasted bangers from Bachelder, Black Bank Hill, and Pearl Morrisette this year. I look forward to having a wine shop and doing more tasting events with Canadian wines. Let the people vote.

GFR: What do you think we do well here in Canada?

KC: Chardonnay. Paradise Grapevine Winery did a killer example from 2020 from Niagara fruit but I wish I could tell you where exactly.

GFR: And what do you feel we should really give up on?

KC: Bordeaux varieties. Except maybe Cab Franc can stay.

GFR: How do you feel about Canadian support for our local wine industry? 

KC: I see a lot of it.


In his pick up truck, with a sabered bottle of champagne.


GFR: Just as there is everywhere in the world, there is quite a lot of dreadful wine coming from Canada (BC, Quebec, Ontario, et al.). How do you feel about the issue of people simply promoting something because it is local and not because of its quality?

KC: Local is for sure used as a selling point. But quality, flavour, taste, are the only things that really matter. And I truly respect the fact that winemaking is really hard. Some banging wines I’ve tasted this year are: from QC:, Joy Hill, Pinard & Filles, from BC: Scout, Thorn & Burrow, from ON: Pearl Morissette, Therianthropy, Bachelder, Closson Chase.

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… I’m going to attempt Vienna in May though!

KC: My last trip was June 2023 and it was the first trip in years. It’s literally the best thing one can to do with their time and money IMO. Going back to your question about education – I’d say travel is the most effective for career development.

GFR: Which wine regions have you had the opportunity to visit over the years?

KC: Most of Germany and France. I have yet to do a proper wine-focused Cali or Italy trip.

GFR: Have you ever made your own wine?

KC: No. People keep asking me if Chin Chin will be a make-your-own-wine shop, to which I tell them “no!”. Is that a thing? I’ve also met said folks who use the word “wine” to describe fruit fermentations. Not the same thing.

GFR: And where would you like to make wine (in a pipe dream)?

KC: For me, the region isn’t as important as the community-culture that exists there. I felt this way when I tasted with Chris Santini in Auxey-Duresses last year, and saw that he had opened up his cellar space for other locals to vinify their wines. He shared ideas about labelling, bottling, selling, etc. This ‘collective’ are in the pursuit of something: a humble reflection of their land and these terroirs – and I think that is the attractive part.


The day he got his keys to Chin Chin Creemore


GFR: Wine folks famously have their Sundays off… What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday? 

KC: Cooking, walks with my dog Luna, nothing remarkable! I think this might be the year I get into gardening in my gardencore overalls or something.

GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink in Toronto and environs… perhaps tell us a personal hidden treasure of yours. 

KC: I don’t live in Toronto anymore, so the first two places that comes to mind are; Cho-San on Woodbine Avenue. Best sushi counter lunch that money can buy.  And The Good Hawk in Hockley Valley. This Village-Inn slash eatery is a total gem open 3 nights a week.

GFR: Do you like to cook yourself? What’s your favourite dish to cook these days?

KC: Yeah, I love cooking. My wife Tammy has introduced me to some phenomenal Cantonese dishes, and Mapo tofu is a go-to. I’ve also been inspired by recipes in Fuschia Dunlop’s The Taste of Sichuan.

GFR: Do you feel that there is a good Sommelier community in Toronto?

KC: Yeah. Somms around the GTA are really willing to get together, and share good bottles. I have a little wine club WhatsApp group, and we share great wines, do structured tastings, and it’s a lot of fun.

GFR: Do you have many non-industry friends… How do they feel about what you do for a living?

KC: I do, and they always get embarrassed about bringing wine over. But generally speaking, they are the ones who are keeping me sane.

GFR: What do you feel you would be doing if you were not doing what you are doing today?

KC:  I don’t know. I’m already doing what I love.

GFR: Do you have a favourite food/wine related scene in a film/movie or show?



KC: You’ve got to love Tom in Succession, when he is imploring his catering team to make him look a good host. “Tell them ‘this wine is Germanic’, but don’t say that. Tell them ‘this wine is biodynamic’… but don’t say that either! This wine isn’t for the Malbec morons”.

GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?

KC: We blind-taste at the wine club I’m part of. I think they’re a really strong exercise if you want to improve how you evaluate wine. It’s also important to then re-taste once knowing what the wine is to gain the full perspective. I read a book once that suggested you do not blurt out your initial impressions. It all sounds so wanky written down, eh?

GFR: Some of the best tasters I know are heavy smokers… What are your thoughts there?

KC: Yes, but have you heard of the blind tasters who are heavy vapers? They are peak.

GFR: Hahaha.

In your mind, what is “hot” in the world of wine right now? And why?

KC: Lambrusco continues to dominate as sparkling wine of choice in Toronto, unlike any other city in North America.

GFR: And what’s not so hot? What has fallen out of favour? Why do you feel that way?

KC: Rosé. In the colder months of the year, in which Canada is abundant, orange wine out-pips rose when they go head-to-head in sales.

GFR: When it comes to wine, is there anything that you feel is terribly overrated? And why?

KC: I personally think a lot of the top Californian wines are overrated.


At Union on Ossington, preparing for staff wine training.


GFR: There’s a lot of open discourse right now around the topic of both drug and alcohol abuse within the restaurant/wine 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!

KC: I personally cannot function the day after a big drinking session, so I can’t really have big nights like I used to. Back then, around 10pm, work and recreation kind of morphed together. I used to set an alarm on my phone labelled “get the fuck out”

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.

KC: No, I never have!

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.

KC: How about steaming your body in a 50 degree wood-burning sauna, in the middle of a forest, then running bare naked in the snow outside. Repeat that a couple times.

GFR: How many wines do you “taste” in a week these days?

KC:  At least 20. Since I’m preparing to line my shop shelves with new products right now, I’m tasting quite a bit these days. Amongst some of the import agencies’s really pushing natural/low intervention wine, I am constantly being exposed to new producers and new projects.  I think a lot of the wines you see on menu’s right now, have not even existed in this market for more than 2 years.

GFR: When tasting with restaurants clients, do you choose to spit or swallow?

KC: I’ll spit. If you are a client and your wine rep has purple teeth and is sans a spitty cup I’d say you are witnessing a classic ‘rep botch’ unfolding live before you.

GFR: Funny!

What’s your “house” wine at home right now?

KC: I’ll likely finish off some sample bottles at home. Wines get to the point where they are so full of Corovin gas and the cork is so overly tapped, the cork ventually almost flops out with a hiss.

GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?

KC:  Pretty impossible to pick just one – time, place, company, etc – but here is a list of some remarkable producers/cuvées that I drank in 2023 (in no particular order);

Marie Courtin ‘Efflorescence’ Champagne

Pierre Gonon Saint Joseph

Wasenhaus Spätburgunder ‘Vulkan’

Ramonet Cailleret (after a whole day being open!)

Antonio Madeira Vinhas Velhas

GFR: What is your perfect glass (or bottle) of wine at the end of a crazy day at work?

KC: Some kind of low-abv chilled red/white co-ferment nice thing, such as a Matassa Brutal Rouge or a Domaine de Belle Lies ‘l’Etrange’

GFR: Coffee or tea?

KC: Let’s face it… we (our southern Ontario population) don’t really have a f’ing clue about tea. Myself included. It’s one of the most complex and fascinating beverages when made right, unlocking neurone pathways and altering moods, yet we can’t really name a place that serves it. I’ve sat with a friend Brad and had mind-bending tea with controlled water temperature, timed flushes, seasoned ceramic, etc., and come away thinking wow. On the other hand, Toronto is seriously awesome at coffee. And it’s mostly what I make and drink at home.

GFR: Lemon, horseradish, mignonette, or hot sauce?

KC: Never hot sauce !

GFR: Vindaloo or Korma?

KC: Korma

GFR: Milk or dark? And preferred cocoa content?

KC: Milk

GFR: Ketchup, mayonnaise, or salt & vinegar?

KC: Whatever Côte de Boeuf are serving !

GFR: Blue, R, MR, M, MW, W, Charcoal?

KC: Obviously charcoal! I feel like the work involved alone makes me respect the flavour even more.

GFR: Volatile acidity, brettanomyces, or mousiness? (Hehe…)

KC: Give me full-blown mouse all the time. Love that stuff !

GFR: Arf!

Thank you for taking the time, Kieran. It is very much appreciated. As this is an extremely  long interview.





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.