In the fourth of a nineteenth (and wildly popular) series, we interview some of the most talented up-and-coming Sommeliers in Ontario. 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 and underexposed stars.
Good Food Revolution: So Peter, what is it that you are doing these days?
Peter Hammond: I am the Main Wine Person at DaiLo Restaurant.
GFR: And what kind of experience and training wine-wise did you have before doing what you do today?
PH: I’ve only ever worked in restaurants, so let’s just say 15+ years. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on tastings from a young age, and I’ve been in a wine buying position for the last seven years.
Education has been a mix of self study, practical experience, and a few classes. I took level I and II through ISG back when that was a thing, and I have completed a few rounds of study with my buds at the Somm Factory (shout out).
I am Certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers and have attended their Advanced Course, with an eye towards sitting the Advanced Exam in 2020.
I have also taught a few rounds of the ‘DaiLo Wine Crash Course’ internally here at the restaurant, which has been a great experience as well.
GFR: How would you describe your role at Toronto’s DaiLo?
PH: At DaiLo I am in charge of all things wine related, chiefly purchasing, costing, listing (aka word processing), and staff education. DaiLo is a small restaurant with an amazingly knowledgeable staff. The level of experience among waiters is extremely high. In my time there three people have taken and passed the CMS Certified and that number will be higher by the time this hits the airwaves, I am immensely proud of that.
Because we are a small team we often don’t have a dedicated Somm on the floor. To pay the bills I take a section four nights a week with my fellow superwaiters and run the floor as a manager once or twice a week.
GFR: How is it working with both Chef Nick Liu and FOH Anton Potvin?
PH: These guys are incredible. I met Nick when the restaurant was 5 months old, we will be 5 years this summer. He has poured his heart, soul, mind, body and bank account into his restaurant and it has been incredible to watch him evolve into the Chef, Businessman, and leader he is today.
Anton is a damn legend for good reason. He has near flawless restaurant instincts and an undeniable magnetism that are invaluable to FOH operations. He is a certified super taster – unbelievable palette; plus he has encyclopedic knowledge of wine (and music, movies, tv). He has also been nothing but 100% supportive of every wine decision I’ve ever made. Oh and he shares amazing bottles from his cellar too.
We also can’t talk about Nick and Anton without Chef Dennis Tay and GM Trevor Chen. Anybody who knows DaiLo knows that these guys are the heartbeat of the restaurant, our success wouldn’t be possible without their selfless dedication and leadership.
GFR: What’s your whole take on the whole tip argument? I’ve never been part of the tip pool as I have always been in management, or in a private club with no tips. In my mind the tip system in north america is completely broken… and then we have the minimum wage aspect! A veritable knot of vipers. A huge subject, I know, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
PH: As far as running a successful restaurant, at least on a small scale, pooling tips is the only way to go. It’s nice to know that everyone has your back. It also creates a sort of internal motivator to keep on your shit and to stack up to the strength of your teammates.
I would agree however that the tip system is broken. The idea of working for tips can foster a slightly seedy master/server dynamic between guests and wait staff. Further, the resulting disparity between BOH and FOH pay makes it difficult to find quality cooks (not that finding quality waiters is a walk in the park haha). Last year all waiters received a healthy hourly raise as part of the rising minimum wage in Ontario. At DaiLo we responded by simultaneously upping the BOH tip out as a means of balancing the pay increase. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a fair division, but we try to spread the love.
I do believe tipping should be phased out, but it is currently responsible for my ability to earn a living. It has also proven difficult at other restaurants and in other cities, so it’s probably here to stay.
GFR: Now, how do I word this? Have you drunk the “Natural Wine Kool Aid”? I’m just kidding, kind of… I’m sick fed up of “natural wine” zealots with nothing but derision for those who feel otherwise. Saying that, I do feel that there are some astounding “Natural” wines out there, so don’t get me wrong. How do you feel about the scene? … perhaps I just have a very low tolerance for volatile acidity, I don’t know… but there is some right old crap out there.
PH: Short answer: yes, I have drunk the slightly sour and astoundingly vibrant kool-aid.
I could write an essay for the long answer….
Granted: Some (many) natural wines are faulted beyond enjoyability.
Granted: We should not eschew 50 years of technological advancement in the fields of viticulture and vinification.
Granted: ‘Natural wine’ as a term has no definition, no agreed upon set of standards and is incredibly misleading and quite useless as a term. Some of us nowadays prefer the term ‘minimal interventionist’, which doesn’t have the same charm table side.
I want to address the recent Bobby Stuckey interview and the ensuing backlash towards natural wine (the one where he called natural wine the ‘fox news’ of the wine world haha).
There was a weird and immediate sort of ‘fuck ya, you tell ‘em Bobby!’ response that I don’t believe Mr. Stuckey encouraged or would endorse. The main point he was making is that young Somms have to remember that they ultimately have a responsibility to the clients or guests and that they should not stock lists entirely to their own tastes. He also drove home the importance of learning ‘classic’ wines and regions, which I also believe is essential as a reference point, but where it gets tricky is the affordability of the recognized ‘top wines.’
No one is buying First Growth Bordeaux to spring on their tasting group (a decent Third growth is $200+ in our market). Your not drinking Grand Cru Burgundy and if your drinking 1er Cru it is not from a renowned village in the Cote D’Or. Iconic Super-Tuscans? Nope. Fuck off Napa Cab? No way. Vega Sicilia? Palacios L’Ermita?
I think then what follows is that it’s perfectly ‘natural’ that young sommeliers and wine drinkers are flocking to new or at least less prestigious producers and regions for wines to call their own. Gut Oggau and Marc Angeli are not cheap, but they are iconic in their own way with great relatable stories and are way more accessible than Couche Dury or Meo Camuzet.
So yes, it may be taking the easy way out in a sense but I understand the movement and I’m happy to get behind it, provided the wines taste like wine, and that is the Sommeliers first job.
GFR: What makes for a good agent/supplier/merchant in your mind?
PH: A good merchant provides support for the wines when needed, and makes deliveries in a timely matter. An exceptional sales person will ideally have a handle for the style of the restaurant and suggest or present wines that suit the program.
GFR: And what makes for a bad agent/supplier/merchant?
PH: Honestly we are lucky in Toronto to have so many reliable and exciting consignment agents (likely because the KGBO has next to zero costumer service), so thanks guys for being great and all the support!
GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines?
PH: I think Canada has great potential and there are certainly producers I love. The industry is still very young, so I’m excited to see how the quality and diversity of wines improves over my lifetime.
GFR: What do you think that we do well here in Ontario?
PH: The standard cool climate varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cab Franc. I’ve enjoyed some excellent Gamay and recently I’m reallllly loving Big Head Raw Series Chenin Blanc.
GFR: And what do you feel we should really give up on?
PH: Emulating full bodied reds from warm climates, but that will never happen.
GFR: How do you feel about restaurants support of our local industry?
PH: Sometimes Canadians are guilty of having an inferiority complex. So many guests just have no interest in even trying Canadian wine. Moreover, quality wine produced locally (for a variety of factors) often costs as much or more than international wines. For these reasons it can be really challenging to sell local wines.
Sustainability wise though, shouldn’t we only be drinking local wines? We are definitely spoiled to have all the options we have. I think sometime after the global energy crisis and following economic collapse and before the full on zombie apocalypse we will be forced to drink more local.
GFR: Just as there is from everywhere in the world, there is quite a lot of dreadful wine coming from Canada (BC, 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?
PH: Yes, as with anywhere in the world, a lot of pedestrian wine… like can anybody recommend a decent bottle at the wine rack/Loblaws? (I can: Malivore Gamay). It is especially important that we select quality local wines for our lists, so we can represent proudly.
GFR: How aware of wine were you whilst growing up? Were you around wine from an early age?
PH: My parents starting taking wine a bit more seriously around the time I was a teenager so that helped a bit, but beer and booze were the first loves. That being said, I’ve always taken pride in what I was drinking, from day 1 I’ve cared.
GFR: Can you remember your first taste of wine?
PH: Not really… beer was my intro, sips from my Dad’s beer when I was young, and I also have a brother who is five years older than me, and on the occasions I got to hang around with him his friends thought it was great fun to sneak me beer haha.
GFR: When do you feel children should be introduced to the wonderful world of wine?
PH: It should ideally be parents that introduce alcohol but kids usually take the initiative before Mom and Dad realize it.
As part of the meal at family events? Let’s say 12 or 13?
GFR: When did you first decide that you would like a career in wine?… and was it with a view to being a Sommelier yourself?
PH: It happened organically… wine became a passion gradually, originally from a strong desire just to know what I’m talking about tableside and to earn my keep amongst other more experienced waiters in a tip pooling system.
I am a very competitive person so in the restaurant environment that translated to learning more about things than my peers.
Wine and beverage alcohol just so happen to also be a lot of fun so I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge that didn’t feel like study. I’m also a fan of both history and geography, wine has a bunch of that and more, it is an exciting topic to study.
GFR: So who or what gave you your first insight into the world of wine?
PH: Moxie’s Classic Grill taught me that I should be drinking Yellowtail Cab with steak and Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chard with chicken, but my first real insight into the wine world came when I stumbled upon a job at Savoy Bistro (the space was formerly the Senator Steakhouse and Top of the Senator Jazz club) in 2006. Michael Sullivan ran the place and was instrumental in getting me into wine. He told me that you didn’t need to know what you wanted to do in life, but that whatever you are doing, you should do well, and that really fucking helped me. I also met my wife at that restaurant (BOH girl), so it was a very important time! I will also shout out Andrew Higgs from Savoy, and Kim Cyr from Kultura for giving me an early push.
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 from the mixology crowd, full-on Jordan Peterson fans and all that stuff. I’d love to hear your thoughts?
PH: Shit, I follow all those Somm dudes on Insta… I might be a basic wine bro…
I was down in Dallas for the CMS Advanced course last April and it was A LOT of white dudes, enough that I noticed anyway, and I’m aware that that’s historically been the case. But it won’t be for long… I know Toronto Canada is a pretty special place but in our market in particular I know women are well represented and arguably driving the culture, I absolutely love what the Grape witches have done (see my above support for natural wines), and at the top level Canada holds its own with excellent female role models (Jen Huether, Veronique Rivest, Pascaline Peltier, Elyse Lambert amongst others), so I think in terms of avoiding Bro culture out little bubble up here at least is doing an excellent job.
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. As a woman in the industry I’d be interested to hear your take on the topic, and perhaps what you witnessed during your time in the restaurant world… big question I know, but I feel it’s a topic that deserves discussion (if you are open to it?)
PH: The Restaurant industry has been as guilty of ignoring and being complacent to these sorts of issues. When I started it was colloquially known as ‘work harassment in a sexual environment.’ You still have places to this day that will insist on women wearing shorts or a skirt… how functional is that with food and drink flying everywhere?
DaiLo is a small close knit restaurant and that has helped us realize and address issues we may have had in the past. It takes leadership to create a comfortable work environment for all, both from strong women who don’t take shit, and from male role models who can establish a standard of behaviour.
GFR: Does your job allow you to travel much? Where have you been lately?
PH: DaiLo has been amazing in terms of the opportunities it has afforded me. In 2016 I got to visit Austria and Germany in 2017. Both regions are I believe still under represented although they have made strides. Austria has a great number of fiercely organic, biodynamic, and minimal interventionist producers and they are supported wonderfully internationally by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Drink more Gruner! Germany has such a rich history, I was surprised to learn that Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) was planted in the Baden by the same monks who planted Burgundy all those hundreds of years ago. It is important to remember that all those lines on the map weren’t always there, and they haven’t always been in the same place.
GFR: Which wine regions have you had the opportunity to visit?
PH: Kamptal, Kremstal in Austria. The Pflaz in Germany (so beautiful there!) Napa and Sonoma. Niagara and PEC. I want to visit more.
GFR: Have you ever made your own wine?
PH: I have not.
GFR: And where would you like to make wine (in a pipe dream)?
PH: Costa Rica… I guess California is more realistic?
GFR: So do you prefer to manage people or bottles and why?
PH: That’s a loaded question, people are certainly more fragile.
GFR: What have been your career highs and lows?
PH: It’s been a career high to be able to build the wine list at DaiLo, again I’m very proud of the work we do there. Any time someone I’ve worked with or helped to mentor passes a test feels great too.
I’ve been fired and I’ve been let go as well… it’s easy to feel persecuted at first but as time passes every change of situation has been positive. I respect the people who have to make those decisions for a business and I no longer take it personally.
GFR: Who is, in your mind, a real role model for Sommeliers?
PH: Bruce Wallner + Emily and Sam at the Somm Factory. That is the place where you will 100% taste those representative wines that you cannot afford on your own. They have been the driving force for Somm education in the city.
I also enjoy picking the brains of legends (doesn’t mean ‘old!’) like yourself, Peter Boyd, Sully, Anton, Howard Wasserman, Daun Bailey etc.
Amongst my peers, Christopher Sealy carries himself with a grace and graciousness that is clear to see. Toni Weber’s rise and drive have been inspiring to witness. I could name many more. I think a good Sommelier must be an educator for peers, someone who shares wine knowledge with guests in an accessible way, and opens up doors to new styles or regions.
GFR: And for Wine Agents/Importers?
PH: I think that’s the job that seems the most glamorous but in reality must he so so difficult. Like how do they make any money on those margins???
I feel like we have an overwhelmingly awesome amount of quality agents and importers, both large and small, that I wouldn’t want to start singling any out (or give away our secrets haha). On a personal and professional level Howard Wasserman and Bernard Stramwasser have been incredibly generous.
Also, Woodman for the Bouchard tasting, please keep inviting me.
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 almost nine years!!!
PH: Waiter nightmares all the time, like where you have a 40 seat section that fills all at once, or the tables are kilometres apart, or you can’t manipulate your fingers to enter stuff into the POS hahaha. Recently, 86’ing too many wines has definitely snuck into my subconscious.
GFR: Wine folks famously have their Sundays off… What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?
PH: Monday’s for me. Dishes, Laundry, Groceries, then my wife and I will work out together, eat a meal and watch Netflix with the dog.
GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink in Toronto… perhaps tell us a hidden treasure of our city?
GFR: Do you cook yourself? What’s your favourite dish to cook these days?
PH: My wife is an expert, having worked both savoury and sweet sides of the line, and now in school for holistic nutrition, I’ve always been more of a ‘do the dishes’ guy.
GFR: And have you had any cooking disasters recently?
PH: Oh ya. When I do cook my instincts and palate help out tremendously but the kitchen is always a disaster. I recently dropped and broke a glass bowl into the onions I was sautéing, luckily that’s just the first step!
GFR: Do you feel that there is a good Sommelier community in Toronto?
PH: Yes! I’m of course not sure what it was like 10 years ago but definitely think the existence of a place like the Somm Factory has been huge, but also, Guildsomm and the Somm movies for just letting people that there is a certifying body and standard that anyone can apply to. I think this has led to a greater camaraderie and communication amongst Somms from different restaurants, and the forming of tasting groups etc. I have no idea how many certified Sommeliers Toronto has but I know that CMS test fills up immediately and people are regularly travelling to Detroit, Montreal, New York to write tests. And the number of Green Pins (CMS Advanced Somms) is growing quickly too, with Jose Luis Fernandez, Brie Dema, Julie Garton, Tom Simmons, Nate Morrell, Sam Melanson all passing in the last couple of years (probably more people in that group too). Also, there is a group in Niagara right now (#teamniagara) that are crushing it as well… the army of GTA Somms is coming!
GFR: Do you hang about with other Sommeliers?
PH: I mean, I certainly would, if we could just introduce eight day weeks and lower the cost of living slightly. I count several Somms as friends of mine, Toni Weber and I have known each other since before either of us were into wine, but it’s hard to find time to hang out and still work a full schedule.
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?
PH: I feel like Toronto has a great cocktail scene, and a strong wine scene. Certainly within the community we are great, but I feel the general dining public are a little less adventurous than in other cities – for example I know when a guest is from Montreal if they ask me about natural wine or they want orange wine by the glass.
Cocktail: Civil Liberties
Wine: If I could raid/live in a cellar it would definitely be Barberians.
Archive is a great space, a perfect wine bar really. Paris Paris has half price bottles on weekdays before 4, so that’s the move….
GFR: What would you be doing if you were not doing what you are doing today?
PH: Shit, I never had a plan A, let alone a plan B.
As a kid it would have been a sportscaster, I was right into all the players and stats and everything. Currently I would say athletics in some capacity, I love to push my mind and body.
GFR: What are your thoughts on music in restaurants? And who does it well?
PH: Oh ya that’s another one of those things I’m hyper-sensitive to. Music is important to creating a vibe, and certainly if you want to have a more casual space there is a place for loud music as well: Wu-Tang and Tacos, ZZ Top and BBQ a la Grand Electric/Electric Mud, Metal and Whiskey a la Ted’s Collision. I think most importantly music should not get in the way. It should be loud enough that you can’t hear the conversation at other tables. You shouldn’t hear the same song twice in a night. And it helps from a service perspective to have a steady beat. The lack of steady percussion and changing dynamics and time signatures of Jazz for example can create a sort of subliminal chaos.
GFR: Do you have a favourite food/wine related scene in a film/movie or show?
PH: Goodfellas, when the convicted mobsters were smuggling food into jail and cutting onions with razor blades to make tomato sauce.
GFR: Ah yes, an absolute classic that one.
Do you have many non-industry friends… how do they feel about what you do for a living?
PH: I have sort of two sets of friends, industry, and the buds from high school/university. I still play hockey once a week with a group of 10 guys I went to high school with, its special and we are very lucky to have had that link while people’s lives got pulled in different directions.
Otherwise, it is quite difficult to maintain a friendship outside the industry, F&B is very insular, incestuous, and pretty much counter culture… I have no real idea what it is that other people do.
GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?
PH: Love it, do it, it’s important as a tool for evaluating wine quality and establishing a vocabulary for describing what’s in the glass without referring to what’s on the bottle. The description of the wine is what is most important – fruit character, secondary aromas and structure. After that the real parlour trick becomes being able to assign your tasting notes to the right region and varietal, and that is where theory and practical combine.
GFR: Are you a better blind taster with or without a bad hangover? I’m definitely the former…
PH: Hmmm bad hangover? I mean if I’m still a bit drunk then your loose and more likely to trust your instincts… but if I’m in the anxiety stage then forget about it.
GFR: What’s your current favourite wine region?
PH: Oh you mean pick one? The Anjou/Saumur belt of the Loire Valley… Chenin of all different styles, deliciously ripe and tense Cab Franc, loads of biodynamic producers and minimal interventionist winemakers. Special runner up: 9000 other places. Volcanic Island wines are pretty special: Canary Islands, Azores, Santorini etc., just that combination of ripe fruit with seaside salinity and volcanic smoke.
GFR: In your mind what is “hot” in the world of wine right now? And why?
PH: Etna, I feel like it’s starting to pick up some mainstream momentum. People are starting to recognize it as a distinct region, with rich and salty whites, Rosés that rival Provence, and ethereal tense reds that blend power and finesse like a Russian gymnast. At the very least people are not scoffing at Sicily which was a common attitude in the past. I’m so far removed from mainstream though so I may not have the firmest grip on what the public consumes behind closed doors.
GFR: And what’s not so hot? What has fallen out of favour? I why do you feel that is?
PH: Barossa Shiraz. 12 years ago it was almost automatic to get bottle of $100 Barossa Shiraz on the table. Then there was a financial crisis and all of the sudden you could no longer expense $100 bottles and people stopped buying it altogether. Cali Cab still has its fans but Aussie was out, that seems arbitrary to me.
GFR: When it comes to wine is there anything that you feel is overrated?
PH: Amarone. Appasimento is cheating right? Artificially creating higher potential alcohol to produce full bodied red wine in cooler regions. But of course, someone will soon present me with a life-changing Amarone.
GFR: What is your favourite wine pairing right now, something nice and seasonal?
PH: Champagne with bread, pickles, olives and French fries.
GFR: Okay… three pairings with me on the spot?… this time with… perhaps some of the more challenging dishes from the DaiLo menu?
What would you suggest to pair with them wine-wise… and why exactly?
Crispy Octopus Taco (2pc) with red braised pork belly, sambal aioli, jicama shell
PH: Nigl Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria. Sweetness from a hint of overripe stone fruit to play with the heat, fruit fat to take on the pork, and vibrant acidity to wash it away… the wine mirrors the components of the dish.
GFR: Jackfruit & Chili Glazed Back Ribs with asian corn bread, chayote slaw, salsa verde, chicharron crumble
PH: Marcel Deiss Pinot D’Alasce. This wine is along the same lines as the first pairing, but with a fuller bodied wine. They have this great trick in Alsace, Germany, and Austria where they pair overripe whites with fatty and spiced meats (sausage, pâtés, schnitzel etc.). It’s the ideal pairing, fruit fat and integrated high acid with meat fat and spice. Bold flavour (DaiLo is not a delicate palette) likes a bold wine.
Deiss’ wines are special too because they have an intense mineral streak underneath the botrytis notes (he is a geologist first). Rich, racy, barely off dry.
GFR: Whole Fried Giggie Trout with nahm jim, green curry aioli, soy glaze
PH: Nals Magreid Schiava ‘Galea’, Sudtirol, Italy. Serve chilled. Red wine and fish, just to freak people out. Schiava, aka Trollinger, combines the candied red fruit of a Gamay with the elegant finish of a Pinot. Sudtirol/Alto Adige is in the Italian Alps (used to be Austria, before they lost a couple of wars), and produces whites and reds of incredible freshness. There is also a ton of sunlight a la Alsace. The wine is fruity with generous acidity and that helps with the fatty fried fish.
GFR: Do you often drink beers, ciders or spirits? What do you currently enjoy?
PH: Here’s the problem, I reallllly enjoy beverage. Beer is an ideal first and last drink, currently my fave beers are Left Field Raspberry Hibiscus Gose which basically tastes like Rosé, and the Smoked Saison from Godspeed. For Cider, Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut Tendre (Normandy) is basically Mosel Riesling. For spirits I gravitate towards Tequila and Mezcal… also Cognac is delicious and few people acknowledge that.
GFR: What is your least favourite part of your job as a Sommelier? For me it was the f****** inventory.
PH: Haha no one likes inventory… or moving boxes of wine up and down sets of stairs, and behind people who are butchering meat or using the deli slicer. Polishing glassware simply isn’t glamorous.
I do not like sitting down with an agent, really enjoying what they have laid out for me, then saying no to everything…. and that happens for various reasons, obviously a Sommelier does not keep their job if they can’t work with and understand cash flow or budget constraints of the company. The world of wine is so large and sometimes I wish I could have it all.
GFR: What is your weapon of choice when it comes to a corkscrew?
PH: Any 2-step is fine, not too stiff, not too loose. A good knife is important, to make nice clean cuts of the foil. I’ve had a few nice openers or specifics ones I’ve been attached too but openers are like sunglasses, sometimes they are just gone. I have a drawer at home with a least a dozen backups.
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?
PH: I feel I may have a slightly increased tolerance, but I also feel that is a bit of myth. Alcohol effects you immediately, usually it’s an immediate pleasure, but you can’t be binge drinking 5 nights a week after work. Alcohol effects you mentally so much, inhibits proper decision making, slows the mind, creates anxiety the day after (hang-xiety). I’ve made a good effort in the last few years to reduce consumption plus occasionally taking a week or 2 week breaks from alcohol altogether. I’ve found the most effective counter balance though to be a healthy diet and exercise. Easier said than done.
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!
PH: This is definitely a thing and something I haven’t been immune to, both with personal experiences and through friends. Drugs and Alcohol definitely affects people from all walks but it seems that the easy access and counter culture feeling of our industry leads to an increased issue.
I don’t know the answer but the fact it is being acknowledged and addressed a little bit helps. I think that as with Sexual Harassment and Mental Health it comes down to strong role models and leadership. I think if you are tolerating drug use during shift you are not actually doing that person or your business any favours.
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…
PH: Let me just say I’ve been overserved many times haha.
GFR: Speaking of which, do you have a good hangover cure? None of the cures given to me by previous interviewees have really done the job for me…
PH: Time is the only real cure. For mild hangovers a good workout/sweat will get the endorphins going again. Spicy food (Pho is key) will do the same. Naturally fermented pickles and coconut water for electrolytes. Robaxacet for the headache and anxiety. Hair of the dog works too, but if you have 15 drinks the night before there isn’t much you can do, you have done this to yourself and you must accept the punishment.
GFR: Unfortunately I think that you are correct there… How I wish their were a “magic bullet”
How many wines do you taste in a week?
PH: Probably an average of twice a week between agents and blind tasting with peers. Always be tasting, I try to say yes when I can to agents because it’s important to keep your palette sharp and it’s important to know what’s out there.
GFR: When tasting with agents do you choose to spit or swallow?
PH: You gotta spit, and if you’re not comfortable with it, then I suggest you practice until you are. When you are tasting 20 wines before service you need to stay sharp. Even spitting the wines they still affect me. I just think it’s unprofessional to get drunk at a tasting.
It’s also unprofessional to spit out Champagne.
What’s your “house” wine at home?
PH: Changes with the seasons. I don’t have an answer for the ‘what’s your favourite wine under $15?’ question yet. Hopefully it exists.
GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?
PH: I’ve had a few soul touching wines in my day that have helped to confirm my path, but the most remembered has to be a glass of ‘09 La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that I drank while sitting on picnic bench in the shade overlooking the vineyard. I mean normally young Napa Cab at 11:00am on a hot day isn’t what would jump to mind but the wine is beautiful and the setting and company were perfect. It was the first wine trip I’d ever been on, to Napa and Sonoma I guess 6 or 7 years ago, the whole trip was amazing but that glass was special and I still remember all the details, I’m very grateful to have had that opportunity.
GFR: What is your perfect glass (or bottle) of wine at the end of a crazy day at work?
PH: German Riesling or Austrian Gruner Veltliner when I don’t want to think too hard but also want something #objectivelydelicious.
GFR: Coffee or tea?
PH: Green Tea, then Coffee
GFR: Lemon, horseradish, mignonette, or hot sauce?
GFR: Vindaloo or Korma?
GFR: Milk or dark?
GFR: Ketchup, mayonnaise, or salt & vinegar?
PH: Salt ‘n’ Vinegar
GFR: Blue, R, MR, M, MW, W, Charcoal?
GFR: And now the cheesy question Peter… If you were a grape varietal which would you be? and why?
PH: Haha let’s go with Nebbiolo. Very dry. Austere in youth and rewarding with age, with a graceful balance of power and a complex sensitivity.
GFR: Thank you for taking the time Peter.
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. He just celebrated his 67th 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 is now GM at DaiLo with Chef Nick Liu and this month’s YBS, Pete Hammond.