Updated April 14, 2018

Launched over a decade ago, Michael Vaughan's weekly Sommelier Selects updates focus on special selections for licensees. Under the expert guidance of Gliberto Bojaca, Canadian sommeliers & professionals highlights as to what's worth buying at the LCBO & from licensees.

An Introduction to the Associate Editor of Sommelier Selects

Gilberto J. Bojaca, wine educator and certified sommelier, is well recognized in the hospitality and wine service industry. He was co-founder and past president of CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers) and a member of the Society of Wine Educators. He was also founding member & past president of Sommelier Guild of Canada. He is now coordinating Sommeliers Selects with Michael Vaughan. For more information email mbv@uniserve.com

Sommelier Selects

A Bold Classic Greek Red - April 14 Release
A Vintage Assessments Release Highlight
Recommended Best Buy with 90-points

Vintages April 14 - # 346007 - $29.95

Extremely deep intense purple colour. Intense, slightly spicy, very ripe plum nose with some sandalwood-cedar notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, intense, well structured, dense, cedary, mouthfilling, maturing, baked plum flavours with a lingering, slightly earthy, tobacco finish. This blend of 60% Mavrodafne and 40% Mavro Kalavritino has 14% alcohol and 4 g/L residual sugar with lot number AX010262/11 on the back label.
Only 19 cases are available in just 10 Flagship stores so move quickly!
For more information contact Steve Kriaris at the

Smooth, Flavourful & Vibrant
Recommended Best Buy with 92-points

now with 12 AirMiles until April 28 - LCBO # 5363 - $27.70

Clear and colourless. Intense, bright, spicy, wheaty, fresh wintermelon nose. Dry, medium bodied, harmonious, very well balanced, vibrant, flavourful, honeyed, gentle fresh melon-pear flavours with a lingering ultra
clean finish. This premium double distilled gold medal winning 100% premium rye Vodka was the first Vodka imported into Canada. T O N Y ASPLER / 91-points / BEST BUY - Lightly floral, wheaten nose; elegant
and full on the palate, reminiscent of a pear eau de vie. Clean and long finish. This is the #1 brand in Poland.
For more information contact
Todd McDonald at PMA Canada

Classic Chablis from Vintages March 3 Release
A Vintage Assessments
Recommended Best Buy with 94-points

Vintages Flagship Store Exclusive - #700914 - $52.95
Bright light straw colour. Intense, complex, fairly toasty, key lime pie nose with some mineral-tinged, sandalwood notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, well structured, slightly spicy, tangy, intense, key lime pie flavours with a lingering, high acid, gently cedary finish. Has 13% alcohol and 2 g/L residual sugar. There are only 28 cases available. For more information contact CONNEXION OENOPHILIA

A Vintage Assessments
Recommended Best Buy with 93-points

LCBO # 296228 - $49.95

Bright medium-deep orange tinged gold colour. Pungent, spicy, honeyed, intense, warm ripe apple purée nose with some lifted caramel notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, wonderfully smooth. quite rich and spicy with gently honeyed, intense, warm ripe baked apple flavours plus a long, lingering, gently tangy, vanilla-caramel finish. Great served neat or on the rocks with appetizers - even foie gras! You will find this unique apple based eau-de-vie (aka Brandy) in the Cognac-Brandy section of the LCBO in over 200 stores. Boulard is family-owned and was founded in 1825. Grand Solage de Boulard is from the tiny Pays d'Auge appellation in the heart of Normandie is double distilled with 40% alcohol & lot number L313171C38Aon the lower part of the glass bottle. For more information contact Todd McDonald at PMA Canada

A bargain Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Vintages February 3 Release
A Vintage Assessments Release Highlight
Recommended Best Buy with 90-points

Vintages February 3- # 346007 - $16.95

Mature bright light yellow colour. Intense, gently honeyed, spicy, rich, ripe melon-apple nose with some mineral-tinged, floral notes. Dry, medium bodied, well structured, harmonious, slightly spicy, intense, tangy, ripe lemon-melon-apple flavours with a lingering, crisp, unoaked, mineral-tinged finish. Quite ready-to-drink and best with seafood. This is the 4th vintage to appear at Vintages and is the best on record - a terrific buy at the price. A perfect by-the-glass wine for licensees. Has 12.5% alcohol and 4 g/L residual sugar with lot number DAC-LN13298/16 on the back label and a screwcap closure. Only 359 cases are available.
For more information contact David Thompson at Vintage Trade

Outstanding Mature Classic Rhone from Vintages January 20 Release
A Vintage Assessments
Recommended Best Buy with 94.5-points

Vintages Flagship Store Exclusive - #735407 - $62.95
Ambering deep intense brick red colour. Intense, very complex, slightly spicy, still quite lively, maturing, baked ripe plum-cherry nose with some cedary-sandalwood, forest floor notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, well structured, intense, slightly spicy, maturing, fairly rich, complex, earth-tinged, ripe plum flavours with a lingering, cedary, still fairly high-acid, sandalwood finish. This blend of 56% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre and 8% Cinsault has 14% alcohol and 3 g/L residual sugar. There was some bottle variation, as is to be expected. There are only 24 cases of this Flagship Store Exclusive (7 stores) so you should move quickly.
For more information contact Jason Woodman at Woodman Wines & Spirits

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Another LCBO Best Kept Secret
Currenly available at the LCBO
Only 396 bottles in 57 LCBO stores as of January 18, 2018
A Vintage Assessments
Recommended Best Buy with 95-points

LCBO 516120 - $78.40 - 41.5% alcohol - #412/500
Only 150 cases of 6 of this rare Sauternes oak cask aged
Grand Champagne
(bottled 2016) were released last Fall.
Here is Michael Vaughan's review:
Light gold in colour with a seductive warm plum-honey-caramel nose. On the palate it is elegant and remarkably smooth with very gently spicy, faintly honeyed, intense, ripe, warm plum flavours followed up by a lingering, hazelnut-caramel-tinged finish. This remarkable rare single estate Grande Champagne was made from grapes harvested in 2012 and bottled in 2016. It has 41.5% alcohol from batch # 412-80 and bottle # 107/500.
For more information contact Ildefonso Go at AMV-WHIZ TRADING

click here to see availability

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Outstanding Rich Ripe Petite Sirah from Vintages January 6th Release
A Vintage Assessments
Recommended Best Buy with 91-points

now sold out - contact agent for more information
Vintages January 6th - # 538694 - $20.95
One of only 5 BEST BUY RELEASE HIGHLIGHTS - Extremely deep intense purple colour. Complex, mocha-chocolate-tinged, slightly spicy, baked plum-cherry puree nose with some cedary sandalwood notes. Dry, medium to medium-full bodied, well structured, slightly spicy, mocha-chocolate-tinged, ripe black cherry-plum puree flavours with a lingering, high acid, gently cedary finish. At last, an award-winning Petite Sirah from Paso Robles. It has 14.9% alcohol and 3 g/L residual sugar. So what makes this so good? Pure classic ripe Pasa Robles fruit along with great elevated 7.1 g/L total acidity. This is my #1 LICENSEE MUST BUY of 2018.
Of the 85 Petite Sirah appearing in Vintages over the past 18-years, this is the best value ever released
For more information contact Malcolm Cocks at Glen-Ward Wines

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A MUST-BUY Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Vintages October 28 Release
A Vintage Assessments Release Highlight
Recommended Best Buy with 90.5-points

Vintages October 28 - # 85274 - $20.95

Bright medium straw colour. Fairly intense, slightly spicy, mineral-tinged, ripe lemon-apple nose with some youthful, ripe, faintly nutty notes. Dry, medium bodied, surprisingly well structured, mineral-driven, ripe lemon-apple-melon flavours with a lingering, gently complex, unoaked finish. Great for seafood! This REPEAT has 12% alcohol and 2 g/L residual sugar with lot number 277611 on the back label with a screwcap closure.
Only 132 cases are available
Of the 18 AUSTRIAN releases appearing in Vintages this year, this is our #1 BEST BUY
For more information contact Mark Cuff at The Living Vine

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March 3 Update: only a dozen or so bottles now available in a few remaining stores
Posted October 14, 2017
Another LCBO Best Kept Secret
City of London Distillery Christopher Wren Gin

A Vintage Assessments Highlight
Recommended MUST BUY with 97-points

LCBO - # 494567 - $66.55 - 700 ml
check to see current LCBO store inventory

Only 80 cases of 6 (480 bottles) were bought in by the LCBO in early 2017.
Bright, clear and colourless. Sublime, bright, faintly honeyed, intense, spicy yet elegant, juniper nose with
hints of fresh cucumber and ripe tangerine citrus.  Dry, medium bodied, well structured, harmonious, mouth filling albeit very well balanced, fairly intense, gently exotic, spicy, juniper flavours with a lingering, 
cucumber-tinged, smooth finish. It's silky yet pungent at the same time.
One of the best gins I have ever tasted (using my ISO glass and served neat at 18ºC).
Made in batches of 200 bottles, this bottle is Batch No 48 and the bottle tasted was #197 out of 200.  It has 45.4% alcohol. This special edition is No 2 of five different types of gin produced at the City of London Distillery, was created in partnership with the renouned Master Distiller Tom Nichol. It is quite breathtaking. Using only juniper, coriander, angelica root, liquorice and sweet orange, it is named after the  acclaimed English architect Christopher Wren,  who rebuilt 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including his masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral on Ludgate Hill which was completed in 1710. The bottle's shape takes inspiration from the cathedral dome. First tasted on Friday, July 7, I had to special order a bottle from another LCBO store as it was in only available in small quantities in just an few LCBO stores across Ontario.
Jan. 25 2018 UPDATE: since this October posting, LCBO store availability has fallen to ZERO despite there being 90 bottles in location #950 (London warehouse) from last November to January 25
For more information contact Anthony Amato (905-890-1766) at www.wearekineticbrands.com

* Prior Postings with Limited Availability *
Vintages September 16 Release

A Vintage Assessments
Recommended Best Buy with 89-points

Extremely deep intense purple colour. Intense, complex, bright, spicy, ripe plum-cherry nose with lots of mocha-sandalwood notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, well structured, harmonious, intense, lively, ripe plum flavours with lots of spicy, mocha-chocolate notes on the lingering, crisp, cedary, high acid finish. This terrific value Malbec has 14.5% alcohol and 4 g/L residual sugar with lot number L17126 on the back label.

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Stunning Syrah-Shiraz Values from Vintages September 2nd Release
This September 2nd release has one of the best selections of Syrah-Shiraz wines at various prices from around the world. Check out the list and see our detailed reviews
Here is a great example from Ontario

Top White Value from Vintages August 19 Release
VINTAGES 486076 - $17.95 - 299 cases available
From Italy's Campagna calcium-rich soils located at between 400-450 m above sea level, comes this remarkable this fresh and vibrant Falanghina Del Sannio. It has a bright medium straw colour with an intense, very spicy, cantalope-yellow-grapefruit nose with some gently complex, faintly toasty notes. On the palate it is dry, medium bodied and quite well structured with mouthfilling, very slightly spicy, ripe yellow grapefruit flavours and a fairly rich, complex, mineral-tinged, unoaked finish. This excellent, very well-priced Falanghina del Sannio has 13% alcohol and 5 g/L residual sugar. Great for seafood, don't miss picking up a few cases as only 299 cases on hand.
see VINTAGES availability

Top Red Value from Vintages August 5 Release
VINTAGES 497008  - $18.95 - 298 cases available
From URUGUAY comes this amazing 100% tannat which I scored 91-points. The producer BODEGA GARZÓN is recognized as being one of the best in the world. Extremely deep intense purple colour it has an intense, spicy, complex, gently cedary, warm ripe plum-baked cherry nose with some earthy notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, well structured, dense, harmonious, slightly spicy,
intense, ripe plum-cherry-blackberry flavours with a lingering, very faintly earthy, fairly high acid, lifted, sandalwood-cassis finish. It has 14% alcohol and 4 g/L residual sugar with lot number TV15015 on the back label. Winemaker Alberto Antonini let it rest for 9 months in gently toasted French oak.
Dollar for dollar, this is the best Tannat I have ever tasted.
Only 298 cases of this Aspler-Vaughan BEST BUY were ordered.
see VINTAGES availability

Top White Value from Vintages July 22 Release
VINTAGES 489799 - $16.95 - 400 cases available
A terrific value from the Burgundy's southern vineyards surrounding Macon. This 100% Chardonnay has a bright medium straw colour. Slightly spicy, bright, ripe pear-driven, lemon-melon-apple nose with some fairly complex, faint cedar notes. Dry, medium bodied, quite well structured, harmonious, ripe pear-lemon-apple-melon flavours with a lingering, fairly high acid finish. This remarkable Macon-Village is made exclusively from old Chardonnay vines (average age of 55 years) and has 13% alcohol and 2 g/L residual sugar with lot number L171041 on the back label. Has 89-points - an Aspler-Vaughan BEST BUY

see VINTAGES availability

Top Red Value from Vintages July 8 Release
Vintages #155804 - $18.95 - 815 cases available
This terrific value from the French Midi has an extremely deep intense purple colour. Attractive, juicy, spicy, ripe plum-cherry puree nose with some cedary, slightly smoky, mocha-chocolate notes. Dry, medium to medium-full bodied, well structured, slightly spicy, intense, very ripe, rich, plum-cherry flavours with a lingering, very faintly herbal, intense, mocha-chocolate-sandalwood finish. This ready-to-drink blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre has 14% alcohol and 2 g/L residual sugar.

see VINTAGES availability

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Add great wines to your RESERVE wine list today!


As an elected director of the SWE at Davis in 1976
I am pleased to recommend the upcoming

August 10-12 Portland Oregon
41st Society of Wine Educators Annual Conference

For information, including the list of seminars and speakers
click here: http://www.cvent.com/d/cvq64b

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Some Previous Sommelier Select Highlights

november 2010
introducing the bauer kitchen
waterloo, ontario

187 King Street South, Waterloo


Sommelier Robert Miller

Robert Miller's Background
by michael vaughan

I would like to introduce Sommelier Selects readers to our newest guest sommelier Robert Miller. With over 20 years in the beverage industry, Robert has seen most sides of the trade.  Starting as a busboy in high school and spending most of his 20s in 'waiting mode', Robert wanted to learn more about the wine side of the business, seeing this as integral to making a career of his job path.

In the fall of '99, he enrolled in and completed the George Brown Continuing Education "Wine 101" course which helped spark an interest in the subject.  This helped him with his decision to leave the restaurant business and work for the LCBO, starting in 2001, and spending 6 years as a Product Consultant for the Board. 

During his time with the LCBO, he was able to develop his palate by routinely tasting upwards of 300 products on a monthly basis.  This was afforded to him through bi-weekly VINTAGES release tastings, as well as the time he spent as a member of the VQA Grading Panel. 

During his time with the Board, Robert completed his Higher Certificate with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in the UK, as well as his Sommelier Diploma with the International Sommelier Guild.  A Certificate in Oenology and Viticulture was also completed through the University of Guelph.  He spent as much time as possible sharing his knowledge through the Tutored Tastings offered by the LCBO at various locations and events.

Eventually, the private sector called and Robert returned to the restaurant trade, plying his wares at the prestigious London Club in London, Ontario before moving to his current job, working with the Charcoal Group in Kitchener-Waterloo.  Robert currently oversees the beverage program at The Bauer Kitchen - Waterloo's only true wine destination. 

During his free time, Robert teaches wine classes at Conestoga College and continues to work on developing his own knowledge.  He has written the first two exams with the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently mid-way through his Diploma with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

Robert Miller’s Philosophy
'Value-packed and never static'

The biggest challenge for a sommelier, or anyone charged with crafting a restaurants wine list, is balancing personal preferences with commercial opportunities.  Finding that in-between zone, a balance of wines that are familiar to both connoisseurs and neophytes alike, and augmenting that selection with more unique and interesting juice, is where the real work lies. 

I'm a huge proponent of VQA Ontario wines and although we've seen huge leaps in terms of quality in the past decade, the public can still be resistant to trying locally product.  We recently received the VQA Award of Excellence for our list at the TBK, and I'd love to see our selections increase ever more in the next 12 months.

We've worked really hard at making our list at TBK easy to digest, going so far as suggesting pairings for each food item with our wines by the glass selections.  It helps that we currently offer 38 wines by the glass, both in 6 oz and 3 oz portions.  We have the Enomatic wine preservation system behind our bar - a machine that uses a food grade gas to keep an open bottle of wine fresh for up to 6 to 8 weeks.  This has given us the opportunity to offer wines that would otherwise be tough to see a quick sell through without a loss in quality.

We've been able to give our guests the opportunity to try Ornellaia, Mas la Plana, Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon and Masi's Campolongo di Torbe Amarone (to name just a few) in our by the glass sizes.  The machine is also set to provide 1 oz pours in case one wishes just a sample size.  When purchasing new wines, my main goal is that no matter what the price point, there is value reflected in the product.  No matter if it's a $12 Australian Shiraz or a $200 Californian Cab, it's imperative that our guests feel they've received tremendous quality for what they've been charged.

We've come up with more whimsical and fun tasting descriptors for our wines by the glass, which has been well received by our client base.  Instead of the standard 'Grapefruit, fresh cut grass and gooseberry notes' to describe a Sauvignon Blanc, we use 'More acid and grass than a Pink Floyd reunion'.  Descriptive of what's in the glass, but much less stuffy.

We see a big opportunity in developing the wine knowledge of anyone that comes through our doors.  We started the TBK Wine School in the beginning of the summer and it's been a great success for us and very well received in the community.  Classes range from 'How To Taste Like A Professional' and 'Wine and Food Pairing Secrets' to more specific region and/or country focused nights like 'The Wines of Napa Valley' or 'The Wines of Spain'. 

To see the detailed Beverage List


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october 2010
introducing george restaurant

Telephone 416 863 6006

Sommelier Ian Tresher


After working as a trained chef for 8 years, Ian left the kitchen to pursue a growing passion for the world of wine. He first worked as a wine steward at the Fairmont Royal York’s 5 diamond restaurant Epic. After graduating in the top 2% of his class with the International Sommelier Guild, Ian spent the next four years as a sommelier for renowned Chef Jamie Kennedy at the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. The role was a turning point. Jamie Kennedy had multiple venues one of the most diverse and yet compelling wine programs in the country.

After the sale of the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar in the fall of 2009, Ian accepted the role of sommelier for George Restaurant and Verity (a private women’s club of over 800 members from coast to coast). With a fantastic team and devoted clientele, Ian focuses on wines with character and typicity and always retaining his passion for local wine. The 500+ label list is fluid and varied with rare Austrian Zeirfandlers and Margaux rubbing shoulders. The tasting menus prepared by Chef Lorenzo Loseto are wildly creative yet rooted deeply with classical technique and therefore the perfect playground for Ian’s skilful pairings.

Ian Thresher: "Our Wine List at George is always evolving!"

I try to select wines with a sense of place and also with a sense of place and balance.  They need charm, some style. Some call it terroir but I like to call it character. Without character or personality, a wine can be forgotten and generally fades into nothing. But when wine can connect with someone and warrant a true personal reaction, that is cool.

I also believe that most really well made and honest wines make me hungry. Images of plates filled with my favourite dishes, grilled fresh sardines with salsa verde, perfectly pink slivers of seared duck breast with crispy skin, huge mortadella, tomato and tapenade sandwiches on fresh ciabatta, grilled lamb chops crusted with cumin, black pepper and lemon zest and garlic….(you get the my point).

With George, chef Lorenzo Loseto creates a different tasting menu for each guest, which in turn opens up great opportunities for pairings. I have a great team with passion and drive that I have to also consider. I have to keep them excited, motivated and give them the wines they need to keep guests compelled yet comfortable. I want them to feel modern, eclectic and cosmopolitan.

Yes, I’ll pair serious Austrian St. Laurent but other also other gems like rare old vines Carignan from Chile, real quality grower’s champagne, the best hand crafted local wines and fantastic lesser represented wine regions like Jura, Alto Adige, Bierzo and Santorini. Every dish needs a different wine and, for example, with two guests each having a five course tasting menu I’m pairing over ten different wines per table. Some people think we’re crazy but I think as long as there is balance and chef Losetos dishes are respected and enhanced by the wine I choose, then most guests come back and are eager to try us again.

What most people don’t know is that George Restaurant is the official caterer to Verity, a private women’s club with over 800 members nationwide. George really only exists because of the club, but remains available to the public as to keep current (and reviewable). This also creates an incredible opportunity to meet and network with some of the most professional and dynamic women in the country and, believe me; most of our members are very well traveled and know their wine. This really makes my job challenging and cool at the same time.

With some 400 wines on our regular wine list, I break them up stylistically into “Lighter Bodied & Aromatic” – then “Medium Bodied” and finally “Full Bodied”. I think that this helps guests match the wine with their food. Olus we have another 100 items that may be found on our port/fortified list or on our special reserve list of Big Bottles. Salud!

George’s Austrian Wine Focus
by Michael Vaughan

Everyone knows that I am a huge fan of Austrian wine and food fan. I have sent days exploring the vagarities of their famous "Wiener Schnitzel" at numerous restaurants in Vienna. I discover that there were “Schnitzel” police and that dish actually happens to originate from the Italian “Costoletta Milanese” – a breaded and fried veal escalope.

Who better a chef than George’s Lorenzo Loseto to take this to a totally new level of deliciousness? His simply named Cornish Hen, Mint Yoghurt, Potato Perogies which served as a “third” at lunch for $19 and is something that should not be missed. The very lightly breaded, ultra tender, flavourful Cornish hen and perfectly prepared perogies might be mistaken as pedestrian cuisine. Under his hand he has taken it to new gastronomical heights.

The perfect wine pairing comes from their special Austrian wine list. Let me highly recommend their 2007 St. Laurent, Gernot Heinrich, Burgenland ($11~3oz / $22~6oz / $80~btl), which is Jimson’s favourite (the restaurant’s General Manager). It is on one hand quite bright and crisp. When married with the right cuisine, however, it becomes surprisingly velvety with its black cherry core and notes of roasted herbs.  St. Laurent is a close relative to Pinot Noir and this one from the ripe 2007 vintage is one of the most food friendly wines on their list.

To see the Austrian Wine List

To see the Full Wine List

To see the Luncheon Menu

To see the Dinner Menu

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Michael Vaughan's Licensee Pick

Don't miss t his Licensee Best Buy comes from California from 25 Brix, Ontario's newest small premium California estate wine importer. I had the pleasure of tasting through the portfolio of these wines with the owner and this was the best buy of the group. Visit the 25 Brix website to see the list of wines curently available for licensees.

*** (out of three stars) - 91 Points

Santa Ynez Valley
(STOLPMAN) (167 Cases) (14.5%)
(185264 - $32.95)

Extremely deep intense purple colour. Intense, complex, slightly spicy, herb-tinged, bright black cherry purée nose with some, very faintly smoky, vanilla-licorice notes. Dry,
medium-full bodied, very well structured, slightly spicy, faintly herbal, ripe, plummy-cherry-vanilla flavours with a lingering, faintly smoky, mocha-chocolate finish. Made with the addition
of 5% Viognier - only 2,200 cases produced. Drinkability: { N S SM M ML l }

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Gilberto Bojaca

September Update

Returning the bottle: crisis or opportunity?

Returning the bottle is probably one of the most dreaded moments for the Sommelier. I have had my share and they were rather frustrating, however I managed to turn these experiences into rewarding opportunities. At the outset, it is important to develop a response policy within your establishment and ensure that you and your co-workers are empowered to execute a solution on the spot.

What to do:

Act immediately.
Don’t delay. Consider the customer may be right; in that case the ball is in your court. Remember “customers are not always right but they are always the customers”.
Listen to the customer’s concern and don’t interrupt.
Allow the customer time to express their concern / opinion. If in your own expert opinion, you think the wine is sound, help the customer save face. Avoid trying to convince them with your theories regarding terroir, style, green pruning, or slight hints of brett. They already made up their mind. Don’t embarrass the customer; give them the opportunity to shine. If you miss manage this situation, and this is a regular customer, you will loose them, along with their guests. (Just remember how much you spend promoting your place).

Offer the wine list immediately with a possible alternative.
When possible, step it up a notch offering the customer an alternative that brings uniqueness and value. Remember, if you listen to them they will listen to you. Now you have a dialogue.

Deliver the wine promptly, professionally and graciously.

After the customer is taken care of:

See if the wine is sound or faulty
If faulty, you could send it back to the LCBO/Agent to get your money back. Alternatively, you could use it for staff training purposes, client information, faults identification.

If sound, you could sell it by the glass, use it for staff training or cooking.

In the end, you are still the winner because, bottom line, you will likely have this customer (and their guests!) for a long time to come.

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Will Predhomme's
August 21st Update
New at Canoe – 36 Wines

Today we are continuing our series of hand's on reports by leading sommeliers from Canada's cutting edge restaurants. New contributors and wine list features are currently being added.

It’s August and, at last here at Canoe, I can take a bit of a break and work on catching up on my ever-growing “to do” list.  Our clientele is not a tourist-related, which means that many of our regular guests and suppliers are on holiday. In fact, as write this I am enjoying a cold beer on a lake in the Muskokas. Luckily I can rest easy having updated and reprinted the wine list at both Canoe and Jump restaurant last week, adding 10 new wines to Jump’s list and 36 new wines to Canoe. Here is the list of new wine additions at Canoe.

Reprinting Canoe’s list is a process - the sum of meeting with suppliers, purchasing, receiving, invoicing, binning (storing and organizing in your cellar), recording, formatting, programming, etc.  Having a collection of new wine on your desk without having them listed is a source of stress, the bottles seemly staring at you, reminding that they are sitting dormant.

There are multiple avenues to sourcing and purchasing wine for a list, depending on your restaurant’s philosophy, purchasing arrangements and thematic. To that end there are multiple dynamics that exist when purchasing wine. Below are the various avenues in which I usually source the wine for my lists. I’ve weighed the pros & cons to each venue as I see them, which should give you my perspective on purchasing. My main goal is to keep our wine lists recognized and interesting.

LCBO / Vintages – The largest supplier in Ontario, ranging in quality and availability. It’s very hard to ignore. I try to avoid dealing directly with the LCBO for a few reasons. Sommelier’s, restaurateurs, chefs, all exist in a service culture & environment. Fundamentally we provide services in exchange for money. Those with the best services (food, wine, etc.) usually stay alive, while those that that do a poor job often go out of business. The LCBO lacks this perspective, due to its size and monopoly on all wine brought in. There is no shortage of quality wine available; although getting it to the restaurant has many roadblocks in place. What should be a very easy process seems to be eternally complicated. This means that about 2%-3% of Canoe’s list is available at times through the LCBO, as it is unavoidable. Naturally it’s very easy to take a stab at something as draconian as the LCBO, although from the perspective of this sommelier, the current system does not make it easy or interesting.

Consignment Wine Agencies – The most traveled avenue for the savvy sommelier. These wines are not usually available in retail stores, though occasionally pop up on the retail shelves. Agents arrange appointments with the sommelier, show wine from their portfolio and usually deliver what is ordered within 48 hours. It’s a much more reliable and service-oriented way of doing business. In addition, you have a go-to if there are issues. Keep in mind that availability is sporadic. That is the nature of the system and a good agent will tell you the quantities available and how long it’ll be around. The consignment system allows the agent to store the wine at the LCBO for a short period of time, so you may have the opportunity to stagger you purchases.

The cache is their lack of availability, as the wines offered are often interesting & somewhat exclusive. We deal with about 30 different consignment agents - a third of those agents provide the wine core to our wine list. I have a lot of respect for wine agents. You’re constantly huffing wine from place to place, battling traffic and parking, arranging your schedule around the hours most purchasers keep. Between 2-430 pm is when I arrange to see agents, no more than three agents in an afternoon. Just like the wines shown, there are a range of personalities that sell wine, from the consummate professionals to shady, unreliable agents (who’s first meeting is often their last).

There is a dynamic that exists between supplier & purchaser - the wine agent must work with the personalities and business ethics of the purchaser and vice versa. One cannot exist without the other – a point that is often forgotten by some sommeliers / purchasers. Keep in mind that we are all in the service industry. Suppliers and sommeliers should be treated with respect. If you provide exceptional service - deliver on time and prompty payment of bills, then you’ll succeed in business (at least with me).

Private Order – This avenue is used to find the most unique wines. It can take a few months or even more to arrive, although if you know the system and have a few connections, you can bring in almost anything. There may well be certain wines that you might want that are not available through the aforementioned avenues. In this instance, you can arrange to bring in these wines yourself directly through the LCBO and/or have a wine agent bring them in on your behalf. I choose to use wine agencies for this option because they usually have the know-how and relationships in place.

Unfortunately, I’ve had many orders placed by myself through the LCBO’s private ordering systems become lost and/or arrive over 8 months from the original order date. As a result, I’d rather work with an agent to bring them in. Often I’ll be fortunate to taste something truly unique – a small production item that I know will be a great benefit to the list. In such instances, if you’re patient, a private order will pay off when you receive it a few months later and discover that you are the only one to list them.

Here are few highlights that have made it to Canoe’s list on this last reprint. They are all from the private order system and I am very excited to see them on our list:

Afros 2009 Loureiro Vinho Verde (white)
Vinhao 2009 Vinho Verde Tinto (red) - Portugal
Tasted at the annual Wines of Portugal tasting in the spring, these two wines show remarkable proper attributes to the style of Vinho Verde. I was fortunate to vacation last summer in the south of Portugal, where you eat, surf and quaff Vinho Verde on the beach. The perfect summer wine; Vinho Verde, or green wine, refers to the fact the grapes are picked young and tart (i.e. green), fermented in stainless steel and bottled shortly after harvest retaining the freshness of the grape as well as a little cleansing spritz. Loureiro is one of the quality white grapes used for Vinho Verde production. It has bright citrus and vibrant mineral characteristics, plus the traditional touch of natural CO2 effervescence. Although Portugal is known for it’s white Vinho Verde, red is the most produced style, though least exported. The Vinhao 2009 Vinho Verde Tinto is quite possibly the darkest and most extracted wine I have ever seen – nothing comes close in concentration of colour. This is confusing because the wine manages to remain true to it’s premise – it’s refreshing despite it’s teeth-staining characteristics and depth of fruit. This is a remarkable and unique example of the style. Both are very affordable on Canoe’s list at $45 a bottle and 12 bottles of each were brought in for the final month of summer.

Zahel Nussberg (white)
Zahel Antares (red) - Vienna, Austria
A third generation family-based winery outside of Vienna, Zahel is a leader in reviving the traditional practices of the region, most notably Heuriger and Gemischter Satz to the rest of the world. Their estate is under 5 hectares and has its own “Heurigen”, which is a place where the locals spend their evenings sampling the house wines and small plates of regional and family cuisine. These were the first wine bars in the world. Gemischter Satz indicates a number of different grape varieties, most indigenous to the area, growing in the same vineyard and  fermented together. The Nussberg Gemischter Satz consists of nine different grape varieties from a 53-year-old vineyard. It’s a great, well-balanced, flafourful, rich white. The Antares is taken from Greek mythology, translating to “Red Giant”.  It’s a blend of indigenous St. Laurent and Zweigelt as well as the international Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This giant shows elegant and layers of complexity.

* * * * *
Our inaugural so

William Predhomme from Canoe
Recent winner of the CAPS 2010 Best Ontario Sommelier

Where: For the past 2 ½ years Will has been the Senior Sommelier, Canoe Restaurant & Jump Café in Toronto which is part of Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants
Restaurant Profile: Critically acclaimed to be among Canada’s best restaurants, Canoe’s unique location high atop the TD Bank Tower affords a breathtaking view of the city. The design, created by the noted team of Yabu Pushelberg, is clean and simple, yet absolutely stylish—a brilliant reflection of this country’s rich raw environment. Open for lunch & dinner, Monday - Friday. Closed for private functions Saturday & Sunday
Profile: Begun studies in 2002 with the International Sommelier Guild while working for theFairmont Chateau Lake Louise, passing the diploma program in 2004. Relocated to his hometown of Windsor, Ontario where he was hired as an LCBO Product Consultant, becoming the youngest consultant in the province. In 2007 Willdeveloped the wine program for Canada's first Caesar's-brand property at Caesars Hotel & Casino in Windsor. He is currently the Senior Sommelier for Oliver & Bonacini's Canoe Restaurant & Bar & Jump Cafe, developing the vinous culture at these two restaurants. Will holds the Court of Master Sommelier's Certified Sommelier Certificate, the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Advanced Certificate and is a Certified Sommelier with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). In 2008 he received the Ontario Hostelry Institute's Top 30 Under 30 award and recently won the 2010 Best Ontario Sommelier Competition.

August 7, 2010 Update
Sommelier Selects
By William Predhomme
An Intro to the Canoe Wine List
“We reprint the wine list every 3 to 4weeks to accommodate 20-50 new wines …”

I've had the pleasure and challenge of managing one of the country's more dynamic wine lists for nearly 3 years. Pleasurable, as working with 450-550 labels ranging from the casual quaffer to the iconic blockbuster, liaising with a variety of wine agents & guests, training & maintaining a culture that demands as much from itself as the public's perception will keep you pretty sharp. Working with seasonal cuisine & an inspired kitchen offers wonderful opportunities for exploring the pleasures of food & wine pairing, ensuring we are popping corks all the time to ensure we're on the right track.

A challenge though, as Canoe's wine list & culture is known within the restaurant & wine community as a beast to be tamed. To say that Canoe is a consistently busy restaurant is an understatement. Our staff is passionate & well-trained and our guests savvy & knowledgeable. And everyone is thirsty. The cellar is legendarily small for the volume of wine we annually open in the restaurant. The reason is that real estate on the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion tower comes at a premium and is best used for seats than storage. Keeping with the Canadiana thematic, approximately 25% of our list is quality Canadian content, the remaining 75% artisan & esoteric international selections brought into the province through consignment programs usually in small lots. Combine a small cellar, high demand, & tiny parcel purchases of small production wine…. you get the point.

Having a regular turn over of wine presents some wonderful opportunities though. The list is dynamic and always changing. If you time it right, you can mimic the seasonal changes in not only the cuisine presented, but also the preference of the guest. We reprint the wine list every 3 to 4 weeks to accommodate 20-50 wines that have run through the list and about the same number of wines coming in. A lot of work no doubt, but what amazing opportunities to evolve with the list.

Take August - the dog days of summer. We've long since slowed the purchasing the big, hedonistic wines enjoyed during the colder, daylight-lacking days of winter. Refreshing Riesling & Sauvignon Blanc, elegant Pinot Noir, with the occasional dry Rose is what our guests are currently enjoying and I suspect will continue to drink for the remainder of August.

Keeping an eye on the future though, I'm starting to sit with our wine agents to discuss fuller body styles for our glass & bottle selection for the fall. Downtown Toronto after Labour Day, the restaurant landscape changes from the casual khaki's & Hawaiian shirts to pressed suits & a sense of urgency. Summer is over, it's time to get down to business, & our guests are looking for wine that is equally as serious.

We see the crisp whites decline, rose vanish & the big bottles start to come out. Cult California Cabernets start to make a more regular appearance, the corks of alluring Italian; Piemontese & Tuscan estates are now frequently being pulled. Wines of this pedigree are not brought in quantity to the province & are often spoken for before they hit any consignment warehouse. Maybe 2% of our list is available at the LCBO; it's much more fun to present wine to our guests that is difficult to find. So you've got to be the early bird. I'm meeting with a number of reliable suppliers of fine wine for the remainder of the month, plotting my fall wine selection. Tune in to the next issue for a recap of these meetings.

At present we have 21 wines by the glass, including the silver medal winning JoieFarm 2009 Rose from the Okanagan Valley, which sells for $14 for a 6 oz glass and $70 a bottle. It rated 90-92 points by BC wine writer John Schreiner – April 28, 2010. Here is what he had to say: In this vintage, the winery released 2,378 cases of rosé, a remarkably large production considering that rosé has only come back into fashion a few years ago. In 2004, the winery released just 140 cases of rosé. JoieFarm has been so successful with this wine that it is now its second largest label. This is a blend of Pinot Noir (42%), Gamay (33%), Pinot Meunier (15%) and Pinot Gris (10%). The wine begins with a vibrant rose hue (pomegranate, according to the winery) and an aroma of strawberries and raspberries. On the palate, there are more flavours of strawberries and raspberries, as well as a touch of grapefruit and nectarine. The finish is crisp and refreshing.

Famous on the West Coast, JoieFarm is unheard of Ontario. Owners Michael & Heidi Noble have a fantastic story to tell. Michael, a well established sommelier in Vancouver & his wife Heidi, a Stratford Chef School grad on a whim purchase a 5 hectare plot in the Okanagan's Naramata Bench - the exact spot that forever changed my perspective on BC & it's wine. They've worked hard for nearly a decade in creating one of BC's most exciting, innovative, & unpretentious wineries. The passion, intelligence, & integrity they brought to their former careers clearly translates to the wine they produce; which is almost entirely consumed by a thirsty local market.

A focus on clean & vibrant whites, a Loire-inspired rose, & a one red - a humble & tasty
passe-tout-grains are produced in tiny quantities. Here come's the perpetual issue; very little is brought into Ontario, hence this fantastic winery isn't on any radar in the East. Lifford Wine Agencies brings two of their wines in. The Rose which has been a glass pour on Canoe's list for quite some time as well as a "Noble Blend", a take on the everyday Alsacian aromatic white.

As long as Joie Farm continues to produce wine of this calibre (& hopefully supply Ontario) this sommelier will proudly pour them.

To see the Canoe wine list click here

Be sure to check out William Predhomme's updates to this inaugural page. You will see our wineflag once they are posted. You can contact Will via Twitter: @SommWillPred

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Contact Michael Vaughan at mbv@tuniserve.com