Sommelier, Writer, Public Speaker, and Consultant Jamie Drummond

“Jamie Drummond is an extremely talented sommelier, possessing this unwavering ability to conduct beautiful harmony between food and wine as he expertly guides the diner to the conclusion that the experience is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Chef Jamie Kennedy
Toronto, Canada

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Picture by Wyatt Clough (2014)

Jamie Drummond is available for all manner of wine and food related projects: Sommelier services, private dinner party presentations, writing assignments, large corporate events, staff training, cellar management, wine program design, and more.

If you need convincing, click here for some recent testimonials.

Contact Jamie personally at jamie@jamiedrummond.ca

“Jamie tells the story of a wine. He goes beyond its origins, or how it was made, or what it tastes like. He digs for its essence, which always lies in the people behind the liquid in the bottle.”

Thomas Pennachetti, Vice-President
Cave Spring Cellars, Canada

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“Jamie is part and parcel of our terroir.”

Charles Baker, Director of Marketing and Sales
Stratus Vineyards, Canada
Owner, Charles Baker Wines, Canada 

About Jamie Drummond:

Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Jamie read Cultural Studies (B.A. Hons) at the University of East London where he developed a keen interest in music journalism. After writing for a number of UK music magazines, Jamie returned to his hometown, and began working as Sommelier at the Michelin-acclaimed Atrium restaurant for four years, while studying up to Diploma level with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.

Moving to Canada in 1997, Jamie has worked as the Sommelier for both Toronto’s prestigious Granite Club (five years) and Chef Jamie Kennedy’s numerous restaurants, notably the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (five years).

Jamie now acts as Director of Operations/Senior Editor of Good Food Media, an online publication dedicated to educating people about good food (and wine, beer, and spirits!) through the website Good Food Revolution, www.goodfoodrevolution.com

As well as writing for a number of publications (City Bites, Ricardo Cuisine, Wine Access), wine judging (Biovino, Intervin, Ontario Wine Awards, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair), Jamie also serves on Ocean Wise’s Ontario Advisory Board, and the organisational board of Toronto’s annual Terroir symposium, which is now entering its ninth year.

Over the years Jamie has published hundreds of audio, video, and text interviews with wine, food, and music personalities including Jancis Robinson MW, Hugh Johnson, Peter Gago (Penfolds), Chef Fergus Henderson (St. John), Chef Magnus Neillson (Faviken), Chef Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Sam Neill (Two Paddocks), Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon), David Shrigley, Alberto Antonini, and Jamie Goode (Wine Anorak).

In March of 2012 Jamie was awarded a Fellowship of the Ontario Hostelry Institute for his contributions to the culinary, hospitality, and tourism industry, along with his personal and professional industry achievements.

From 2012 until 2014 Jamie Drummond took on the role of Wine and Beverage Columnist for Chatelaine magazine, one of Canada’s highest distribution print magazines.

“Bone dry, laser-sharp, with a touch of mischief and occasional deviations into wilder country, and just at that perfect stage of maturity when things get deep and complex, a fine Vintage Drummond is what I’d like around the table at my next dinner party or wine tasting”

John Szabo Master Sommelier
Toronto, Canada

Relevant Work History and Experience

Cultural Studies BA (3 Years), University of East London

Diploma from Wine and Spirits Education Trust

Relevant Work History and Experience

1993 -1997: Sommelier, Atrium Restaurant, Edinburgh, Scotland

1998 – 2003: Sommelier, Granite Club, Toronto

2004 – 2009: Wine Director, Jamie Kennedy Restaurants, Toronto

2012 – 2014: Wine Columnist, Chatelaine Magazine

2004 – 2016: Wine Director, Executive Committee, Terroir Symposium, Toronto

2012 – 2016: Member of Advisory Board, Ocean Wise

2009 – 2016: Freelance Writer (Wine Access, City Bites, Ricardo Cuisine, amongst others)

2009 – Present: Director of Programs/Senior Editor of online publication Good Food Revolution


Try This : Michel Gassier Nostre Païs Rouge

The Gassier Nostre Païs is certainly worth $21.95. Grab it while you can!

The Gassier Nostre Païs is certainly worth $21.95. Grab it while you can!

2014 Michel Gassier “Nostre Païs Rouge” Costières De Nîmes, Rhône Valley, France (Alcohol 14.5%) LCBO Vintages $21.95

I’d go as far as saying that I feel this to be one of the best value reds on the LCBO shelves right now, as you get one hell of a lot of bang for your buck with this little Southern Rhône beauty.

The wine is a cabal of the usual regional suspects, with 35% Grenache, 25% Carignan, 20% Syrah and the remainder made up of Mourvèdre and Cinsault. This cuvée is then fermented in a 50/50 combination of both 500 litre barrels and concrete tanks.

The absence of any real oak influence ensures that this wine’s ultra-ripe and yet pristine and gorgeous pretty fruit is allowed to shine. You’ll discover a gaggle of black berry fruits coupled with wild rocky mountainside herbs, subtle and slinky pot pourri, fennel, and a touch of cracked white pepper. The wine is decidedly well-balanced, with assertive acid giving the wine a thrilling vibrancy, alongside delightfully smooth and ripe (but pleasingly firm) tannins. It’s amazingly well structured for a Costières De Nîmes. The wine ends on an extremely pleasant mineral note.

I paired this very successfully with 48-hour-marinated (soy sauce/honey/garlic/apple juice/sesame oil/star anise), and then slow-braised (cooked in marinade for two and half hours) beef ribs, served over a Cauliflower and Chive Purée.

Experience has taught me that a decant does this Nostre Païs wine many favours, as it tasted even better the following day. I’m most fond of this lovely stuff.

 
(Four and a half apples out of a possible five)


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And this bottle really warmed the cockles of his heart.

An Audience With The Dalmore’s Master Distiller Richard Paterson

Master Distiller Richard Paterson very much at home at The Dalmore distillery in Alness, overlooking The Black Isle.

Master Distiller Richard “The Nose” Paterson, very much at home at The Dalmore distillery in Alness, overlooking The Black Isle.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit The Dalmore‘s distillery in the Highlands of Scotland.

As well as having a chance to see The Dalmore’s water source, miss a few clay pigeons, and tour the distillery itself, I also had the extreme honour of being taken through an in-depth tasting of much of the Dalmore range by their legendary Master Distiller Richard “The Nose” Paterson.

With some five decades in the industry, Richard Paterson is a truly legendary figure, cutting a particularly Scottish swathe in his immaculately tailored suits, ties and pocket squares.

In so many ways he IS Dalmore.

And this is no bad thing, as there is a solid argument that man is the guiding hand when it comes to such matters… one that Paterson fully embraces.

As well as being the proverbial fountain of knowledge, Richard Paterson is also an extremely charismatic gentleman, with some of the finest of tales concerning the art of what makes for a great malt whisky.

In both presentation and conversation he certainly doesn’t pull any punches, something remarkably refreshing in the world of premium spirits. He is a true joy to speak with, and a terrific ambassador not only for The Dalmore, but for Scottish Whisky on the whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Richard “The Nose” Paterson:

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/210491342]

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

A few weeks back I also gave a rather glowing review of The Dalmore’s 18 Year.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And those over/under shotgun recoils left him with some serious bruising.

Try This : Beau’s Tyrannosaurus Gruit

Beau’s Tyrannosaurus Gruit Ale, Vankleek Hill, Ontario (Alcohol 5.8%) LCBO $7.95 and selected bars as well as through Beau’s BYOB program (600ml)

Last week I opened a bottle of this unusual gruit ale without reading the ever-excellent info card that Beau’s provide with all of their special batch beers. As part of their regular Wild Oats series, I was ready some something perhaps a little different, but nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead…

I was tasting it late one night by the light of my computer monitor, and so I didn’t at first see the beer’s stunning bright purple/red colour… I guess that perhaps if I had clocked this I would have been a little more ready for the nose followed by the heady hit of beetroot on the palate. As much as I adore beetroots I wasn’t quite ready for a mouthful of them in a beer. After getting over my initial palate shock, I read the ingredients list and everything started to make some kind of sense.

The almost extinct Tyrannosaurus Gruit was brought back to life by Beau’s after a limited release in 2016, as apparently I’m not the only person who enjoys it. This esoteric botanical gruit is certainly not for everyone though, as can be witnessed by some terrible reviews on a few other websites. This tantilisingly well-balanced brew is augmented with organic beets grown locally in Acton Vale, Québec on the Desmarais Farm, jumped up with organic juniper berries, hibiscus flowers, and hand-harvested white spruce tips. So it’s quite the fruit/vegetable/herb basket.

The resultant beer is quite astonishing, not only for the pronounced and brilliantly striking hue in the glass (with a very small white coloured head), but for its delightful bouquet, a heady herbal and earthy aromatics that smell quite removed from the usual hop/malt combination found in most breweries’ offerings.

The palate is where the beets and hibiscus really begin to kick in. The carbonation is there but not in your face, the fruit/veg/herb components carried gracefully by some great tart acidity that really drives the entire palate, making it a beer for the table if ever there were one… I’ll be doing some experiments with this one over the coming weeks. After taking some time to mull this Tyrranosaurus Gruit over, the complexities and layers really begin to express themselves. Oh, and my three year old son adored the label of course!

An absolutely fascinating beer that will thrill the more adventurous beer enthusiast.
4 apples out of 5
(Four apples out of a possible five)

Beau’s All Natural Brewing are a Good Food Fighter.

Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And although very different, this beer is pretty fascinating stuff.

In The Verona Vineyards Of Riccardo Tedeschi

Winemaker Riccardo Tedeschi walks GFR's Malcolm Jolley through his Veronese vineyards.

Winemaker Riccardo Tedeschi walks GFR’s Malcolm Jolley through his Veronese vineyards.

On our recent trip to Verona to seek out the very best wines of the region, we took some time on our very last day to visit the the historied house of Tedeschi to taste and speak with Winemaker Riccardo Tedeschi.

Tedeschi are a winery that I have followed for close to two decades, and I have never been disappointed with their commitment to both quality and tradition.

After a lengthy tasting Riccardo drove us out to his stunning vineyards so that we could get a real feel for the landscape that shapes his family’s wines.


If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

Riccardo Tedeschi’s wines are represented in Ontario by Noble Estates. Noble Estates are a Good Food Fighter.

Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And those rocks in the vineyard ruined his new dress shoes.

A Wine Revolution In Uruguay : Alberto Antonini At Bodegas Garzón

Self-styled "Sailing Winemaker" Alberto Antonini calls the shots at the pioneering Bodegas Garzón in Uruguay.

Self-styled “Sailing Winemaker” Alberto Antonini calls the shots and harnesses the magic at the pioneering Bodegas Garzón in Uruguay.

There’s truly a wine revolution happening in Uruguay, down in the Atlantic-influenced southwestern peninsula near Punta del Este.

The man behind said revolution is a certain Alberto Antonini.

Signor Antonini is widely regarded as one of the most influential winemakers in the world, and yet he’s a remarkably modest (not to mention gifted) conversationalist.

We sat down together at Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia to discuss his involvement in Bodegas Garzón, his love for Uruguayan Tannat, Albarino, and Cabernet Franc, and just what makes this project so very special for him.


If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

Bodega Garzón‘s wines are represented in Ontario by Profile Wine Group. Profile Wine Group are a Good Food Fighter.

Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And the wines of Bodegas Garzón were phenomenal. Look out for another piece with the fascinating Alberto Antonini at some point over the next few months.

Try This : The Dalmore 18 Year Old Malt Whisky

Yes, six bottles of the Dalmore 18YO will set you back a fair bit, but they do look quite special, don't they?

Yes, six bottles of the The Dalmore 18YO will set you back a fair bit, but they do look quite special, don’t they? And wait until you taste it… heavenly.

The Dalmore 18 Year Old Highland Single Malt, Scotland (Alcohol 43% / 86% Proof)) LCBO $223.95

It’s certainly not every evening that I would recommend dropping 224 dollars on a bottle of Scottish Malt Whisky, but then again The Dalmore is hardly your common or garden single malt. As I have written previously, The Dalmore distillery is viewed as being the source of some of the most singular and sought-after malts in the world.

On a recent visit to the distillery itself I had the extreme honour of being taken through an in-depth tasting of much of the Dalmore range by their legendary Master Distiller Richard “The Nose” Paterson.

With some five decades in the industry, Paterson is legendary figure, cutting a particularly Scottish swathe in his immaculately tailored suits, ties and pocket squares.

In so many ways he IS Dalmore.

And this is no bad thing, as there is a solid argument that MAN is the guiding hand when it comes to such matters…

As well as being the proverbial fountain of knowledge, Richard Paterson is also an extremely charismatic gentleman, with some of the finest of tales concerning the art of what makes for a great malt whisky.

In presentation and conversation he certainly doesn’t pull any punches, something remarkably refreshing in the world of premium spirits.

Watch this space for a video interview with the man himself in the coming weeks.

Now, back to the matter at hand, the whisky itself…

The nose is bloody crazy: Fry’s Chocolate Orange, deep/dark/cocoa-rich chocolate notes, top-notch Fortnum & Mason marmalade, touch of iodine, gangala root, the pungent, exotic reek of a paper bag of the best sultanas that money could possibly buy in a sweaty Constantinople circa 1700’s.

There’s a shedload going on in here, but there is most certainly a most vinous aromatic from the four years of Gonzalez Byass “Matusalem” Oloroso (a perennial favourite of mine as a tipple on its own, so this connection makes sense) sherry-finishing… sweeter and richer on the palate than most Highland malts.

Thankfully all of the above carry through to the extremely pleasurable and indulgent, gloriously dank (in a good way!) finish… which ends up with a most satisfying St. Bruno ready-rubbed pipe tobacco twang.

The finish reminds me of being a child and my Musselburgh Grandfather smoking a pipe and swearing at me.

An olfactory memory if ever there were one.

I’d take this after dinner… a game of chess perhaps?


(Five apples out of a possible five apples… so really bloody good then, and worth dropping your coin)


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s using this beauty to warm the last of these cold Canadian winter nights.

Young Blood Sommelier : Scott Zebarth

Sommelier Scott Zebrath hangs tough in downtown Toronto.

The camera-shy Scott Zebrath hangs tough in downtown Toronto.

In the first of an fifteenth (and wildly popular) series, we interview some of the most talented up-and-coming Sommeliers in Ontario (and occasionally from further afield). A few years back I was flicking through the pages of a locally published periodical and noticed that when it came to Sommeliers it was the same names that seemed to pop up over and over again. I was also becoming gradually cognisant of the fact that we more established wine folks were well and truly “losing our edge” to these young blood Sommeliers. Being well aware of the depth of new talent that was out there I finally decided to get together with a couple of fellow Toronto Sommelier “Old Guard” (Anton Potvin and Peter Boyd) to assemble a line of questioning that would give us an entertaining insight into the minds of these rising stars.

This month we have a chat with the rather camera shy and modest (but thoroughly wonderful) Mister Scott Zebarth.


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

Scott Zebarth: I’m doing a few things right now. I am working at an agency called Mellecey Wine Group, I consult on a few corporate wine programs, I’m helping build some private cellars, and I write articles and review wine for a company called Gargoyle.

GFR: And what kind of experience and training did you have before doing what you do today?

SZ: I kind of fell into this. I never worked in a restaurant growing up and I previously worked in the film industry. At one point I had trouble finding consistent work after a major contract finished, and was talking to a friend who was working at an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant. I only had $60 in my pocket and had no idea how I was going to make rent. She got me a job bussing tables, and some of the staff took me under their wings – mainly because I think they knew full well I had no idea what I was doing.

My first teacher was Serge Janic. He took the time to tell me everything he knew; at the time, he was completing his Sommelier Diploma. He’d meet me an hour before our shift and we’d just talk wine. I really loved it. I took the WSET classes offered through Oliver & Bonacini’s employment development, and in 2012 completed my diploma through the ISG. After that, I looked after the wine program at Auberge du Pommier, and later oversaw all the wine programs in the Trump Hotel when O&B took over as food service provider. I then moved to Icon Legacy Hospitality where I oversaw all of their wine programs.

GFR: How would you describe your role at with Mellecey right now?

SZ: It is an interesting position. I’m not a sales agent in that I don’t have clients; my role is almost like being a sommelier for an agency. I help them with business development, I help find new wines for the Ontario market, prepare educational materials on the wines for both staff and clients to use, and help find solutions wine-wise for various Mellecey clients looking to do interesting wine focused events. The owners, Cyndi and Fred, are really great people and have built an amazing portfolio. The integrity of the wines they represent is very important to them, so I am mindful that what I would like to add matches with the tone that they have set in terms of quality.

GFR: You have worked in a number different types of places… how would you say this new position (in a slightly different area) compares?

SZ: The biggest change is the hours, and that there isn’t always a brick and mortar building to report to for work. Most meetings can take place anywhere; the writing takes place in solitude, as I’m sure you’re familiar with; with Mellecey I am mobile: I go where I’m needed. After a decade of night owl hours it is quite different being up ready to go first thing in the morning. But it is still very much a position in the wine industry, including a focus on great service.

GFR: How is it working on the other side of the fence?

SZ: It is great. There are a lot of possibilities out there, and I love being able to have the opportunity to better explore those possibilities. There really is only so much you can do when you spend day in and day out in a restaurant. A little thing called ‘service’ gets in the way – which it should, considering the provision of service is why a restaurant exists in the first place.

GFR: How open do you find your accounts to trying new things when it comes to wines? Is there a specific style of wine that certain demographics crave? And just what are those demographics?

SZ: That all depends on the individual. Some people are looking for ‘the new’, and some people simply want what they like. It is no different than approaching guest that has requested to talk to the Sommelier and you feel out what they are looking for. I think it is fairly easy to suss out if the person you are dealing with is someone interested in trying something new and going on an adventure with you, or if they know what they want and just want you to point them in that direction because they aren’t familiar with the brands you offer. As far as demographics, I think it is too easy to break it down into simple categories. Something that is universal, though, is wanting great wine for the price. Value is very important to everyone.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn't enjoy having his pic taken too much.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn’t enjoy having his pic taken too much.

GFR: Now, how do I word this? Have you drunk the “Natural Wine Kool Aid”? I’m just kidding, how do you feel about the scene?

SZ: I do like them. That said, just because a wine is a ‘natural wine’ doesn’t automatically mean it’s good. The same goes for organic, sustainable, and biodynamic wines. We are really just describing how they are made. I’m just one guy talking here – I don’t want trouble! Natural wines do seem to require a lot of attention to avoid the main faults that can appear in those wines. There also is a problem in my eyes of some people positioning natural wines as ‘the true way’ wine should be made, which of course is simply not the case. This kind of claim may have been to draw attention to the wine in the first place. Nevertheless, what I think is exciting about them is that when they are well made, they are very unique and that is a wonderful experience. Anyway. There is a lot of wine out there and I think people should just enjoy what they enjoy. If it’s good and you like it – awesome. If you don’t? Don’t drink that thing you don’t like.

GFR: Having worked in restaurants for so long means that you bring a lot to the table in a supplier/agent role. What makes for a good agent/supplier in your mind?

SZ: I think the ultimate goal should be a partnership. It sends the wrong message to a Sommelier when an agent walks in and they know nothing about the restaurant, and have no idea which of the wines they represent would work, so they kind of scattershot, hoping for a sale. When buying, I would always try to convey to agents exactly what the goal of the wine program was so we could find wines that would work. I am always up for trying something new and different, but when building a wine list you’re ultimately choosing and buying for your guests – they are the people who are actually going to purchase the wine. Communication is key. Availability, pricing and vintage changes, and new incoming wines are always good information to know. Be on time for meetings, and answer emails.

GFR: And what makes for a bad agent?

SZ: Bad communication, no real interest in what a Sommelier is trying to achieve with their wine program. Email guilt trips for not buying their wine are never fun to receive. General lack of professionality is also frustrating.

GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines? Any current favourites?

SZ: I love our wines! We make world class wines in our country, which is sometimes hard to remember. In typical Canadian fashion, it seems that we need other countries to approve before we accept that something we have made is good. Favourites? I drink more Pearl Morissette and 16 Mile than any of the others, so I suppose those two would currently top my list.

GFR: What do we do well in Ontario, in your mind, and for your palate?

SZ: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and my darling Cabernet Franc. I also hear we make some nice Icewine.

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

SZ: I do, but I kind of feel that if it’s your land, then it’s your rules. If a winemaker wants to make something that is their prerogative and it’s not for me to tell them otherwise.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn't enjoy having his pic taken too much.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn’t enjoy having his pic taken too much.

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

SZ: I think it is a very bad idea. I commend and understand the loyalty, but it doesn’t help anybody if it’s poor quality wine. There is a lot of great wine in Ontario, and there are a lot of resources to help everyone get better.

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

SZ: I wasn’t. I come from a line of proud beer drinkers.

GFR: Can you remember your first taste of wine?

SZ: I believe I snuck a sip of sherry at a party for my grandmother when I was little. I hated it, but am happy to announce that sherry and I have made up and have quite a nice relationship going.

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

SZ: I don’t have kids but I see nothing wrong with exposing kids to alcohol at a young age. I’d have to see the stats but in my head it seems like it would demystify it and allow for a conversation about healthy drinking habits.

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?

SZ: I think it was probably five years into working at restaurants. If I was going to continue to work in this field, it was going to be as a Sommelier.

GFR: So who or what gave you your first insight into the world of wine?

SZ: I already mentioned Serge Janjic.  Sebastien LeGoff, and Adrian Caravello were the first Sommeliers I ever worked with. They held weekly seminars where I was working that were humiliating for me at first, being in a room full of great people with a lot of knowledge while I was a total neophyte. Sebastien introduced me to Anton Potvin and Peter Bodnar, who also taught me a lot. I got to work with Ruben Elmer for a while which was very educational. I think those six are really the ones responsible for getting me into wine.

GFR: The Sommelier world is notoriously full of pretentious arseholes, and after seeing that film Somm I worry about the emergence of a new Bro culture… I’d love to hear your thoughts?

SZ: From where I’m sitting, women in the industry are outpacing the men right now. There are amazingly strong, intelligent, talented women in food and wine: sommeliers, chefs, restaurateurs, writers, agents – you name it. I also know their paths to success have been rockier than those of their male counterparts. I can say without hesitation that, based on what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen first-hand, female somms are often spoken to in a manner no guest, colleague, or client would ever dare speak to me; unfortunately, I’m convinced that in most cases this is because they are female and I am not. You’d think we’d have gotten over this by now. But for some reason, the community of somms is sometimes treated like a fraternity when it ought to be a co-ed club, and the price of admission should be the same for everyone. Anything resembling a culture of fear and exclusivity should be dispelled.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn't enjoy having his pic taken too much.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn’t enjoy having his pic taken too much.

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

SZ: Other than Ontario, I’ve visited the Okanagan Valley, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Northern Italy, California, South Africa, and Switzerland. The list is growing even more this year, and I feel very lucky to have been able to travel and actually stand in the vineyards and experience these regions first hand.

GFR: Have you ever made your own wine?

SZ: I’ve only observed. I’ve taken part in blending sessions, and I have done a week here and there during harvest to learn about the process but I wouldn’t call that winemaking.

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

SZ: Spain or California. I feel like my personality would mesh best with those regions. There are several really interesting wines being produced in those regions, and a lot of experimentation, which I think is really exciting.

GFR: So do you prefer to manage people or bottles and why?

SZ: Depends on the day. Both can be rewarding, and both can present challenges.

GFR: What have been your career highs and lows?

SZ: Not too many lows. A few embarrassing mistakes here and there that I should have known better to avoid. This will sound silly, but I am finding that the little victories are the most satisfying. Really sharpening tasting abilities, better understanding soils, tasting an unbelievable wine for its price, seeing a guest who hates wine really fall in love with one before your eyes. I love moments like that.

GFR: Who is, in your mind, a real role model for Sommeliers?

SZ: There is a lot to being a great Sommelier – you have to be at any given time a critic, accountant, teacher, salesperson, and sometimes a manager.  I think that anyone who acts professionally and willingly shares their knowledge to help make those around them better at what they do is a real role model.

GFR: And for Wine Agents?

SZ: There is a lot to being a great Wine Agent too. A Wine Agent is the eyes and ears of what is coming into market. They are like scouts – they go out and find possibilities and share what they have seen, heard, and tasted. I think the best agents have that same passion for wine that a Sommelier has, and wants to offer great wines to people. They just do it through an intermediary, whether it is through a Somm at a restaurant or the LCBO.

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…  And I haven’t been in the role for over seven years!!!

SZ:I have pretty vivid dreams. I used to have a recurring nightmare in which I was the only employee in a restaurant; the restaurant itself was a kind of composite of all the places I’ve worked merged into this giant super-sized restaurant. Opentable was down, the restaurant was full, there was a lineup of new guests trying to be seated. None of the people had faces – heads, yes, but no features. They were just faceless. They didn’t speak in words, either, just muffled angry voices. They all were tapping their fingers in unison as they waited for service. I was just running around and I couldn’t find the wine I was looking for. Dark.

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

SZ: A long lingering brunch with friends, get some great ingredients from the market, and cook a cool meal to have with some great bottles.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn't enjoy having his pic taken too much.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn’t enjoy having his pic taken too much.

GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink.. perhaps tell us a hidden treasure of our city?

SZ:  In no particular order… Le Paradis, Bar Raval, Byblos, Chabrol, Biff’s, Campagnolo, and the Oxley.

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

SZ: I do! I love to cook. I don’t have a favorite, but I’ll tackle anything.

GFR: And have you had any cooking disasters recently?

SZ:  A few years ago I tried a multi-course feast for family. I do not have a full kitchen staff at my disposal. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly go as planned.

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

SZ: I do, and I feel like it is getting stronger all the time.

GFR: Do you hang about with other Sommeliers?

SZ: Sure do. I count them as some of my closest friends and always love to see and hear about what they are up to in this crazy industry.

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?

SZ: I think it is good, but the main issue in Toronto is affordable access to wine. I think there are some people running great wine lists despite limitations. It is difficult getting certain unique wines into Ontario and making them affordable for purchase because the wine gets taxed so heavily, but I think we are all trying the best we can to make it happen. I’m admittedly not the best to comment on cocktail culture, but it appears to me that it’s easier to gain access and large amounts of product to allow you to run a really vibrant cocktail program if you choose.

If I’m going for a glass of wine, I would visit Josh at Archive or Courtney and Chris at Brothers. If I’m going for cocktails, I’d hit Bar Raval, Cocktail Bar, or Alo.

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

SZ: That is a nearly impossible question. No idea. The one thing I know is that I would be working with people, and I would need to be passionate about what I was doing.

GFR: What are your thoughts on music in restaurants?

SZ: As long as the music doesn’t take away from the food, wine and dining atmosphere, I’m cool with it.

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

SZ: “Goodfellas.” They have just killed Bill Bats, and they go to Tommy’s house to get a shovel. It’s late, but Tommy’s mom is awake and guilts them into staying and she makes them ‘something to eat’, which is a full meal. I’m not Italian, but my mom would do that.

GFR: I know that you have non-industry friends… how do they feel about what you do for a living?

SZ: They think I have one of the coolest jobs in the world, and can’t believe it is a job at all. I tend to agree.

GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?

SZ: It has its place, but is dangerously close to a party trick.

GFR: Are you a better blind taster with or without a bad hangover? I’m definitely the former…

SZ: Without. I don’t want any wine if I am hungover.

GFR: What’s your current favourite wine region?

SZ: South Africa and Sicily.

GFR: In your mind, as a Sommelier, what is “hot” in the world of wine right now? And why?

SZ: Certainly natural wine is big. I think that wines from new regions that are a little more restrained are starting to show up on more and more people’s radars. Loire Valley, Austria, and South Africa come to mind. I think packaging will be changing so that people think of wine as a ‘universal’ beverage as opposed to a luxury product. I can see more wines in cans, and kegs. I also think that cool things are happening in Australia. I’ll be interested to see if they catch fire soon.

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

SZ: I think the iconic regions of France are cost prohibitive to so many that people are turning away a bit. But the new generation of winemakers in France are doing some cool things. Very cools things that could change perceptions of French wine soon enough.

GFR: When it comes to wine is there anything that you feel is overrated?

SZ: I think that any wine with a price that can only be afforded by the 1% tends to not live up to the promise of its price tag. There are exceptions, but generally I feel this is true.

GFR: What is your favourite wine pairing right now, something nice and seasonal?

SZ: Being the winter time, I love Vacherin Mont D’Or served warm with some white wine from Jura.

GFR: Okay… three pairings with me on the spot?… this time with… the most difficult customers you would find in these kinds of Toronto establishments.

What would you suggest to pair for them wine or beverage-wise… and why?

GFR: A sophisticated spot serving elevated French cuisine, with inspired service and a sophisticated French country décor?

SZ: After a ‘welcome’ aperitif of Lillet, I’d bring something local for the appetizers. Probably either Pearl Morissette or Norm Hardie. Something that has a French connection. I’d bring a Trou Normand before the mains, just to reset things for the main courses.

If we’re talking duck or veal I’d bring a Gamay like the Domaine Sarnin-Berrux from Burgundy.

If it is beef or lamb, I’d bring something richer, like an aged Cotes de Roussillon from Clot de L’Oum. Fish dishes would get something well textured, like Domaine Huet Vouvray.

A nice Muscat Beaumes de Venise with cheese and fruit based desserts, and Banyuls with chocolate.

I’d pour a little aged Armagnac to finish the night.


GFR: A contemporary steakhouse. An experience where inspired décor and inventive recipes blend with the highest quality dry aged cuts of meat.

SZ: Nothing too boozy to start. Maybe a lo-fi cocktail.

For mains I would bring them a nice aged Rioja, or a South African Cabernet like Kanonkop; something that still has good acidity along with the big flavours, which I always appreciate when eating a rich steak.

You really can’t go wrong with a bottle of Spottswoode Cab either.

Amaro or Bourbon to end off the rich meal.

GFR: A flashy, and luxurious hotel restaurant perched on the 31st floor above the financial district?

SZ: I’d bring over a bottle of Dom Perignon, but not just any old bottle. It would be a magnum of Dom Perignon Luminous, the label would be all glowing and announcing itself loudly to the room. Impeccably dressed staff would deliver it to the table in a large ornate vintage silver wine bucket.

GFR: Do you often drink beers, ciders or spirits? What do you currently enjoy?

SZ: I tend to have ciders in the warmer months, but not too often. I always love to see what is happening in beer land. I’m a big fan of the Burdock guys – they are making some great stuff. For spirits, I tend to lean towards Bourbon.

GFR: What is your least favourite part of your job as a Sommelier?

SZ: Being a Sommelier is one of the best jobs in the world. There are some downsides like any job, but nothing really worth mentioning.

GFR: What is your weapon of choice when it comes to a corkscrew?

SZ: Classic double-hinged Waiter’s Friend.

GFR: And your thoughts on the Coravin system… has it changed the playing field?

SZ: I think it is a great tool. I inherited a Coravin system at one of the restaurants I was working in and I really loved working with it. For those who felt an Enomatic machine created a divide in the connection between the guest and the bottle, the Coravin allows you to easily pour at the table and for the guest to see and interact with the bottle. I find that you have to be careful as to how empty you allow the bottle to get, because I find that after about 75% of the wine in a bottle has been extracted it changes notably. The Coravin certainly allows for some amazing possibilities in terms of creating an interesting by the glass list.

GFR: Speaking of which, where do you stand on the screwcap vs. cork debate? And how do your customers feel about that?

SZ: I’m all for them. Sure, sure… some of the romance is gone when you’re simply cracking open a bottle by hand in a fancy setting. Admittedly, I was really happy for screwcaps on busy nights in a full restaurant. With each passing year, technology is a little better and there are screwcaps that can emulate the breathability of cork. I think it took some time for people to warm to the idea of a screwcap on what is perceived as a luxury product, but now it is common to find them.

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?

SZ: I’m good for a couple of bottles. How do I keep myself in check? I have to know my limit and work within it. I have pretty good tolerance, but not like some of my colleagues. I can’t really afford to lose a day so I tend to make sure I’ll be functional for 8am the next morning.

GFR: Have you ever been “cut off”? If so, where and when was the most recent time?

SZ: Thankfully, no.

GFR: Speaking of which, do you have a good hangover cure?

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn't enjoy having his pic taken too much.

Sommelier Scott Zebarth doesn’t enjoy having his pic taken too much.

SZ: Gatorade and Advil.

GFR: How many wines do you taste in a week?

SZ:  When I was still in restaurants full time, I tasted at least 50. Now, I’d say 10-20.

GFR: When tasting with agents do you choose to spit or swallow?

SZ: I mostly spit unless it is something special and I’d regret it.

GFR: What’s your “house” wine at home?

SZ: It is always changing. I’ll buy things I’m excited about. For white I have a case of Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc from South Africa, and for red I have case of Hauner Hierà from Sicily.

GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?

SZ: In no particular order…When Howard Wasserman was doing some staff training at the first restaurant I worked in, and opened a 2002 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon to show us what a high end Cabernet tasted like. When Bruce McAdams, still at O&B at the time, shared a sip of 1999 Sauternes with me. Never tried anything like it at that point. And a guest once brought in a 1982 Petrus to Auberge when I started serving there and let me have a bit.

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

SZ: A simple, cold, thirst quenching beer. In fact, a beer and a shower have to be up there as one of the best combination of things in life.

GFR: And now the cheesy question Scott… If you were a grape varietal which would you be? and why?

SZ:  Oh, man. I’m the wrong person to ask this. I think someone else would better be able to get you an answer. I’ll give you my wife’s email address.

GFR: Thank you for taking the time Scott.


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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.