The top 5 sommeliers in Toronto
It's difficult to class the best sommeliers in Toronto given the diversity of the work they do, but there are some who standout based on their passion and knowledge of wine, their ability to enrich other people's wine drinking experience, and at a certain base level, their accessibility. Many of the city's top sommeliers, for instance, aren't intimately involved in serving wine so much as managing cellars or consulting on wine lists. That's by no means a knock against them, but the idea of a list like this is to gather together some names of wine folks who you'd rather easily be able to have a conversation with about wine, whether that be in the capacity of ordering a bottle at a restaurant or attending an educational series.
Canada has three Master Sommeliers, the highest designation one can achieve, all three of whom are based in Toronto: John Szabo (Wine Align), Bruce Wallner, and Jennifer Huether. They deserve to be on any list of top sommeliers in the city almost regardless of criteria. Ditto for Will Predhomme at Canoe. So here is an entirely subjective list of the top (read: my favourite) sommeliers in Toronto.
Peter Boyd - Scaramouche
My vote for the best sommelier in the city based on his sharp wit, vast wine knowledge and utter lack of pretention. A conversation that starts on wine might end up in politics but you'll be just as happy it did because Boyd is as interesting as they come. He's also watched as the city's wine tastes grew up. He first joined Scaramouche in 1982 (eventually becoming sommelier in 1993), when the world of wine in Toronto was cautious and undeveloped. More recently he has consulted on the wine lists at Enoteca Sociale and Skin + Bones while still contributing at Scaramouche. Boyd is also an instructor at the International Sommelier Guild. If want to learn about wine, seek him out.
Jamie Drummond - Good Food Revolution
Jamie Drummond is one of the most recognizable names in the Toronto wine scene, having built his reputation at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar in the latter half of the 2000s when the restaurant was a leading proponent of the local food movement and packed most nights with customers eager to try the many rare and intriguing wines sourced by Drummond. In the year's since JK Wine Bar closed, Drummond has founded Good Food Revolution, a not-for-profit website that highlights artisanal fare and, naturally, interesting wine. You won't find him serving wine at a restaurant anymore, but his knowledge has never been easier to take advantage of.
Christopher Sealy - Midfield Wine Bar
One of the most accessible sommeliers in the city, you don't have to have particularly deep pockets to chat up Sealy over a glass of wine at his bar. Insightful and passionate about wine, he has eclectic tastes that he's keen to share with his customers. After a five minute discussion about wine with him, it's pretty clear that he's a natural teacher who knows to avoid ramming knowledge down people's throats â and, crucially, that most conversations about wine should be about the place and culture from which it derives. Sealy also occasionally teaches wine classes at Midfield.
Anton Potvin - The Chase
Although not officially a Master Sommelier, like the previously mentioned Peter Boyd, Anton Potvin isn't giving anything away in the knowledge department despite lacking this formal educational decoration. As many know, Potvin formerly owned the Niagara Street Cafe, which was always one of the best places in the city to get one's hands on interesting wine. A mentor for many up and coming sommeliers, Potvin has now landed at the soon-to-open Chase at Yonge and Temperance, where he'll serve as the General Manager and Sommelier. With a sprawling wine bar planned for the rooftop of the new restaurant, you can bet that he'll be easy to find and engage with over what to put in your glass.
Sheila Flaherty / Momofuku | Norman Hardie
The professional wine world is still rather male centric, but that is slowly eroding as a new generation of women sommeliers have entered the scene. Some local names worth knowing are Zinta Steprans (SoHo House), Lesa LaPoint (Enoteca Sociale), and Sheila Flaherty now at Momofuku Toronto (and Norman Hardie). Formerly the wine director at Mercatto, there are few people with a greater passion and knowledge of wine in this city â and yet like many of the others on this list, an utter lack of snobbery.
Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our wine-soaked adventures.
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