The Flying Somm

Toronto airline pilot working as a virtual sommelier after COVID threatened his job

When Porter pilot Ryan Sullivan was grounded last March due to the pandemic after nine years of flying, he decided to pursue another passion: wine.

"Wine was always something that brought my family together and I have great memories sipping wine with the people I love," Sullivan told blogTO.

Having received his sommelier certification back in 2018, the Flying Somm has been a side hustle for Sullivan for a few years now, but it wasn't until last year that he pivoted his business online.

Sullivan has been offering virtual wine tastings to whoever's interested through the pandemic, including corporate clients.

If you choose to add a meal or charcuterie to your tasting, Daniel et Daniel will even deliver something to your door along with the wine, and Sullivan will show you how to pair it.

"I also offer cellar services for individuals and can provide exclusive access to wines not available in the LCBO," he says. "I try to make each virtual tasting event unique, informative, but engaging. Business is growing and I am having great experiences with my clients." 

This coming Valentine's Day weekend, Sullivan will be offering a special multi-course virtual tasting

All of his tasting package options are titled by airplane seating categories including Premium, Business and First. But besides the great puns, Sullivan says his time as a pilot has definitely helped him pursue the wine gig.

"As a pilot, I have to process a lot of information and multitask, all while keeping calm under pressure. I think a lot of those skills are transferable to entrepreneurship," he said.

Sullivan is looking forward to exploring more wine regions post-pandemic. 

"I'm looking forward to operating flights again as soon as possible this year. In the meantime, I've been able to build a business focused on another passion with my Sommelier designation," he says.

"It's something that I'll have the flexibility to continue with even after returning to flying, but I am itching to join my colleagues in the air again soon." 

Lead photo by

Ryan Sullivan

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