In this interview, I chat with William Predhomme, Senior Sommelier Canoe Restaurant + Bar in Toronto about winter wines and pairings. This interview was originally published in the luxury lifestyle magazine Homefront.
What’s the best thing about being a sommelier at Canoe?
The variety of wines and spirits that I get to sample on a daily basis. I’m fortunate to taste from the weird to the wonderful and everything in between: this is my job every day. I also love the wine regions I’m invited to visit around the world.
What’s the most expensive bottle in your collection at the restaurant?
We have a few “trophy” wines that are in the extreme high price point, though the majority of our wines are affordable and approachable. I have several bottles from Bond Winery in Napa Valley in the $800 range, as well as a 1990 Château Mouton Rothschild for $1,800.
How did you acquire those wines?
I inherited both bottles when I began working at Canoe four years ago. Canoe’s been open for 15 years, so there are some selections that have been here nearly that long.
Who’s the most famous person who’s dined at Canoe?
William Shatner and Neil Young were probably the coolest celebrities I’ve had the chance to meet.
Which wines did they have?
William Shatner had a local beer and Neil Young went for cranberry juice. Not everyone is in the mood for vino, but we’ll accommodate whatever you’d like.
What’s your most interesting wine/food combination on the current menu?
We pair a Quebec Ice Apple Cider with a sun-choke soup with pork belly. The apples and pork are a phenomenal match, and this is a playful way to express that combination.
How often does the menu change?
We change a number of items on our dinner menu seasonally to reflect the change in produce, game, and general flavours. Our tasting menu changes approximately every two months.
What are your favorite winter wines?
I prefer the richer whites and reds from Europe as they pair exceptionally well with the cuisine of the cooler seasons, as well as keep you warm when you want to be. However, I can’t ignore a good India Pale Ale beer, American or British style, with a healthy dose amount of bitter hops. It’s a great way to wind down from a long day of tasting wine.
Do you change your “wine wardrobe” in the winter?
Wine-wise, we wear the same suits all year long, and just darken the ties a bit in winter.
What size is your wine collection and what is it made up of?
We currently have about 500 different labels offered at any given time. We have a strong Canadian component of which we’re very proud, as well as a mix of both iconic and esoteric reds, whites, sweet, and sparkling wines from around the world. Fortunately, we go through a considerable amount of wine, so there’s always something new and exciting coming in.
Our Chef de Cuisine’s name is John Horne. As he is a chef he constantly thinks of wine being paired with food. One of the best wines he enjoyed recently was a German Riesling from the Mosel Valley paired with a local fish dish, though he’s always looking for that next best pairing.
Which wine would you recommend for a “special celebration”?
It depends on the celebration, though first and foremost, whichever wine makes you happy. You should drink what you want when you want to. My personal preference is for champagne, though I don’t just reserve that for celebrating.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would do professionally?
I’d probably be a vine grower or winemaker!
You might enjoy these interviews with more top-notch sommeliers who also share their tips on enjoying wine:
Ritz Carlton TOCA sommelier Lori Sullivan
Fairmont Royal York sommelier Jimson Bienstock
Want to suggest a sommelier whom I should interview? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.