Our guest this evening has not only earned the coveted Mater Sommelier designation, but she also was named Canada’s Best Sommelier and came fifth in the World’s Best Sommelier event.
She has lots of tips and tricks for us when it comes to learning about and appreciating wine.
… and she joins me live now from her home in Montreal: Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club Elyse Lambert!
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Here’s a sampling of our lively discussion from our Elyse Lambert Video Chat:
Born in Montréal, Québec, Élyse Lambert graduated with a degree in hotel management from the prestigious Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) in 1998 and as Sommelier from L’École Hôtelière des Laurentides in 1999.
Her career as a Sommelier began in the Québec Laurentians at the award winning Relais & Châteaux l’Eau à la Bouche. Her next move was to the Eastern Townships where, from 2000 to 2004, she was an integral member of the sommelier team at Auberge Hatley, a 5 diamond CAA – Relais & Châteaux.
In 2005 she joined the XO restaurant of Hôtel Le St. James in Montréal, where she lead the sommelier team until 2008. Subsequently, went on to build the wine program and was on the opening team of Montreal’s Le Local restaurant in 2008 and curated the restaurant’s much lauded wine list until 2013 when she joined the sommelier team at The Ritz Carlton Montreal’s Maison Boulud.
Throughout her exciting career path, Elyse continued to earn credibility for her craft and accolades in Canadian and international competitions.
After winning «Best Sommelier of Québec» in 2004 and third best in Canada in 2006, she won the title of «Best Sommelier of the Americas 2009» in the prestigious competition held in Buenos Aires.
Representing the Americas at the «Best Sommelier of the World» competition 2010 in Chile, she reached the semi-final and was classified amongst top 12 sommeliers in the world.
In May of 2015 in Aspen Colorado she became Canada’s first Quebecer, fourth Canadian and second Canadian woman to hold the prestigious and globally recognized title of Master Sommelier. There are only 236 Master Sommeliers in the World.
After winning «Best sommelier of Canada» in 2015, she again represented Canada in the competition for «Best sommelier of the World »in Argentina.
Elyse lambert is now the 5th Best Sommelier of the World 2016.
She is currently working as a Sommelier Consultant and continues sharing her passion at Radio-Canada’s morning show, Medium Large and as a wine column in Journal de Montreal. Elyse lives in Montreal and consults for private and corporate clients and is often invited to facilitate wine education seminars and to speak at corporate functions in Canada and around the world.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a Master Sommelier? And even beyond that, to compete in the world’s best sommelier competition? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to learn from our guest tonight here on the Sunday Sipper Club.
I’m Natalie MacLean, editor of Canada’s largest wine review site, and you’ve joined us here where we gather every week, Sundays at six, Eastern, that’s Toronto/New York time, to talk to the most interesting people in the world of wine. We gather here on Facebook Live, YouTube live stream and Twitter via Periscope.
Now I would love to know if, before I introduce my guest fully, do you know what it takes to become a Master Sommelier? Do you know how many years of study, how many hours, how many wines these folks taste to become this very, very coveted, or to get this very, very coveted designation?
Hey Beverly, you’ve just joined us, awesome. All right, so post in the comments below, yes or no. Do you have any idea what it takes? Good evening, Paul, welcome. And Rochelle.
All right, so let me get to our guest in this conversation. Our guest this evening has not only earned a coveted Master Sommelier designation, but she was named Canada’s best sommelier in a very fierce competition, and then she went on to place fifth in the world at The World’s Best Sommelier competition. She has lots of tips and tricks to share with us about appreciating wine, tasting wine. And she joins me now, live from her home in Montreal, welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club, Elyse Lambert. Hello!
Hi, thanks so much for joining us, Elyse. We’re really pleased to have you here. We’re so curious about your background. Maybe you could just start off by telling us kind of – do you remember the exact moment when you realized I want to be a sommelier?
I have a pretty clear idea from my first class, my first wine class. I totally fell in love with everything that was touching wine, from the discovery of all different flavors to the geography, to the history. And my first teacher was just amazing so that was in 1998. And for me, it was like, okay, that’s what I want to do for a living. I was the first in the class all the time, pushing my best, just next to the teacher’s desk and asking like millions of questions, and that’s where everything started. I was in hotel management at the time. Institute of Tourism in Hotel Management.
Is that in Montreal, that school?
Yes, okay. You were class keener and you realized that, now did wine run in the family? Is anybody else in the business? Or was wine part of growing up on the table? Or what got you actually going into that program in the first place?
Food was very important, home, and my mom was cooking each and every night and having this dinner together as a family, and having this very precious time around the table made me believe that table is the number one place where you can learn and share and grow and get everything that you need to have as a kid to grow up with the right tools in your toolbox.
This means having the idea that the table was so important. When I got into hotel management, the idea was that I wanted to take care of people. That was my number one. And from that, the wine world just opened up to me and I went back to a second class, a real sommelier class in ’99 and got my real certification at the time. And since then, I’ve been just thirsty.
Thirsty, that’s a great way to put it. I love it.
All right, I’m going to welcome some people who have been pouring in. Tim is here from Peterborough, Stephen Andrews. Hello, Sam. Sam Hawk is here from the west coast. You may know Sam, I’m not sure Elyse, but he teaches wine classes out in Vancouver. Paul Hollander is here with Patti from Virginia. Ann MacLean is here from Halifax. Rochelle is here in Ottawa, Beverly in California. It’s a full house and people are coming in. Welcome everybody. Now yes, absolutely. Well, I’ve got a moment here. Oh, hi Liz from Sudbury, oh sorry Northern Ontario. And Andrea’s here from Ottawa.
Chelle is here, Elyse is amazing. I have much respect for this brilliant lady. Our time in Italy this past fall was phenomenal.
Mary Johnson says, good evening ladies. Hello, Mary. All right, wow. If I miss your comment folks, just repost it. As I say, I’m not ignoring you, it’s just the comments go by so quickly. And while I have this little hiatus, please do take a moment to share this video, comment. At the end of tonight’s broadcast, I will be announcing the winner of last week’s contest, and that would be a $100 gift certificate to our guest Charles Steven Trenholme’s course or seminar, Importing Wine for Pleasure and Profit. Based on folks who either shared or commented below, or both is better, that’d be great. And tonight, we’re going to announce, or sorry, for those who share the video tonight, I’m going to pick two people and each of you will win one of these books: Red, White and Drunk All Over, and Unquenchable from yours truly. Get busy in sharing.
Alright, so Elyse, you took the hotel management and the sommelier classes. And then did you go and work in the industry or did you jump sort of straight into the studies in preparation for the Master Sommelier designation?
I was already working in the industry and I’ve been, since I was 16, so restaurant was for me something that was part of my life already. Though when I took my hotel management class, I had the chance to start working in high-end hotels and restaurants and that’s where I got all the tools for knowing fish and meat and sauce and soup and having like great death on beautiful wine lists and wine cellar. I’m remembering quite well that sadly burned down two years ago, but we had one of the most impressive wine lists at the time and I was totally looking at the sommelier and wanting so much to do what he was doing. That got me into wine quite quickly when I finished school and got me some of the best internship as well. I was working in really, really, nice places.
Which places? Tell us some of the restaurants that you interned at. Maybe we’ll recognize some of them.
Well, of course the Hovey Manor. Hovey Manor, that is now a part of Relais & Chateaux chain. And I’ve been at L’Eau a la Bouche as well that closed down, but that was part of Relais & Chateaux as well and it’s been just amazing experiences where I learned truly what was a sommelier about. And since I was quite junior in those places, L’Eau a la Bouche, I’m thinking of, everybody there at the sommelier class, so they were allowing us to work in our own section, so selling the wine and the food in our own section. I took, like step by step, the possibility of wanting to suggest and slowly having, as well, the sommelier to support me in this. It was kind of super nice.
But what got me into competition is first and foremost, when I got out of school in ’99, I was like I don’t know anything. Like, I just had a sommelier class but there’s so much things to know, so many things. And from that, I was looking for a challenge to keep in my book and that’s why I started. The sommelier be happy in actually was already competing with a friend at the time for best of Quebec, and I was looking at what they were doing, totally thrilled and wanting to participate and doing blind tasting with them. I was like rookie as we can be at the time. But it was just good stuff, perfect.
You started off with The Best Sommelier Quebec Competition. You got your feet wet there?
2004, okay. And how did you do that year? Was it mostly a year of experience, shall we say? Or how did it go?
Oh, that was my second time. The first time was totally a trial, but in 2004, I won best sommelier of Quebec. For the first time we had three women on the podium, and that was something, that was quite exceptional. That opened like a little window somewhere, thinking, ‘oh a place for a woman in the industry, yeah that could make sense’. That was 2004.
On your second try, you won? You went in as a trial the first year, and then you went in and won it the second year.
Yes, it was three years at the time, but I wanted to get better at what I do and that was, for me, a good way to do so. I have very good figure around me that were already training in this way and learning from them and understanding what was required, but that’s been a long journey. And since then, I’ve been only on the fast-track of learning, learning, learning, tasting, traveling.
Absolutely. Now how does a competition help you become a better sommelier in a restaurant? What are the things that competition brings out in you that you bring to the restaurant floor?
Actually, you don’t need to do competition to be a great sommelier. For me it was to give me a reason to keep in my books because many of you may know that if you finish your class and you close your book and you don’t open your book ever again, don’t read, don’t taste, don’t travel, well you won’t keep up to date for very long. That was a little bit of time, the reason I wanted to…
Yeah, yeah totally.
It’s still the case.
Are you still competing? Now you’ve won Canada’s best and come fifth in the world. Are you still going to go back to those competitions or the world’s or? What are your plans right now for competition?
It’s too early to say, but now I’m still in my books.
Okay, you’re selling your book? Oh, okay, tell us about your book.
I’m still in my book. I’m still learning, I’m still…
Oh, you’re still in your books, sorry, okay, gotcha. But you do have a book or you co-wrote a book with two other authors, right?
Oh, you’re going to have to translate for this poor little Anglophobe. What is the title in English, please?
In French it’s called ‘It’s Like Bad Grapes’.
Bad Grapes? Okay.
Bad Grapes in a good way. It’s been my second year writing a book with two colleagues. We started this whole little booklet to keep people up-to-date on what’s new, what’s good, what’s great value wine. A little bit about orange wine, what’s about natural wine.
Right, all the trendy wines.
Yes, so we’re like writing on trends each and every year but at the same time as well, wanting to give suggestion on if you’re eating a big, like, spaghetti with meatball, like a couple of suggestion for that; or some pizza, or you want to have, like chicken. Like we want to keep pairing as simple as possible, giving little tricks for people to understand what the pairings are all about. It’s mini chapters, it’s very easy to read.
Okay, so take us there. You’ve whet our appetite, what would you suggest with spaghetti and meatballs? How would you pair that, and what would be the tip or trick to remember?
Well, Italian food, Italian wine.
Regional is number one. And as well, I really like tomato sauce. Tomato and Sangiovese are just superb partners. When I start pairing, I like to think of what I would drink if I was in that specific place of the world. Regional pairing. But then as well, the acidity of the Sangiovese with the tomato is just like something not to miss. A great Chianti or some Morellino di Scansano or Brunello di Montalcino. It depends on your budget. I have different suggestions at different price points.
Okay, fantastic. And Andrea Shapiro: “outstanding Elyse, wow, well done. Do you have a personal favorite wine”?
I’m sure you get asked that. Maybe it’s the one you have in your glass tonight.
Tonight I’m working on an article that I need to write for tomorrow, but I would say that my favorite varietal right now is Nebbiolo.
Oh? Why is that?
Finesse and elegance on the aromatic and like little grip tannins, grippy tannins is fun to me, but the freshness and the beautiful acidity on the backbone of the Nebbiolo. And I have to say that I’ve visited regions that have been like beautiful experiences and still becoming more and more trendy. And that’s the difficulty, because now the prices are going up quite quickly. And then white, I would say Burgundy, Chardonnay. I’m a Chardonnay girl. Like, ah yeah, I’m one of those, sorry.
No need to apologize. We’ve come back again from ABC, anything but Chardonnay. We’ve flipped the other way. Chardonnay is cool again, especially Burgundy. That’s a cool climate, right?
I have to say that many of my master sommelier friends are totally into Riesling, and I’m really okay with that. But there’s nothing for me like a Chablis. Chablis, red Burgundy, Meursault, (speaking in French like those guys) are just in my top, top favorites. If you want to make me happy, a Meursault on a fresh vintage and you’re going to keep the sommelier smiling.
Wow, okay, all variations on the theme of Chardonnay. Cool climate Chardonnay. All right, so let me just look over here. Lynn loves Nebbiolo. Her favorite lately too. Tim is saying: “I’m traveling to France in the spring in the Loire Valley and the Champagne region just outside of Paris. Have you been there, and do you have any favorites that you wanted to share with us?”
Yes, of course. Champagne of course. There is tons of very good champagne producers. I think wanting to vary the pleasure, wanting to visit maybe some bigger, bigger champagne house will be important to see how they work. But one thing as well to focus on some smaller ones. I would go with one of the big group from LVMH, which is …
Louis, Hennessy, Vuitton, it’s Veuve Clicquot and Moet and Chandon and all the biggies.
What’s important and what’s nice is to understand how they work. And from that, maybe go to something that is a little bit more on a smaller scale but with, like for example, that is still family-owned and go on some smaller one. Orcan be quite fun. Or smaller one, I really love, for me is a must. It drinks like wine. As well, those guys, or Pascal Doquet. The small growers. I like to think when you visit a region that you should not focus only on the small one. You should have focus a little bit of everything, to have a good overview of the region.
Great answer, fantastic. And just again, if you’re just joining us or if you’re even watching the replay and you weren’t able to catch us live, please do still comment, share this video. The person or two people who do next week, at the end of next week’s broadcast, I’ll announce two winners of these two books. And at the end of tonight’s broadcast, I’ll be announcing our winner from last week, $100 gift certificate to Steven Trenholme’s seminar. Tim, okay, we’ve answered your question, Tim. Lise: “Nebbiolo is Barolo”. Yes, yes, it is. And David is here: “we had Planeta last night, it was so good”. You’re talking about Nero d’Avola from Sicily, I think, Dave. Yeah, is that, do you like those wines as well, of Sicily, Elyse?
I would say that the new trend for sommelier, and it’s been going on for a little bit more than a year now, is Etna, Etna Russo.
Volcanic. main varietal, and If you don’t know this varietal, it’s nice because it’s kind of a combination. It’s not a crossing, I’m just saying stylistically. It’s a combination in between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. If you like those two varietals, go and explore Etna Russo and Nerello Mascalese. It’s a fantastic varietal. And that’s been my pizza wine.
Oh, pizza wine, excellent. We’re always up for that. And did you, I’m sure you did, watch the documentary, Somm?
Yes, of course okay. Obvious. But what was your opinion of that documentary? It’s all about, by the way if anybody hasn’t seen it yet, these group of mostly guys I think, tried to pass, they were all guys?
Too many guys.
Too many guys. Good for you. But they were all trying to pass the master sommelier exam. And so it chronicles their studies and their dialogue and some passed, some failed. What was your opinion of that documentary? Was it a good depiction or did you have some criticisms of it? What was your take on that?
Well, I’d like to see more girls, that’s for sure.
For sure. There wasn’t one woman, was there? In there.
There was like one that flew there and disappeared quite quickly. And it was a study group, so it’s normal that you don’t want to include someone that was not there maybe to start with, which makes sense for the purpose of the sommelier or the Somm movie. What I like about this movie was for people to understand how difficult and how committed you need to be if you want to become Master Sommelier. There’s kind of a little bit, it’s a little bit Americanized. I was not working with flashcards, I was not studying like late at night because, no, you’re here in my study bubble so welcome in my nest.
I love that, nest, yeah.
And I am studying most of the time in the morning. I think that you need to be mentally ready and mentally arrested if you want to absorb the information. Flashcards is not for everybody. I haven’t been studying with flashcards. Everybody is different. I was not studying in a group either. Studying as a group can be fun. Tasting, I’ve been choosing the people I was tasting with, and I think the beauty is in the diversity. If you want to succeed, I think that tasting with different people will allow you to get nervous when tasting with certain people, not playing their game as well. Sometime if you taste always with the same people, you end up knowing what they’re buying all the time. You can read before tasting like what you think that they could have brought. If you think of tasting and wanting to step further in your journey as a Master Sommelier, taste with different people. Taste with people you’re not aware or you don’t know. Like just get in an uncomfortable position because the day of the exam, you don’t know who’s going to be sitting in front of you, you have no idea what the wine will be, so you have to be like, mentally and physically ready for something new.
I love that you say ‘get in an uncomfortable position’. I think that’s when we’re learning. Like just on the other side of fear is a deep-seated learning. Were you really nervous? Maybe I think another obvious question. But okay, so how did you deal with your nerves when it came to you, you can talk about either taking the Master Sommelier exam or one of the competitions. Like maybe there’s a strategy you use for most of those situations. But how do you stay calm and focused?
I got better at that in the last few years and there’s few, few tips that will make the difference in your journey. First, sleep.
Second, train physically. Like, move. Eat well, like it’s all like basic stuff. But if you’re not rested, and I have to say as well, meditation.
A bit of yoga, meditation, can make a big difference. For me what made the difference is a little bit of all of that. Before the exam, I went for a run. And I was like, just to get this extra energy that was like here, like down, and always, always calibrate before going for a tasting.
How do you calibrate?
High acidity, unoaked, cool climate, white.
That’s what you’re drinking to calibrate your palate? To get it ready?
Yes. That’s what made the difference for me. And I’ve tried it before, I’ve tried it with beer, I’ve tried it with different things and I was trying to figure out what was working. And what made the difference in my journey definitely was calibration. Calibration, like. allows you to taste something, you know what it is all about and just make sure that your palate is understanding. Okay, this is high acidity, this is Sancerre or this is Chablis and this is where the acidity level is. You have this salivation process, you know where you are so when the first wine, you get to try your first wine, you’re going to be like ready to go. And the calibration is going to be there working for you.
Yeah, that’s like when musicians start by getting in tune with a note and they go, like, I can’t sing, but they’re doing it with the piano so that they’re, then we can begin.
Exactly, and this is the best way. If eventually you’re starting with a first wine and you did not calibrate and you’re starting with the wine that is fairly low in acidity, you’re going to wonder like, ‘oh, where am I’ and this and that? And if you start with the wrong product on one, everything, like you’re going to mess with probably the following one. Knowing where you are with the first one you’re sipping on, okay, I’m drinking Sancerre, this is Sancerre. This is aromatic. You’re going to have the full evaluation of your product, number one, before you get to blind taste on your first wine. I did that, I had a coffee cup. Okay, I’m sharing this with you guys for the tasting with the Quarter Master Sommelier for my master exam. It was my number six time, six, six, six.
Six times, you were determined, yes.
I knew I was resetting, I was not having this tasting.
You were not going to go back if you didn’t pass on the sixth time?
I was going back to square one and I had already like Tieri and a service that I add, that I got. I had only one part to complete, and that one part was the tasting. When I arrived there, the pressure was here and I was like okay. I put in a coffee cup some Sancerre because I didn’t know how much time I would wait before they come and get me. Getting the Sancerre in my coffee cup, arriving for the tasting and waiting for my name to be called and I was barely arrived, they said like oh, Elyse, please join me. I was sipping the coffee cup, threw it away and left with the Sancerre in my mouth thinking, okay, this is my calibration and then I’m going to arrive in three minutes and start my tasting.
Right, and it worked. And I should just say, it’s an exceptionally low pass rate. Six times it’s not uncommon. I’ve heard for the Master of Wine, the other program, it’s 10%. I think it’s that low or somewhere around there for the Master Sommelier. These are really, really hard exams that take years to finally pass and prepare for. One thing I was going to ask you, Elyse, is that in Somm and in the competitions where I’ve seen you compete the way you talk about the wine in front of the judges is very specific. It’s not like, oh I’m getting some apple or whatever. It’s boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, this rapid fire. Can you give us a sample of, you’ve got a wine there, but can you give us a sample of how you would talk about a wine in competition.
Basically, for the Master Sommelier, there’s a tasting grid that is expected, that you have to follow. If you want to get this Master Sommelier title, you follow the grid. If you’re not following the grid, it’s a recipe for disaster for the future of your red pin. As you go for competition for best of Canada, best of the world or so on, you do need to speak a little bit less technically and a little bit more into something where you’re going to speak to a person. Like the evaluation of the Master Sommelier is done in a very rigid way because I want you, as a judge, to be able to understand if I understand the wine. That’s why we’re talking, medium, medium plus, high because high is high. It’s not like oh, there’s a lot of acidity. Well, a lot of acidity is how much?
Yes, to be very precise in the way you taste for the Master Sommelier. As when you get into the competition, you want to be a little bit more poetic in the way you’re going to speak. You’re going to start like with the three-step, visual, olfactory and taste of course, then you’re going to wrap this up in an initial conclusion and bring the baby home for a final conclusion.
Of what you think it is?
Yes, of what you think it is. Basically, if you have… Now I do have a wine for my article tomorrow.
Oh yes, it’s research, yes.
It’s research, yes. I’m drinking Corbieres from Chateau de Lastours
A Southern French wine from a warm region. There we go, thank you. Yeah, we can see it. Chateau de Lastours.
Lastours. I’m working on a paper on fondue and raclette. Like fondue, like Chinese fondue and stuff. You want to have read that, you want to have something that’s going to have a little bit of personality still and that’s going to be going with different type of foods. For me, Corbieres was the way to go. I’ve tried it last week, I really liked it and I was like, ‘yup, that could be a good fit for my fondue’. Basically, you’re going to start with the colour, and the evaluation of the colour is going to be based on first, the colour itself then the intensity of it. Here we have a deep purple colour.
Can you hold it up so we can see the glass? Oh there we go. Yeah, and just maybe pretend you’re in either competition or Master Sommelier. How would you like tell us if we were the judges?
The evaluation I would make from this wine would be like, first on the visual, deep, deep purple colour with a very small pinkish rim and no presence of gas or sediment. Medium viscosity, no staining of the glass. Then you’re going to go on the nose and do the evaluation. The nose is clean, there’s no fault to it. I’ve checked it before. It’s medium aromatic with aromas of lots of black fruit, and the fruit is quite ripe. It’s slightly jammy as well, or more on plum, just a touch of dried plum and dried cranberry. We do have a little bit of pomegranate as well and tons of spices, licorice. And it’s all the baking spices, a little bit of nutmeg and some cacao. But on the other side, you do have a little bit of force as well that it’s quite interesting, bringing a little bit of depth and some, a little bit of gaminess attached to it. A touch of oak on it, you feel it with the baking spices. On the palate…
It’s an amazing vocabulary you have.
Trying as much as I can to share this with you, to understand what I’m drinking.
Yeah, no that’s great.
That’s the idea. When you do a tasting, always put yourself in the idea that if you had someone in front of you, try to describe as precisely as you can what you smell and what you taste, like, if they were trying this wine. On the palate, the wine is dry. It’s medium bodied. The tannins are medium, but they’re silky tannin. Very fine and very refined and grainy, just slightly grainy tannins. You do have this medium plus acidity. There’s a little bit of heat coming from this wine and it’s the heat, you feel it on the cheek. That’s just slightly high for me. The temperature is starting to be a little bit warm. I’ve got it out of the cellar a couple of minutes ago.
Okay, terrific, wow. And how did you develop that wide vocabulary you’re using? Is it just practice or do you use aor, are you smelling vegetables and fruits or is it a combination of things?
Life is bringing me tons of different smells all the time, each and every day. Yes, I was always very curious on my nose everywhere when I was a young mind. I was in the garden with my grandma, I was cooking with her and my mom was cooking a lot as well. This develops a lot, your sensitivity to aromas. But notice that there’s so many, like, possibility for you to smell and taste on a daily basis. Just take those opportunity but bank them up. Like if you have to keep this in your repertoire. But make sure that you can relate to some terms that people will be able to find as well. What I’m saying is if it smells like your grandma’s cupboard, well you’re the only one that knows what your grandma’s cupboard smells like. You want to use terms that people will understand. Oh, like it’s dried raisins, like this little Sun-Maid box. Know, like, if you think of a specific smell, use like aromatic that people will be able to relate to. That’s super important. Be specific as possible as well. But it’s all things that you develop with experience.
Mm-hmm, that’s great advice, Elyse. And sorry folks, I have been so wrapped up in this conversation, I know your comments are flying by. Tim says: Is there a region that produces wine that deserves a higher profile here in Canada in your opinion, Elyse?”
A region from Canada?
In Canada that should have a higher profile than it does.
Prince Edward County.
Ah, okay, I’ll agree with you on that for sure.
I think that we have beautiful wine coming from there. I would say that would be my number one right now, and that it’s still a small region but there are some key producers there that are making the difference, definitely.
And can you name a few of the ones that really stand out for you, producers?
My number one, Norman Hardie, Norman Hardie and Norman Hardie and Norman Hardie.
Ah, we interviewed him too, he’s great. What a superstar.
I think he’s just amazing and I love his wines. He’s working with a little bit of reduction on his wine. And reduction, like absence of oxygen, brings some notes that reminds you sometime a little bit of Burgundy. Maybe that’s the reason I like his wines so much. But I met him, he was just starting with his, he works wine his way, but I think there’s a real identity that is starting to define from. Now I grew up in, he’s doing some amazing stuff too from higher yield spring. If you’re more into natural or experimental wine there’s tons of great people working from South Brook. If you want to explore their orange wine–
Oh, their orange wine is so good from Ann Sperling, oh my goodness, yes.
Ann is just amazing, she’s great. There’s, I think, so many regions that are right now starting to emerge, but as well some key producers. I’m thinking of Benjamin Bridge, Nova Scotia.
Yes, Nova Scotia, yeah.
That is doing fabulous sparkling wine. There’s a little bit of everything right now in Canada. And Canada is big and it’s a little baby.
Yeah, absolutely. Still in the beginning stages. Thank you for that comment, Alan. I’m glad you’re enjoying the conversation. Dave Head: “what would be the most overrated French first growth in your opinion?” Ooh, that’s a pointed question.
Can I answer this? Overrated first growth. There are some fifth and second and third that would deserve to be higher.
Ah, good way to put it, yup.
I like to reverse this question, such as ‘is amazing’ should be, ‘they’re touching perfection right now’. And some fabulous producer, I’m thinking, that are not classified, should be part of what’s great and amazing right now. And classification is not everything. Lagrange, Lagrange is amazing for the price as well. I don’t want to lower some of them, I want to push up some other. I think it’s a better way to do things.
Absolutely, very diplomatic too, Elyse. Folks, if you are just joining us now, we have been chatting with Elyse Lambert, Canada’s best sommelier, came fifth in the world, she’s a Master Sommelier. If you are enjoying this conversation, please take a moment to share it. And you’ll find that share button, I’m sure you’re aware of where that is, right near the top. And it’s always better when you can put a comment with it. And if you want to know when we go live with these conversations every week at six, then click on the follow button. And for those of you who do share of course, next week we will draw for those who comment, share, two winners. One each will get a book. And don’t forget to stick around till the end of this broadcast when I’m going to announce last week’s winner, $100 gift certificate. That’s coming up. All right.
Sam says: “is there any need for a somm to know wines from small regions that do not have wide distribution? For example, BC produces excellent wines but in very small quantities and with little availability outside the province”. That’s a good question, Sam. What do you think, Elyse?
I think what’s important is to put in context who you work for or in which restaurant you are. As my need in, if I’m working in a restaurant, is to understand, like, what is my wine list all about? Learning first and foremost what’s important for the clientele and keeping curious. But if there’s no distribution, if you need to study for competition, yes, you’ll need to know those things, particularly if you’re working to become best of Canada, knowing everything inside out from the country is going to be important. But after that, I was lately working in an Italian restaurant so my main focus has been on Italian wine because I wanted to be, like, first and foremost, comfortable with the most important part of my wine list. Making sure you focus on the right thing in regard of, if you’re a sales rep, well, what’s in your new portfolio, what’s important to know in your portfolio? And when you get to master, what you need to know from on your day to day job, then you can, like, start exploring on things that could be interesting for you in the near future, for travel or trip or a competition or for whatever your interest is in.
Right, good point. All right, Chelle says: “Elyse is an encyclopedia of wine knowledge from A to Z. Her passion is contagious.” I agree, Rochelle. Jane Staples, hi Jane from Ottawa. You’re enjoying a dry vermouth tonight. Well, that’s an interesting choice, Jane. I’m sure it’s good though. All right, so just a few last quick questions as we sort of wrap up our discussion. I could go on for hours here. Elyse, you are truly an encyclopedia but not in the dry sense, in a very interesting sense. What is the best piece of wine advice that you’ve ever received?
Keep humble. Humility is number one in our industry. Like, think that you’re giving recommendation. Be kind, be curious. My role as a sommelier is to take care of people. It’s not to show my knowledge. I’m not there to show myself, I’m there to take care of people. And if you keep this as number one, people will remember you as sommelier or as a sales rep or whatever you’re doing in the industry, they will remember you for your kindness, for being attentive to their needs because when you spend a couple of hundred of dollar in a restaurant, well it may be something that is important and you’ve been sitting for a long time for that experience you’re having with someone and you want this to be special, you want people to recognize that this moment is special and it’s you as sommelier that will make the difference. And don’t forget that it’s a team work. If they’re asking you for water or for bread or whatever else, as a sommelier the answer is always yes. Try to make sure that they’re going to be happy when they leave. They’re going to spread the good word and that’s your cheapest advertising in the industry. Keeping people happy is number one.
I love that answer. All right. If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone, living or dead, who would that be and why?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. I was a big fan of Jancis Robinson.
Okay, and she’s still living by the way, right? You said ‘was’, but…
Well, because I finally met her. My dream came true. But I was so nervous, I was like okay, so yeah, how are you and I was like, I didn’t want to show how groupie I was. But I would like to, I would be curious to maybe meet some key people. Michelle Obama, I would like to have a glass of wine…
Michelle Obama, why Michelle Obama? I love that choice. Why her?
Well, I think she’s a very inspiring woman. It’s someone that I believe will, in no time, make some very important difference, hopefully. She does already for kids and with her community, and her dedication I think became contagious. Just to chat about, like, everything and nothing at the same time. But number one probably I would like to have a glass of wine with my grandma. She passed away a few years ago and she’s been the reason why I’ve been in the industry. She, I gave me curiosity and pleasure of eating, pleasure of sharing food at the table. If I had the chance, I would say like ‘yeah, I would have her back for one night’. I would love that.
Oh, that’s so wonderful, wow. Elyse, you know, we’re going to wrap it up with you here on that note. I’m sticking around for another 10 minutes, folks, because we have some announcements to make so don’t go away. But Elyse, thank you so much for spending your time with us tonight. I just love this conversation, loved your answers and your approach. It’s refreshing and charming and kind. It’s terrific. We will wrap up. If you have a moment, Elyse, tonight or tomorrow to jump into the comments, to the ones that we didn’t get to, that would be awesome. I’ll send you the link later. But we will say goodbye for now because I know you’ve got an article to write and thank you for spending part of your Sunday with us here tonight.
Thank you, thank you for joining and I hope that you’ve got a little bit of inspiration to drink less but drink better.
Absolutely, well put, okay, take care Elyse, bye-bye. All right folks. I’m still here. Wasn’t that great? She is inspirational. Let me get back to some of these comments here before I make our announcements. I’m going to, all right, oh I just, these are going so fast. Marie Johnson: “just missed out on the LCBO selling Romanee-Conti. Would either of you purchase a bottle for your celler or have you tasted, or is it overrated?” It’s expensive, Marie. In my first book, which you could win, I visit Romanee-Conti and taste in the wine cellar library a 1955, I think, ’55, ’56 with Aubert de Villaine. He’s the winemaker. Again, that’s a natural segue.
Please, if you enjoyed our conversation tonight, take a moment to share it, let others know. They can watch the replay. Make a comment. And if you want to know when we go live next week, because we’ve got another interesting guest from the Master of Wine designation, click follow. That’s the way you’ll know. But in the meantime, as we’re thinking through things here, what was the most interesting thing you learned during our conversation tonight? I would love to see your comments. And Elyse will too. I’ll ask her to pop back into this thread after we finish up and answer any questions, but I know she’ll love to see your comments as well. What did you learn tonight? And thank you, Dave, the books are great, thank you.
I would love to drink Thomas Jefferson’s wine. Well, someone did try to sell that. Of course there’s a whole scandal, The Billionaire’s Vinegar. I actually reviewed that book for The Globe and Mail back when it came out, and it’s going to come out as a movie. I’m not sure if it’s Brad Pitt or somebody’s in it or is directing it or something. I can’t wait. Elaine Bruce: “outstanding”. Thank you, okay. Stephen Andrews: “I agree, great guest”. And I might have missed some other questions so feel free to repost because I’ll get them now in the tail end or I will come back and come into the comments afterwards. Ah, thank you, Elaine.
Okay, so a couple of things, folks. I know there’s a number of you who are part of my Quick Start to Get Wine Smart course. And right now, at 7 p.m., so in 10 minutes or so, I’m going to jump over into our private Facebook group and we are going to do a structured tasting of three red wines paired with four different types of nuts. It’s our Super Bowl semi-final warmup. We’re going to pair game snacks and wines. It’s going to be fun but educational. That will be happening at 7 o’clock. Please, after this broadcast, join me there, it’ll be lots of fun. And as always, if you can’t, you can watch the recording with friends, host your own tasting, it is a lot of fun.
All right, excellent. Liz, I’m glad you like that guest. You’re welcome, Ann. That’s that one. And what else? Your most interesting comment. You want to connect with me, I’m on all of these social media outlets. I’ve developed URLs that will take you right to where I am. Nataliemclean.com/twitter, et cetera. You can always connect, I’m always sharing things there.
And please come join our wine tribe. I give hot tips and sips. Join, join our community over on the website. And finally, so we need to announce a winner of last week’s draw, and that is a $100 gift certificate toward Charles Steven Trenholme’s seminar, Importing Wine for Pleasure and Profit. And this is a wildly popular seminar. That’s a good chunk, if not 1/3 or a half-off of that seminar. It’s an all-day, I think it’s all-day super seminar. Great guest last week. Our winner is, drumroll, I think I have a sound effect. I don’t have it with me. Anyway, I do have an emoji pillow that I forgot to show. Anyway, so congratulations to this week’s winner, is Dave Head. Dave, congratulations! You’re getting a $100 gift certificate.
Next week, let me tell you we’ve got Jane Masters and she is the chair of the Institute for Masters of Wine. That’s different from Master Sommelier. Equally as arduous. She’s also head of the Opimian Society in terms of selecting wines. She’s their chief wine consultant. We’re going to talk about the Opimian Club, Canada’s largest wine buying group that you might be interested in, and also the whole Master of Wine process. She’s very well-spoken, lots of great tips again. It’ll be interesting to compare, Master of Wine, Master Sommelier. Anyway, I got to go and get into our private Facebook group for our course members. I will see you next Sunday. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you spending the time here with me this evening on the Sunday Sipper Club. If you’re watching the replay, please still comment, share, et cetera because I’m checking it all week and I love to see your comments and shares. With that, I will say good night and I will see you inside the private Facebook group. Take care.