Wine Fridges and Wine Schools
I spent part of my Labour Day weekend helping my dear friend Carol buy her first wine fridge. We shopped during Ernesto’s deluge on Saturday afternoon, sloshing from store to store along the tacky Dundas Street strip in Mississauga. At Home Depot, after a 2 km-walk through the store, we found one 36-bottle fridge for $499. Not bad but we needed to see others.
At Future Shop we spotted a good looking 36-bottle unit for $399, then enjoyed watching staff puzzle over the mismatched shelves that had been shipped incorrectly by the manufacturer. At a Hudson Bay remnants outlet store in the Honeydale Mall—Carol has a nose for value—we struck the mother lode: smart looking (if slightly scuffed) Haier fridges at incredible prices. We decided on a 60-bottle unit for a mere $399 (plus a no GST or PST Labour Day special). Her glee was palpable as we stocked it later that day, pulling her scattered upstairs-downstairs collection into a more stately, temperature-controlled home. With due credit to the pioneering merchants of wine storage technologies in Toronto—like The Wine Establishment, Rosehill Cellars and Vintage Keeper—it is a sure sign of Toronto’s booming wine culture to see outlet stores in strip malls selling wine fridges.
And now to wine schools, which I was researching on-line over the weekend for the upcoming Toronto Life Food and Wine CityGuide. The range available is yet another sign of how big this wine business has become. From the glossy programs offered by the LCBO, to the surprising depth to be found at George Brown College, to earnest endeavours at private schools, there are several options. Many are aimed at novices, some require previous training, and others are geared to professionals or insatiable enthusiasts. Nothing makes you wine smarter at any level, however, than continuous comparative tasting, with new palates leading the exercise. This is an endless pursuit. So check out the following Web sites and get going.
www.lcbo.com. The LCBO runs the biggest program with courses in six GTA area stores, at three levels, each containing several classes. It should come as no surprise that these courses are mostly cheaper than what the private sector can afford to offer. They are taught by Vintages product consultants.
www.coned.georgebrown.ca. George Brown College has wine courses inside out and sideways. Levels include introductory, basic, advanced, as well as six regional studies, plus segments on production, sensory evaluation and defects. For professionals, it offers an extensive, almost year-long, one-day-a-week program for accreditation through the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.
www.thecva.ca The Centre for Vine Affairs was founded in 2002 by John Szabo, Toronto’s only accredited Master Sommelier (a degree earned in England). Courses, including a three-week intro, run throughout the year with regional themes, programs on cellaring, organic wine, and tastings with visiting winemakers.
www.billysbestbottles.com The good humour, plus the mood and food orientation of Billy Munnelly’s popular Best Bottles publications, is brought to life in your home, neighbourhood restaurant or office. You assemble the bodies, Billy and partner Kato Wake bring eight wines for an evening of “edu-tainment.”
www.globalwinetour.com A private course under the direction of Wine Access writer and educator Steve Thurlow. A four-week program (starts Oct 12) introduces styles, grapes and regions. Two-part regional courses follow, one in a tasting format, the second with wines enjoyed over dinner. Classes at Fine Wine Reserve storage facility near King and Spadina.