A Q&A with John Torrens, TL Insider’s sommelier-in-residence for October
Oakville has been named one of the most livable cities in the world, and John Torrens is determined to turn his hometown into a culinary destination as well. Torrens is the general manager and head sommelier of Hexagon, which has been voted one of Canada’s best restaurants of 2020. He’s been curating wine lists and pairing food with esteemed chef Rafael Covarrubias there for more than two years now. “I’ve always felt Oakville deserved a restaurant of Hexagon’s calibre…and every accolade is a team accomplishment,” he says.
This month, he’ll be sharing all things wine as TL Insider’s sommelier-in-residence for October. We caught up with John to talk a bit more about his work at Hexagon, one of his new favourite wine and food pairings, and the benefit of selecting wine from underserved regions.
How did your work as a sommelier begin?
Working first as a server, I saw the value of recommending wines to guests that paired well with their dishes. It’s an opportunity to bring their dining experience to the next level. After a little research, I immediately wanted to become certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Going through that process and taking the exam was a big step in my career, which of course gave me a confidence boost as well. This led me to take on the official title of head sommelier at Hexagon.
You work closely with chef Rafael Covarrubias—pairing wine with his progressive tasting menu. What’s that process like?
It’s always a collaborative effort, where Chef Rafael and I will focus on matching flavours. We also want to make our wine list cravable, so our guests feel inclined to ask questions about the pairings and learn a bit more about whichever wine they’ve tasted. Creating that dialogue is important to me. I also try to offer wines that they likely haven’t tried before—maybe a new grape from an underserved region.
How many wines are on Hexagon’s wine list?
Currently, our list is just under 100 bottles, with most of our wine coming from French producers, as well as some from California and Ontario. We tend to seek out low-intervention, low-yield, quality wines from winemakers we can build a relationship with.
Are there any unusual pairings you’d recommend?
Some of my favourite types of wines are considered off-dry. It’s a category of wine that contains a bit of sugar to balance the acidity. I’m often really surprised by how well they pair with a variety of foods. The sweet and savoury combinations can be really delicious. I would suggest trying a bottle of Spätlese riesling to pair with your next taco Tuesday.
Have there been any changes in the world of wine since you began working as a sommelier?
The pandemic has definitely changed things. Guests are less likely to spend three hours at a dining and wine-pairing experience right now, which challenges us as sommeliers and servers to find different ways of making those experiences happen.
Congratulations on being named TL Insider’s sommelier-in-residence! What sort of programming can members look forward to this month?
I’m excited to be curating a selection of wines that members can purchase using the TL x Runner storefront. I haven’t finalized the listing yet, but I do like to support local, so I might include some wines from Niagara. I’ve been travelling there a lot this summer. I’ll also be hosting a virtual wine tasting with TL Insiders on October 26, where I plan to share bottles that guests will love and help narrow their focus when visiting the store next.
What advice can you share with members for whom this event will be their first wine tasting?
I feel like guests are often intimidated by wine, and I want to break down those barriers and myths. So come with an open mind and an empty glass.
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