"For love of everything that is wine"


~A very brief essay on wine and disgrace in Toronto~

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     To be certain, it has been far too long since I composed anything in the way of meaningful insights, not only on matters pertaining to wine but on life in general. Granted, I have been away exploring the winegrowing regions of Australia for the past month, only to return to Canadian soil a short time ago. But it is never a good idea to refrain from writing too long. Not only does it promote idleness of one’s intellectual prowess, it prevents others from gaining wisdom from one’s own deeply personal insights.

     I returned from Australia several weeks ago, having toured The Land Down Under (as it is lovingly called) for about four weeks. Aside from a falling-out with several members of my irrepressible and unmistakably difficult family (as well as spending far more money than I’d initially intended), it was a glorious trip for such a keen admirer of wine as myself. At most places where I visited, not only were people polite and welcoming, they were enthusiastic pourers of their items (the majority of which of truly delicious). In other words, when I asked for a sample of this or that, I actually got something that I could competently examine and take down information about. A far cry from a recent tasting I attended back here in downtown Toronto.

     On Monday, April 28, the California Wine Fair took place at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. As usual, the ‘trade tasting’ occurred in the afternoon, the ‘consumer tasting’ in the evening. For all persons who are unaware of this, unlike the ‘consumer tastings,’ which cost quite a lot of money to attend, ‘trade tastings’ are, at least usually, free. They are offered to people in the so-called ‘hospitality industry,’ a term which I have never fully understood; for not only were most people in attendance (the presenters of wineries included) wholly inhospitable, most were phony-spoken and loud-mouthed. During my time in Australia, where most people are genuinely warm, I suppose I must have forgotten how superficial Toronto actually is. Thus, I was unprepared for the rudeness I was set to endure at one of Toronto’s most popular wine tastings of the year.

     Indeed, no matter how hard I try to escape it, Toronto, as a whole, tends to bring out the worst in me. I shall use, as an example, an incident that occurred at the California Wine Fair that I doubt I shall ever forget. In fact, it happened right when I entered the tasting room, a beautiful hall on the third floor at one of Toronto’s must acclaimed hotels. I wanted to sample the latest vintage of the famed ‘Rubicon’ label, which is made by the winery owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

     The pourer behind the table was more than happy to oblige, but when I asked for a greater portion than the one she had allotted to me, she turned around to her boss (for permission), who replied to the effect of “absolutely not.” On questioning why I was being limited to such a miniscule amount, he replied by saying, “This is a wine tasting.” An offensive answer to say the least, I countered by saying “I am a writer,” in hopes of pointing out to him that I had no desire for a greater portion simply to get drunk, but to make an adequate note for my own personal records. To this, the boss replied by saying “too bad.”

     To put it mildly, I became furious at this point. As I mentioned previously, I’d been Australia for the past several months, and had, I suppose, lost some of my immunity to Torontonian rudeness and, in this case, cheapness. Admittedly, I did want to try to the most expensive wine on offer, but am I not entitled to a decent-sized portion? Thus, before I knew it, I was calling the man a son-of-a-bitch and vowing never to purchase any wine he sold. He responded by saying, “Sir, that is absolutely fine with me.” I then left the table in search of other wines, utterly distraught at what had just occurred and feeling as though I had just abandoned, in just one sentence, one of the most important principles a civilized person is supposed to practice: responding to other persons’ bad behaviors with ‘polite wit’ (as I like to call it) rather than overt anger.

     As I later learned, the man with whom I’d nearly locked horns was none other than Steven Campbell, owner of the prestigious Lifford Wine Agency. More perplexing still, I had probably met this man on more than one occasion in times past, seeing as how I have attended almost half-a-dozen Lifford-sponsored wine tastings in the past several years. And yet, I don’t ever recall these meetings as ever being displeasing. How odd!

     In any event, though several days have passed since this incident occurred, I cannot help but to dwell upon it. Is it wrong to ask for a greater sample of wine at a wine tasting? One should think not, but I am less concerned with that as I am with the level of vehemence that I used to respond to such an inconsequential matter as a too-small tasting sample. It seems clear to me that I must rebuild my tolerance of other Torontonians’ shortcomings (countless though they are) to the level that I had obtained prior to my trip to Australia. Otherwise, I will continue to be a part of other citizens’ disgracefulness.



Email me at julianhitner@hitnerwine.com


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