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Break-Through Bottles

Which bottle turned our wine lovers into professionals? Everything from a 1985 Chateauneuf-du-Pape to an Ontario Off-Dry Riesling made the list, but a few sommeliers can recall that eureka moment perfectly.

“It was a cold Winnipeg winter night in early January. I was working in a restaurant as a server and just finished the usual crazy holiday season and a few of us wanted to celebrate. Flush with tip money, we decided to each buy a bottle of something expensive and another cheap bottle, all with the theme of ‘bubbles.’ With our bottles under our arms, we headed back to the apartment and placed the bottles outside to cool off – gotta love Winnipeg winters. We opened up our two “expensive” bottles to taste side by side. It was amazing to taste two good Champagnes and notice the difference. Then my friend went into his room and came up with a bottle of Bollinger 1985 Grand Année. As we opened the bottle something happened to me, maybe I was feeling the effects of the first two bottles, but I could feel something going on. I raised the glass to toast and then got a whiff of what was in the glass. Everything went silent – it was like everything in the world just stopped. I was experiencing something I had never come across in my 19 years on earth and it was pure pleasure. I remember giggling for no reason, I remember feeling alive and I remember wanting to know everything about this liquid that I had just come across. That is were it started! The one sip that changed my life.” Christopher Sprague 

“Masi 2001 Brolo di Campofiorin.  It was when I was in university and hadn't really tried any decent wine, because up until that point it was boxes of Alpenweiss with turkey dinner. My boss at the campus pub started bringing in nicer wines for functions at the president’s house and I got to try that one night. I imagine that’s what having a piece of silk on your tongue feels like, if silk was delicious.” Jonathan Wilson

“The bottle that turned me onto wine was a St. Hallett 2002 Old Block Shiraz. I was 21 years old and working at a small family run liquor store. A group of us decided we were going to see what all the fuss was about and put together a little wine tasting for the staff on a Friday night. At the time I was convinced that people were basically full of crap and that all wines tasted the same. The St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz was the last wine of the night and it literally changed my life. Aromas of ripe berry, chocolate and spice leaped from the glass. It was the first time I was able to discern multiple layers in a wine and it blew my mind. On the palate it was like a roundhouse kick wake-up call, voluptuous and rich while still remaining fresh. The finish seemed endless with waves of flavour that kept coming and coming. Even through the slight haze of inebriation (we hadn’t quite grasped the concept of spitting yet) it was clear that this was a special wine and it was absolutely captivating.” Jesse Willis

“Semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon from Murfatlar. I drank it mixed with Coca-Cola back in those days. I skipped the Coke after a while and also tried drier versions of wine. Since then, everything and everybody has evolved – including me.” Zoltan Szabo


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