[ Douro Valley – Portugal ]
[ Story: ]
Not Just any Port in a Storm
My first job related to wine was as a wine steward at the Vineyard on Hayden Street in Toronto in 1977. This subterranean haunt was one of the earliest wine bars in Toronto – preceded only by Vines on Front Street.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this job, was the availability of delicious wines to taste. Along with a dog-eared copy of Hugh Johnson’s Wine Atlas of the World which lived on the counter behind the bar, on-the-job learning was an unescapable reality.
My first real love (wine-wise) was a Mosel from the State Winery in Trier, the 1971 Staatliche WeinbaudomäneAvelsbacher Hammerstein Riesling Kabinett. This wine made such an impression on me, I can still conjure up fond memories of the flavours some 46 years later! And, in fact, it was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Mosel Valley wines.
Customers at the Vineyard often enjoyed great wines of various origins, styles and prices. Many wines were offered by the glass and many more by the bottle, only. Included in the comprehensive offerings were both table wines and fortified wines – few, if any though, (even with friends) would consume entire bottles of fortified wines – like Port – at one sitting.
So, we offered a service to our regular Port customers. The bottle would be opened, properly decanted, and served. What remained after a meal would be marked with the customer’s name and kept for their return on another day or evening.
This was extremely popular amongst the handful of regular customers who loved to finish their meals with a glass of their favourite Port and, of course from our part, it assured their return on many occasions.
Another great benefit of this “service” was we were often blessed (by generous customers) with a small glass to taste. Thus began my second (chronologically speaking only) wine love – PORT! This magical elixir has also remained one of my very favourite wine styles, since.
In fact, when I moved to my next job in a wine related business, managing the new wine bar at Shakespeare’s restaurant at King & Simcoe streets in Toronto, I began to express this interest in a more tangible way.
Marit, my wife, was working at Grafton Fraser in their building located just off the bottom of the Don Valley Parkway (at the bottom of Broadview). We had one car so we would drive to Grafton Fraser in the morning – I would leave her there with the car and walk across the bottom of Toronto to my later starting job at King & Simcoe. As it happened, the original Rare Wines & Spirits Store on Market Street (under what is now the LCBO store on Front Street) would open at just about the time I arrived there.
I had a budget of $10.00 per stop to spend on “anything I liked” so I began building our very first wine cellar with 1970 Taylor’s Vintage Port. Each bottle would leave me with a couple of bucks in my pocket (my memory is that it was about $8.00/bottle). Periodically, I would choose a bottle of 1970 Chateau l’Angelus(same price) just to add some variety. In the end, we added 12 bottles of each to our budding cellar – in retrospect, pretty good investments.
My first overseas souvenir was purchased in Paris, near Place de la Madeleine and was a perfect bistro style glass decanter (for the Port, obviously) and it remains my favourite to this day.
In 1984, my Mother and Father met our dear friend Christopher Cannan in Bordeaux. We began a lifelong friendship with him and business relationship with his company Europvin which continues. Europvin was (and is) a broker for some of the greatest wines of Europe. Their list of suppliers has evolved over the years but early-on we noted the presence of Churchill’s Port on his list.
At that time, Churchill’s was the exciting new Port House, founded by Port legend Johnny Graham (of the Graham’s Port Family) and was destined, we all knew, for real greatness. Regrettably, though working with Europvin in a number ofmarkets around the world, Churchill’s already had a direct agent in Ontario, making it impossible for us to work with these remarkable wines, here.
Over the decades, we have watched closely and waited patiently to see if this situation would change in our favour. As my Mother was wont to say, “all good things come to those whowait” – I should have listened to my Mother more often. It has been something of a dream of mine to work with Churchill’s and this has finally become a reality. We have had great meetings with the Churchill Family over the past months and have nowformed a strong relationship to represent their wines in the Ontario market.
Today, Churchill’s produces a stellar lineup of great Ports (White Port, LBV, Crusted, various ages of Tawny, Single Quintas and Vintages) as well as outstanding Douro Table Wines. Keep your eyes posted on our regular newsletters for releases, as they arrive in Ontario