Andrew, a stand-up comedian and sommelier spills on his time in the wine business, his favourite spots in Kensington and his honest advice for anyone wanting to get into the world of wine! Come in for a bottle and you’ll get a great dose of edu-tainment along with your perfect pairing for dinner!
VS: You’re a double certified sommelier – what first attracted you to wine?
AA: Probably food…I got into the restaurant game after university. Also became a craft guy (cook that feeds everyone) in the movie business. The more I fell in love with food the more I wanted to understand what to drink with it.
VS: Give us a brief rundown of your years in the wine business.
AA: I got my start in 2005 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After getting a job at a wine store I asked if they would be into having me start the CAPS program. I worked in two private stores in Halifax, first in store and then as a rep selling wine to restaurants. I moved to Calgary in 2011 and landed a job down at Willow Park but when Vine Styles was opening I was attracted to a more personal approach, I’ve been here since the day the shop opened.
VS: You’re always telling us about delicious meals you cook up at home, what is your favourite dish to cook? What wine pairs perfectly with it?
AA: Hard to say, I’m a big fan of many things, I’d say it’s a coin toss between duck breast and rack of lamb. For me Duck and Pinot Noir are the best of friends, whether you go Old World like Burgundy or something from our own backyard from BC you can’t miss. I love lamb because it allows you to pull out the big guns and open a right bank Bordeaux like a St. Émilion. Merlot from that area always has a rosemary-herbaceous quality the really speaks to me.
VS: As a resident of the Kensington-Sunnyside neighbourhood, what are your ‘go-to’ bars and restaurants?
AA: As a guy that spends weeks on the road I rarely eat out. I’m always excited to get home to my place and cook. But that said, Asian cuisine I have not mastered, so Ikemen Ramen bar on 10th is a favorite of mine. I’ll also be found at Oak Tree Tavern just about every Wednesday. The comedy is almost as good as their burgers.
VS: What bottle of wine have you had this year that stands out the most?
AA: Hard to say, years only half way through. But so far the Norman Hardy Pinot Noir was pretty epic… or was it the company?
VS: So, not only are you a double certified sommelier, but you’re also an established stand-up comedian – do the two pair well together?
AA: I feel it’s a natural fit, but that’s because it’s two things I love. I enjoy making wine tasting more fun than the average somm. They can sometimes be a bunch of stuffy, know-it-alls. I like getting away from that and push the envelope a little bit.
VS: Sometimes you’re on the road traveling for weeks at a time, what is your favourite city to perform in?
AA: I’m originally an East Coast boy, so going to Halifax is always a treat. I have many good friends there, but just as a favorite wine it’s hard to say, I have fun with all of them.
VS: If you could perform in any city/venue where would you pick, why?
AA: Montreal in the summer…there’s something going on all summer long. If I had to pick a venue it’d be a JFL (Just for Laughs) Gala, I’ve yet to do a big show there. The opportunities coming out of it could be big.
VS: What do you find most difficult about being on the road for extended periods of time?
AA: I miss my bed a lot but probably my kitchen the most. It’s really hard to eat well out of clubs, condos and hotels.
VS: When you’re not on the road, or working at Vine Styles, how do you enjoy spending your time?
AA: I like to get away to the mountains, fish and camp in the summer and ski in the winter.
VS: How would people describe you in a sentence?
AA: “He takes up a lot of space.”
VS: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
AA: Hugh Heffner 30 years ago, duh. I hear he has a great pool at the mansion.
VS: Which one of our wine styles represents you best and why?
AA: I’d say probably ‘Bold’ but I’d like to be ‘Smooth’. I’m often a lot to handle. I’m not always the most sensitive and very rarely keep any comment bottled in. Just not my style I guess!
VS: Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to someone starting their wine journey, what would it be?
AA: Forget the notion that there is a grape you don’t like. Nothing angers me more than dealing with people that don’t drink ‘x’ or ‘y’ because it tastes like ‘z’. Every grape has many personalities depending where it’s from, I get annoyed when people are grapists. Except for Tannat, nobody likes Tannat (just kidding… kind of!).