Meet Ben. He’s a junior high school teacher by day, and wine, whiskey and beer lover by night. He has an affinity for trying new things and he could spend his lifetime learning. Read on to see where he’d love to travel to taste whiskey and which Washington winery has completely ‘wowed’ him this year!
VS: You’re a self-proclaimed, “obsessive learner”, what do you mean by this?
BT: If I see a course, a documentary, a book, or a new experience that will teach me about something I have a really hard time saying no. If there is a wine or beer I haven’t tried, if it won’t break the bank, I’m probably taking it home. If a person intrigues me, I will probably ask them questions until I have taken it to the edge of socially acceptable. If you ask me a question I may obsess over whether I have explored all possible angles in answering it… So, thanks for asking!
VS: So you’re not only WSET II certified but you have a handful of other degrees and certifications, which are you most proud of?
BT: My certificate in Commedia dell’ Arte performance from Fantastic Space Enterprises probably taught me as much about the world and myself as any of my other fancy papers. There was a time when I wanted to run off and join the circus (Cirque du Soleil); now I find other ways to perform.
VS: In addition to the list of certifications you already hold, if you could attain any other certification, what would it be?
BT: Underwater welding for artificial reef building has been on my list for a long time, but I’ve already thought about Wilderness Survival, a Pilots Licence, and a PhD in Education today… Sorry, can I choose more than one?
VS: What drew you to the wine industry?
BT: I love mentally cataloguing the sensual experience getting into a new wine, and I love coming back to prized features of familiar wines. There is such rich depth of exploration and understanding that can be applied to any wine experience. Early in my wine drinking life, a wine agent friend had me over for a tasting. We tried 13 wines, including a couple of Sauternes, and some fancy California wines including Insignia from Joseph Phelps. I was very lucky!
VS: You spent some time in Ontario writing wine notes, what did that entail?
BT: Have you ever been to an LCBO and been offered a sample beverage? I wrote notes about wine, beer, cider, mixed beverages, and spirits, so that people doing that kind of promotional work would have lots of stuff to tell you. I also wrote wine reviews for a few blogs and websites.
VS: By day, you’re a junior high school teacher – what do you find most challenging about it?
BT: I love the moment right before a new idea clicks. I find it exciting to see people bravely taking on new challenges. Accepting and encouraging people, no matter where they are in their learning, is a never ending challenging.
VS: When you’re not teaching or working a shift at the shop, what do you enjoy doing?
BT: I like to hike, run, swim, read, eat, and drink good drinks. I like to do mellow stuff with friends and talk about the scandalous parts of our lives.
VS: Where is your favourite place to eat in the city?
BT: I am a sucker for good tequila, so I frequent stops that are near Añejo. Model Milk, Una, Tuk Tuk, La Boulangerie. Oh, and over at Centre Street and the Trans Canada, have you had ramen at Shikiji?
VS: So far this year, could you pick a favourite bottle of wine you’ve enjoyed?
BT: Reds from Gramercy Cellars in Washington have blown my mind!
VS: If you could travel anywhere for your affinity to wine, beer or whiskey, where would you go and why?
BT: I would love to visit one of the Nikka distilleries in Japan, they make some of the best whisky I’ve ever tasted. Plus, once in Japan I could better familiarize myself with Sake!
VS: You’re an advocate of ‘trying everything’, what’s the most memorable “new thing” you’ve done this year?
BT: I had never done yoga before this year. I have been into sports all my life, but wasn’t sure I could get into stretching and breathing for 90 minutes. I got one of those newby passes, and ended up going 20 times in the first month.
VS: Which one of our wine (or beer) styles do you identify with most, and why?
BT: I think I’m a ‘Mellow’… Viognier… Like Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, Approaching the elegance of Audrey Hepburn with a chuckle, then finding the allure of the unashamed experience fully captivating.