The TOQUE team knows its craft beer – not so much its wine. What to do? We gathered three of our region’s wine personalities and asked them all about the stuff. Listen in. 

Wes Klassen, Owner of Purple Teeth Consulting & Thirsty Wine Club

Wes Klassen is a wine sommelier, wine consultant, and crazy cat. He’s also the proprietor of Purple Teeth Consulting and Thirsty Wine Club. When we asked Wes what he thinks when he thinks about wine, here’s what he said:

What’s up with Purple Teeth Consulting?
Purple Teeth is all about making wine education accessible for everyone. It’s about getting rid of the perceived pretension of wine culture. Wine shouldn’t be something that frightens folks – it should be something that excites them. That’s what Purple teeth does.

And Thirsty Wine Club – what’s that?
It’s a monthly showcase of all the good things the wine world is offering – delivered to your door. And it’s highly customizable; members’ wines, for example, can be paired with menu items from local take-outs, grocers, cheesemongers, butchers. Really, when you join the club the world becomes your oyster.

Do you recall the first great bottle you tasted?
I definitely tried a lot of great bottles in the three years I spent as a Sommelier at Langdon Hall. Guests would regularly bring wine in from their private cellars. A 1924 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild shook me up. Just tasting a wine from such an esteemed producer blew my mind.

And what’s the best bottle you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking?
A recent great bottle was a 2014 Coteaux Du Giennois from Hervé Villemade – a Gamay/Pinot blend from Loire, France. It was pure pleasure with so much fruit, spice, and fresh herbed notes. The acidity slaps.

What’s your dream bottle? And with whom would you drink it? 
It’s gotta be a bottle of Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Rhône Red from 1982 – my birth year. I love Syrah and what it does when it matures. I would force my best bud to cook something and I’d drink it with him, his wife, and my wife. 

And advice for those looking to get into wine?
Have fun with it. Wine can be so serious. Do I swirl? Doesn’t matter. What words to describe this wine? Whatever. Just be yourself. Drink what you like. We’ve got all our lives to keep discovering new flavours, so go explore. If you’re wondering where to start, begin with something like a wine club. Like Thirsty Wine Club. Shameless plug. 

What’s an affordable bottle that checks all the marks?
Tough question. Wine is very subjective. Having said this, Spanish and Portuguese wines are fantastic – and really overdeliver for the price point. 

And the best pairing? 

Unless I’m pairing for dinner or writing suggested food partners for wine club, I keep it pretty basic. Cheese is always good. Like wine, it’s a living organism that’s got history and variety on its side. Also, ‘what grows together goes together’ usually works. Like a Chenin Blanc from Vouvray paired with a veg ash-covered Loire goat cheese Valençay. Or some tasty Mencia, a Northwestern Spanish grape with notes of dried plums, herbs, and coffee, paired with cured meats and herb-encrusted sheep’s milk cheeses.

Meg Alford, Bar Owner at Two Faces      

Meg Alford is the proprietor of Two Faces – a cozy wine bar in downtown Guelph that’s got a terrific selection of biodynamic and organic wines, craft beers, and nibblies too. A few weeks back we asked Meg about her bar and about wine in general. Here’s what she told us:

How would you describe Two Faces?

Back to basics. A classic family run wine bar. And a nice place to drink.

Who are the bar’s typical clients?

Honestly everyone. On an average night I can look around and see people of so many different ages. Some are really into wine and some just like the atmosphere. There’s also a crowd who only drink Miller High Life. 

When did you get into wine?

I started tasting and serving wine when I worked in a hotel in Toronto serving film industry people. Trying to not shake while opening a bottle for some pretty well-known people was good training. It wasn’t until opening Two Faces, though, that my love and knowledge for wine really grew. [Former Two Faces partner] Drea and I started tasting all the time while traveling together. It’s been a fun journey. 

And what about wine makes you happy?

It connects me with so many different people – I would say that’s by far the best part. 

Can you suggest some good, affordable wines?

I would look to Ontario. There are a few places making great natural wine. Rosewood is great. Southbrook and Pearl Morissette, too. At the bar, we also have a really affordable Prosecco and Côtes du Rhône that are classics. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into wine?

Start tasting. It’s the only way to actually learn. Reading is great but unless you try something it won’t stick. Travelling is great too – when we’re able to again. 

What’s the best bottle you’ve had the pleasure of drinking?

It was when I was travelling in Sicily with Drea and my husband. We drove to Mt Etna and were invited to a small estate. Along the way, we spotted many tiny plots along the mountain – some with soil so black it looked charred and others just minutes away with soil that was bright orange. It was wild. Afterwards, we visited the winery – a dark stone cave-like cellar with bottles lining the cold walls. There were two Kvevri [buried clay vessels used for fermentation and aging]. We tried a wine made from this method. It was the Vino di Anna CR and it was so special. When he tried it, my husband started to cry and I’ve only seen him cry at the birth of my sons. We’ll be getting this wine very soon at the bar.

And your dream bottle? And who would you drink it with?

A bottle of Champagne with Drea any day.

When do you choose red or white?

Honestly, I love them both equally and switch back and forth day to day. Weather doesn’t influence my choice. I think there are great white wines to enjoy in the winter and chilled reds that are great for summer. And rosé all the time. 

And your favourite pairing?

In true Two Faces’ fashion – Prosecco and Truffle chips. 

David Lobe, Partner at Meanwhile Wine


David Lobe, DipWSET, is a Partner at Meanwhile Wine and all-round renaissance man. A few weeks ago, we managed to catch up with David (and his classic 1962 MGB) to talk wine. As you’ll see, he was a font of knowledge:

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Meanwhile Wine is a full-service wine concierge and consulting business that helps clients get the wines they want. We do cellar curation, management and construction for both private and restaurant clients. We also offer private catering as Kyle Paton, Meanwhile partner, is a seasoned chef who has opened multiple restaurants. A great place to start with Meanwhile is to subscribe to our monthly wine club. We offer a variety of price points so no matter your budget, we can help. We connect with you, see what you like, and take it from there.

Who would you say are your typical clients?
Our client base ranges from people just getting into wine to folks with large cellars seeking the finest Grand Cru Burgundy and First Growth Bordeaux. The key for us is getting to know our clients so we can help them find wines that elicit passion and excitement. 

Why is wine so special?

Wine is bottled time and place. Being able to transport yourself to another time, and another part of the world, is pure magic. And wine’s a great investment too. Many wines are made in very small quantities and appreciate over time. If you’re into buying gold, silver, or bitcoin, you might consider investing in wine too.

How did you get into wine? 

A couple decades ago I was in the wedding party of a close friend. Her dad was (and remains) a serious collector who opened my eyes to the wonders of fine wine. After he treated me to a 1977 Warre’s port (first wine that shook me to my core), a 1975 Chateau Latour, and a 1970 Chateau Chateau Palmer, I was hooked. 

What’s an affordable bottle that checks all the marks?
Different regions have different base level values. A cheap champagne is around fifty dollars, for instance, whereas a cheap cava is around ten bucks. Having said this, for me value and affordability is always found in the Loire Valley. I would recommend a bottle of Domaine de L’Ecu ‘Orthogneiss’. For between thirty and forty dollars, you get a wine that – if it were from Burgundy – would cost hundreds.  

Any advice for those just getting into wine?
Don’t be intimidated. Ask questions and listen. It’s okay to like what you like. Allow sommeliers and wine professionals to help you. And read as much as you can.

What are some of the best wines you’ve tasted?
A 1978 Domaine de la Romanee Conti ‘Romanee-Conti’ Grand Cru; 1961 Château Latour; 1920 Château Gruaud Larose; and 1985 Château Rayas.

And your dream bottle? And who would you drink it with? 

A 1971 Cantina Mascarello Barolo – enjoyed with Bartolo Mascarello (who’s sadly no longer with us), my wife Leanne, and my son Josh.

And your favourite pairing?
A Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc with Loire Valley goat cheese. Perfection.