Craft Beers and Brews

Dave Gunning and the Wonders of a Good Drinking Song

April 14, 2019
Dave Gunning Up Against the Sky Album Cover

It sometimes seems like another lifetime ago, but I spent several years working in the music industry as a publicist for a number of wonderful musicians and entertainers. Without question, my favourite client of all time has to be Nova Scotia’s Dave Gunning. Not only is he a fantastically talented singer-songwriter, he’s also one hell of a nice guy.

Dave and I spent quite a bit of time driving around the Maritimes during our years working together, and not once was he anything other than a fantastic road trip partner.

It has been many years since we last worked together, but Dave continues to produce fantastic music and to tour around the world, sharing his Maritime-soaked folk music and hilarious and heartwarming stories.

Having heard a few of his drinking songs over the years and several drinking stories, I was delighted to ask him to share a bit of that on the blog to celebrate the release of his latest album, Up Against the Sky.

Drinking songs have a long history in folk music, do you have a favourite to listen to? A favourite to perform?

Certainly they do. I have written a few celebratory songs about the topic myself including a new one called “Celebrate The Crop”. And it’s fun to sing it. Although it’s not just about drinking and really about celebrating harvest season, a few shots did make their way into the song. And my brother in law was trying to encourage me to release it on “legalization day” in Canada but it wasn’t ready on time for that.

Your fans love to sing along to “Daddy’s Beer” – what inspired a holiday song about daddy having a little too much to drink on Christmas Eve?

Well this one would be based on a true story. My dad and my uncles always liked to have a few beers on Christmas Eve and this idea hit me one night after dad told me I should be writing more uptempo, happy songs. I said, “Ok, I’ll write a happy and uptempo one about you!”  He loves this song. And if truth be told he was always a champ on Christmas morning regardless of how he may have felt from the celebratory intake.

Do you have a favourite post-show beverage?

Sometimes I’ll have a beer or a little shot of whiskey. Although I don’t drink every night I play because I play over 160 shows per year. But a little something in moderation never hurt a fella, I guess.

Your music is very tied to Canadiana and beer is a huge part of Canadian culture – do you have a favourite? 

My favourite beer profile could maybe be described as an American Style Pale Ale that’s a little bit hoppy or maybe slightly citrusy. I actually made a beer called ‘Sunburst’ with Uncle Leo’s Brewery in Nova Scotia and it’s been a popular one for them. I love it. In fact they just won a gold medal in Atlantic Canada for four of their beers including ‘Sunburst’.

You’ve often joked that touring with Stompin’ Tom Connors involved a strong liver – what was your favourite part of that experience (beyond the beer)?

My favourite part of the tour was hanging out with Tom and really getting to know him. It was on the contract that at least one of us had to stay up with him until 5 a.m. every night. I stayed up almost every night and really formed a close bond with him. I feel that it has lasted to this day even tough we lost him a few years ago. He was a good friend and my hero in many ways and I miss him.

And, because it’s a wine blog, do you have a go-to wine?

I had one the other day that I really loved and I believe it was Pinot Noir called Meiomi. It’s definitely one that I’ll be picking up again.

Thanks to Dave for sharing his thoughts on the blog! You can find out more about him and all the ways to listen to his music and see him on tour (things I highly recommend you do) at

Industry Interviews

Angela Aiello – iYellow Wine Club Founder and Wine Professional

March 25, 2019
Angela Aiello

Angela Aiello was one of the first people to support my wine writing passion. When others looked at this newbie, who was far from a sommelier and learning about wine through trial and oh-so-much error, there wasn’t a ton of support. Angela, though, welcomed me with open arms, and I spent many a night in the iYellow Wine Cave tasting, talking and learning. She introduced me to winemakers, invited me to lunch with the Mandela family and generally invested her time and energy into making me feel like an accepted part of the Canadian wine writing family. I hope all young wine writers find someone like her to champion them as they start out in their careers.

Now embarking on her own career change, I wanted to share some of the exciting things Angela has on the horizon now that the Wine Cave has closed and her wine life has taken her in new and exciting directions.

There have been lots of changes to iYellow in the last year – can you catch us up and tell us about the exciting changes in your life?

Wow, what a year it has been! In the last year, I spent a month in South Africa learning how to make wine, merged with a media company to help elevate my career and spent two weeks in New Zealand learning all about the various regions of New Zealand. It’s been a pretty crazy year. After 12 years of forming iYellow Wine Club and 5 years of hosting classes and events in the Wine Cave, we had to close the Wine Cave. It was such a sad time because many of us put so much time and effort into the space. Rent became so expensive in Toronto and the costs of running a business can be quite high. So I decided to pivot what we are doing and am currently re-developing a strategy to stay fresh, and keep things exciting. I think that by the spring we will have a new set of ideas into how to bring our community to life. So stay tuned!

Angela AielloWine travel is still a big part of what you do – what are some of your favourite recent trips?

My most favourite recent trip was to New Zealand this past February where I was able to taste close to 1,000 wines and visited the regions of Hawke’s Bay, Gisbourne, Malborough, Martinborough, Central Otago. New Zealand is a magical and wonderous country that makes really amazing wines.

What inspires you to continue to work in wine?

You know, that is a great question. I know that wine is really the most wonderful industry of all! And all of us that work in it work really hard, but we put in our passion and creativity into all that we do. I really don’t know if there is anything else I could see myself doing! To be inspired I often travel to wide open spaces and find a way to get close to nature so I can live in the big city. When so much of your brand, is you as a person, you need to find the time to get away and re-balance to be the best at your job and for the people around you.

Angela AielloYou have been a big proponent for women supporting women in wine and in business – why is this important to you?

Honestly, I could go into a little feminist rant here, but it’s not about that at all. It’s about people supporting people and women need to support each other more in general. I mean, the wine world needs more alternative voices and stories and it truly needs to be democratized. By that I mean wine needs to be made and marketed to the people who are drinking it and more of the industry needs to listen to people who are living and breathing wine culture every day. I also think that more women just need to support more women especially in an industry that is male dominant. I think overall the working world needs to change its cultural norm. 9-5 is practically dead. We all work from home, from our phones and check emails late at night. In many industries what we work on involves much more of our life than a clock-in clock-out type of environment and management styles. I think more organizational and management philosophy needs to change around work culture, building flexible work environments and actually understanding what people’s talents are and fostering them, rather than trying to fit people into a square job spec.

People always ask me what my “go-to” wine is, and I’m sure they ask you too! What do you tell them? 

My answer to this question is simple. It is always Riesling. I have it tattooed on my arm and it’s always the same. Personally, I find the best bottles of Riesling can be found in either Ontario or Germany and the best thing is they don’t cost a lot to be tasty.

What are you most excited about for 2019 and beyond?

At the moment I feel like I am carving a new path for myself and that is what is truly exciting. Mostly I’m looking forward to the next phase of my book, I’ve almost finished writing it, but am in the process of trying to find a publisher and make my next move.

A huge thanks to Angela for sharing her story. You can find out more about her and her ongoing work in wine at

You can also find her on all the social media outlets as @superwinegirl, where she’s “Saving the world, one glass at a time.”

Industry Interviews

Adam Waxman – DINE and Destinations

March 6, 2019
Adam Waxman

Several years ago, I was seated next to Adam Waxman at a dinner for food writers and bloggers. We had a lovely chat and I was charmed by the affable and intelligent Waxman, who shared some of his recent travel adventures. The son of Canadian icons Al and Sara Waxman, Adam has joined his mother in the family business – becoming a successful food and travel writer in his role as Associate Publisher and Executive Editor at DINE and Destinations Magazine.

Dine and Destinations MagazineIf you are not familiar with DINE, you should be. It’s an oversize, glossy magazine full of terrific wine, food and travel suggestions. Sara Waxman, a legendary food and travel writer, is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief and she and Adam oversee a talented roster of writers and photographers. I look forward to their yearly launch party, which always features the kind of exceptional wine, cocktails and food that the magazine celebrates. Creating a luxury print publication in the days of online everything is a bold decision and I was excited to talk to Adam about his work, his travel and his dedication to DINE.

Wine and food is your family business – what inspired you to follow in your mom’s footsteps and become a food writer?

I’m blessed to have had two incredible role models as parents. I not only love them, but also always knew they were both really cool people. I would have followed either one of them no matter what they did. I grew up with an appreciation of food and culture from my mother, and had been freelance writing about food and travel for years. My first published story was about being attacked in a taxicab in Ho Chi Min City. Food and wine seemed to be a safer bet. When my mother started DINE, she was running it by herself. I was an out of work actor. I missed my Dad, and the opportunity to help out and work along side my Mom was a wonderful gift. I jumped at it, and strove to earn it. We trust each other.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from running DINE and Destinations?

Gratitude. Everyone is trying. Everywhere I go I meet people who work so hard. Some are able to translate their passion and their talent into a life. It’s deeply humbling. The opportunities that I’ve had to experience that, and to share that, have kept me afloat. I’m grateful.

You have had the opportunity to travel around the world in your role – what was your most memorable wine-related experience?

It was a January in Salta, Argentina. Every star was out that night, every constellation. Brilliant, sparkling stardust swept across the sky to infinity. The air was crisp and I was naked. In one hand I held a flute of sparkling Torrontes. It had the most elegant tropical bouquet—like Fruit Loops, but probably more sophisticated. In the other hand an empanada. My host prepared a jacuzzi bath of Cabernet Sauvignon, and I sunk into that like a Roman emperor.

Do you have a go-to wine or spirit that you recommend to others?

A few years ago I discovered Marquis de Riscal, from Spain. Its plum-y richness is something I could curl up with on the couch. Later my mother shared with me that it was my Dad’s favourite wine. When I taste it now I imagine how much he would have enjoyed it.

What do you look for in a wine or food experience to share with DINE readers? What sets something apart?

A personal connection. The passion and imagination that goes into it, and the sensations evoked from it that you just can’t post to Instagram.

DINE continues to be a big, beautiful glossy publication in an age where everything seems to be digital – what inspires you to do that?

My Mom started DINE. Like her it has to be qualified and fabulous. That’s what our readership expects and that’s how we like it. In addition to that, the excitement I had as a boy, daydreaming to a Bowie record or getting lost in a Kerouac novel—that’s something I want to share with my son, and maintain for as long as we can. Online all those tactile, visceral experiences, their meanings, are digitally re-contextualized; engagement becomes passive and uncritical. In print we can also celebrate language, which, online, seems to be governed by SEO.

Where can people find DINE and Destinations?

Currently the magazine is available in Air Canada lounges, as well as Air France, KLM, Air Transat, VIA, major hotel suites across Toronto, Ontario Travel Information Centres at the borders with Quebec, New York and Michigan, newspaper home delivery to select postal codes, and in our archive section on our website,

A huge thanks to Adam for taking the time to talk to me for this article. I hope you’ll check out DINE and catch up on some of his other wine-infused adventures.

Winemaker Profiles

Quai du Vin Winery’s Jamie Quai – Winemaker Profile

January 27, 2019
Quai Du Vin Winemaker Jamie Quai

As part of my ongoing winemaker interview series, I’m excited to share an update from Jamie Quai, winemaker from Quai du Vin Estate Winery in St. Thomas, Ontario. I interviewed Jamie for the blog in 2015 and since then he’s been crowned the 2016 Grape King by the Grape Growers of Ontario and continued to produce high-quality wine in an emerging region.

Wine making in Ontario is always challenging – what did you find most interesting about this year’s growing season?

The 2018 season, more so than I can remember in recent history, was a real toss-up on potential quality. It really came down to luck. We had a rougher winter, cool spring, and rain at fruit set. All the makings of an underwhelming vintage. But then summer came on! It was hotter and drier than the last three years and the quality of the fruit hanging was going into veraison beautifully. Less disease pressure than I can recall. Then the rains started in autumn and it became a challenge to bring in the cleanest fruit in the narrow windows between downpours. Some wines in the cellar are as good or better than previous years. Some are not as good. Perhaps the word that best describes this vintage was “suspenseful.”

Quai Du Vin Winemaker Jamie Quai

Photos provided by the winery.

You have always been labeled as being part of an “emerging” wine region, but as wine tourism around Ontario grows, are you discovering any differences in terms of how many people are visiting and what they are saying about the region?

Is wine tourism growing? I think experiential tourism is growing. And that’s fantastic. People are visiting a winery like ours as part of a getaway weekend, etc. Elgin County has done an incredible job showcasing all of the amazing food, beverage, arts and culture activities that we have to offer. Ten years ago people didn’t rave about their experience the way they do now.

There may be more people visiting, they aren’t necessarily buying more, but they are buying smarter. It has been interesting to watch that evolution. People won’t necessarily buy the wine because they like it. They will buy more if they can imagine the wine as part of their lifestyle. It definitely means that as a producer that simply making good wine is not enough. People need to connect what you make to who they are. The experiential tourists still think of Elgin County as underrated, and we all like to feel that we discovered something special.

Regions like Prince Edward County are seeing issues with volume – some have had to close their doors because they are simply running out of product. Is that something that concerns you as the region becomes more popular?

Not at all – ha ha! We’ve been around for three decades. One of the little bits of wisdom that new producers can be told, but generally don’t fully grasp, is that you always have to over produce. Here’s what I mean: lets say you want to make 1,000 cases of wine a year, well in Ontario the climate, vineyards, terroir, whatever, are going to give you five years out of 10 that are below average (math!), so you have to make up the difference in the remaining five years.

In good years you have to produce 30-40% more. 1,300-1,400 cases is the new target. Then there is cellaring time, premium wines generally need long aging times before release. So you may be harvesting vintage three while vintage one is just about to hit the shelves. If vintage one is a huge success, you can’t factor that into your growth plan until year seven (year four you realize, year five you plant, year seven you get grapes, year 10 those wines are available). So now you have the better part of a decade you are buying outside fruit or wine to maintain the momentum. And bringing in “extra” is addictively easy. To make a successful 1,000 case wine you have to produce almost 1,600 cases as a target.

I have always tried to produce in excess of my in store sales. In excess years, you push liquor store, grocery sales. In lean years, you throttle that back. We do the same thing with bulk wine we sell to other wineries. I may sell as much as 20% of my production to other wineries to bottle. But I have built in that potential.

I’m already thinking about new onsite plantings to grow some of our wines, in anticipation of demand in the middle of the next decade.

How important is it to you to use grapes exclusively grown in your region? Why or why not?

This is the most critical issue we face right now. A newer region, when it forms, puts a lot of energy in to creating awareness. Once the word starts to get out, the players in the business have a very narrow window define themselves in the eyes of their consumers.

We were the only winery in our area for a very long time. Wisdom says that when a new player comes into the scene, there will be growing pains and they will have to lean on brought in fruit (we did). But if you’re the winery that is regularly dependent on growers from outside of your region when the excitement of being the new winery fades, then you’re just a farm team for a more successful region.

When the new players started to evolve in our area we doubled down on our commitment to buy almost nothing from outside of our farm, let alone outside of our region. That strategy has paid off. We can now define ourselves as producers who grow almost exclusively all of their own fruit. That’s huge to wine lovers!

You have one of the best winery tours in the region (perhaps anywhere) and I believe that is because you are not only a winemaker, but also an instructor in wine making – what is important to you about making the tour experience so informative?

Thanks! An important part of the tour experience for me is to connect with our guests. Tour times are an unfiltered window in the minds, tastes, and experiences of someone who like wine. I have become a business owner who gets two-three 90-minute focus groups a week in feedback! Tours always start the same way – I tell the guests that any questions about anything wine (even if its not about us) are fair game. I give thoughtful answers and if I cant answer hopefully I can give direction. People want to learn, and when they realize its not a show, and they have my undivided attention, the tours really come alive. Sometimes we talk about the business, sometimes we talk government, sometimes we talk chemistry and sometimes we just talk food and wine.

It is also important on tours that guests understand I’m trying to walk a fine line. I don’t want to talk down or be a snob about wine, while at the same time trying desperately to not dumb wine down – “I’m not trying to turn wine into soda pop”. I don’t want to demystify it, but to share the passion and inspire guests to explore.

Are there any misconceptions people have about the wines in your region that you would like to clear up?

I’m not 100% sure, but that’s a great question. I’m going to flip the question a little and talk about some of the misconceptions we may have as an emerging region and where we are in our evolution. I feel like one of the biggest misconceptions about our area is that we have a solid grasp on what our area is. So relatively little of what is produced here has been 100% from this region, that we really don’t have that firm experience with who we are. We are still in the early stages of discovering ourselves. This is a collection of eager and passionate producers trying to grapple with a huge set of unknowns. Those questions take time to answer. I’m 36 and working with some vineyards planted in my teens, which I’m still not convinced have hit their pinnacle of quality.

I’ve been fortunate enough to try a lot of wines from our area and there is potential for greatness. But greatness is an aspirational goal. The wines I’m drinking from our region are enjoyable, well made, approachable, and delicious. Greatness comes with experience, wisdom, and time. The vines will mature, the track record will grow, and from all of that hard work greatness may appear.

The biggest misconception may be that we are not an emerging region, but are firmly established. If the leaps and bounds in quality I’ve experienced so far are any indication – I hope we are emerging for decades to come!

A huge thanks to Jamie for sharing his thoughts for this post. You can learn more about Quai Du Vin Winery on their website. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.