As a guy who left the gig of full-time restaurant sommelier almost a decade ago in favour of a writing, consulting, and “whatever else” career in the world of wine, I can appreciate it when others make a similar leap of faith.
Granted, there isn’t the stability and security of a steady paycheque, but even in the lean stretches, I’ve never pined for those days of being buried in administrative duties, weekly inventory, and scheduling a small army of staff who often need the same days off.
What I do miss as a wine pro, regularly, is one-on-one quality time with guests, guiding an experience that includes a wine recommendation and the opportunity to expose someone to something they’ve never tried before—and, ideally, seeing their eyes light up when said recommendation hits the mark.
It’s for this reason that I particularly enjoy gigs like hosting a winemaker’s dinner, presenting a seminar or workshop for the public, or getting feedback on my writing ventures.
My colleague Maude Renaud-Brisson (her first name is pronounced “mode”), originally from Quebec, has lived the past decade in Vancouver, most of which she spent doing sommelier duties at hot spots such as Nightingale and Chambar. A couple of years back, she gave the other side of the fence a whirl, working as an agent for Canadian importer Lifford Wine & Spirits.
During the past little while, however, she has made the leap to freelance-type work, everything from cameo shifts on the floor at l’Abattoir in Gastown to moderating various wine-festival panels to producing and presenting seminars and events. This dipping of toes in various waters can be enjoyable and satiating for wine enthusiasts but also inspiring when looking to create new experiences for fellow enthusiasts. Rather than staying behind the scenes in consulting or operational roles, she’s opting to stay right out there with the people, only now in different capacities.
There are a couple of events coming up fast on Renaud-Brisson’s calendar that are worthy of pencilling in on our calendars, too.
Coming this Monday (August 19), running 5 to 8 p.m., is the monthly edition of her popular “apéro” evenings, which take place at rotating venues, each featuring a cohost chosen from a solid roster of highly regarded local sommeliers. The events are based on the decidedly French tradition of apéro, or apéritif: commonly, an early-evening time when work and chores are cast aside in favour of socializing and casual revelry over snacks and drinks with friends and colleagues.
These local takes on the tradition are quite casual, as is this upcoming edition at Dachi (2297 East Hastings Street), where Renaud-Brisson, along with in-house sommelier Stephen Whiteside, will present a handful of favourite wines of the moment available by the glass, along with light, shareable bites. Folks can drop in anytime (there’s no cover charge or R.S.V.P. required) and are also welcomed to bring their own wine, which can be opened for a ridiculously low corkage fee of $5 (which will be passed along to a local charity).
Having attended a few of these, I can guarantee that more than a few local sommeliers, along with casual imbibers, will be in attendance, and those special bottles guests bring along are often shared among keeners socializing around the room. It’s a cheery, social break from the norm and a fun way to start your week. Follow her @AperoMode Instagram handle for more information and to keep up-to-date on future editions.
A little later in the week, she’ll collaborate with local holistic nutritionist Monica Elena of Holistic Heels for an event running both Wednesday and Thursday (August 21 and 22), dubbed Pairing Wine & Self-Love.
Hey, wine can be tricky when it comes to wellness, running the gamut from claims of health benefits (like lowering both cholesterol and risk of stroke) to negative issues (ranging from needless chemicals being put into our bodies to unhealthy relationships with booze), and beyond. These events aim to cut through the noise, focusing on doing away with the stigma often tethered to alcohol through discussion of mindful drinking habits, along with the sustainability of everything from our bodies to vineyard practices.
Wines from three British Columbian wineries—Bella, Lock + Worth, and Le Vieux Pin, examples of sustainable, mindful farming and winemaking—will be poured to enhance the conversation, and grazing boards of seasonal nibbles will illustrate pairing potential. Tickets are $45 and can be found at the holistic heels website.
Although Renaud-Brisson may not be on the frontlines of wine teams at local restaurants these days, Vancouver seems to benefit from this new niche of dynamic, unique events she’s bringing to thirsty palates.