The idea of a wine tasting for a novice wine drinker often conjures up the image of cold dispositions, upturned noses, pretension, and comments on legs and notes (are we talking about stockings and music sheets here?), not to mention the fear of humiliation at the thought of making an improper judgement or comment on a particular wine. Years ago I would have said that that description is absolutely accurate, having had my share of experiences at wine tastings that left me feeling awkward and out of place. That was until I was introduced to the iYellow Wine Club.
Back then Toronto's hottest wine club was just finding their footing in this competitive industry of food and wine, making a statement at each event with their eye-catching "I♥Ontario Wine" T-shirts. Today founder Angela Aiello has truly made a name for herself in the industry, known for shattering the myth of wine tasting snobbery, and instead creating a welcoming environment that both experienced and amateur wine tasters can feel at home and comfortable in. That welcoming and comfortable environment was surely put to the test last week when I, a confidence-lacking wine drinker and often socially awkward klutz, was invited to the newly launched iYellow Wine Cave to Sip & Shuck with Stoneleigh Wines.
So excited to spend an evening in the Queen West wine cave that I had heard so much buzz about, sipping wine and slurping back my favourite mollusks, I had skimmed through my invite, not noticing that I was indeed given a +1. Let the awkwardness ensue! It was apparent from the moment I entered the graffiti-splashed alleyway door of the cave that I was the only solo wine taster in attendance. Lucky for me, this was not any old wine tasting, it was an iYellow one! Phew! I spent the first few minutes of my arrival walking around the cozy and stylish cave, taking in all of the eclectic little details from the mismatched lighting fixtures, chalkboard walls, vintage bookshelves, and old paintings in antique frames. I was wowed by the attention to detail and care in which the cave was decorated, giving attendees the feeling of walking into your parents basement...that had been taken over by their fixie-riding, craft beer-drinking, plaid-donning grown-up children. It was that laid-back atmosphere that put me at ease, and made me feel comfortable striking up a conversation with friendly-faced strangers...and I'm sure that first glass of Stoneleigh white didn't hurt either.
I had the pleasure of sharing my first glass of wine with the lovely Erin from the blog College Street Closet and her friend Katie from the new blog Torontoholic. We sipped the bright and fresh tasting Stoneleigh white label Sauvignon Blanc while we chatted about our love of oysters and cheese. Although Erin is an East Coast gal, her and Katie had never shucked oysters before, a sin that had to be corrected immediately. We made our way over to the oyster sucking station, that encouraged attendees to slip on a pair of protective gloves and try their hand at shucking oysters themselves. Having shucked many an oyster myself, I took on the role of photographer as Erin and Katie shucked their very first oysters with ease! That called for another glass of wine!
We headed over to the red wine station where Ange just happened to be pouring and sharing her knowledge on the two pinot noirs being featured. The first was Stoneleigh's white label pinot, which Ange told us was a great intro-to-pinot wine with approachable soft and supple tannins and flavours of ripe, dark berry fruit and cherry with lingering fruit sweetness. I enjoyed the white label, but it was the grey label pinot that stood out for me, with a rich and fleshy palate of black doris plum, dark chocolate, and berry fruit.
With liquid confidence surging through my veins, I turned into little miss social butterfly and found another two drinking and oyster-slurping buddies in the sweet and hilarious Sarah from the blog Metamorphocity (which I highly recommend reading!) and her friend and analogue photographer Emma. We shared restaurant horrors and recommendations while laughing and sipping on the black label Sauvignon Blanc, which featured a palate of honeydew melon and grapefruit with nuances of zesty citrus (my kinda white!). It was then that my regret over not bringing a +1 subsided, so pleased to have gotten the opportunity to have met such wonderful, like-minded individuals. This is precisely what makes iYellow wine events so unique. I walked into the event nervous and tense, unsure of whether I would feel comfortable flying solo at a wine tasting, and walked out with a skip in my step, feeling confident and inspired, after having such a wonderful time with complete strangers, who in that short amount of time I had learned so much from. I predict that I will become very familiar with the iYellow Wine Cave, eager to attend many more events and tastings in the future!