I have no clue…I would love to say horses because they are so elegant and powerful, but I am not that elegant (laughing).
The wine that lit the fire:
I never had that one ‘aha’ moment. Wine was always part of our lives growing up. I had the benefit of having a German mother so, in a way, I was brought up half European and half North American. Wine was never taboo in our house.
The fact I don’t have any typical days. I do so many different things from running my wine bar to writing, being on radio and hosting events. It’s this very diversity of my work that gets me up in the morning.
The thing that led you to wine as a career?
I probably fell in love with industry at first restaurant job, when I was 16…. but I didn’t know it at the time. I’ve always considered myself a great generalist. I am very curious to learn more. I did a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages and Literature and MBA in International Trade. Through it all I kept working in restaurants. I ended up spending time (7 years, in fact) in Alsace, including 3 years at a winery. What I came to realize over time was that wine fulfilled my need for curiosity as it’s a subject that involves constant learning and is so multifaceted as there is economics, agronomy, history and more….
Veroniquerivest.ca and Soif Bar à vin
Favourite Part of Your Job:
Giving great customer service…it’s my strength and something I encourage new chefs and sommeliers to focus on it.
Current wine crush:
Right now, it is José Vouillamoz (co-author of Wine Grapes with Jancis Robinson). I am an ampelography nut. To give you a story, I first fell in love with the wines of Greece when I was competing there at my first ASI Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World in 2007. I was stunned by the varietal richness of the Greek wine industry. When I came back to Greece in 2008 I discovered Robola from Cephalonia. I immediately went on Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages to question if this was the same varietal as Ribolla Gialla from Italy. Almost immediately José posted the response “no and I have the proof in my basement.” OMG…I love this guy.
Favourite wine resource:
You know for years I carried around my wine book suitcase while traveling. Inside there was the Oxford Companion, The Wine Atlas and Wine Grapes.
Dream dinner date:
I don’t have just one…my favourite part of this industry is all the great people I meet. Every time I travel to a wine region, I meet my fabulous people, and that’s not just winemakers. It’s the owners, the staff and the customers.
Have you ever experienced gender bias or discrimination in your work?
I’ve been very lucky to work in very nurturing places. I’m sure there have been some jerks but as a rule ‘I don’t remember the jerks I’ve met in my life….I forget about them.”
A good example of the lack of women representation in the wine world was at the recent Best Sommelier of the World Competition. Why do you think women are underrepresented in the wine industry?
Not every country is a progressive country like Canada. There are some very ‘macho’ countries out there, and not always the ones you expect. France, for example. Pascaline (LePeltier) who just won Best Sommelier of France on her fourth attempt should have won it a few times over. Outside of that, some people might argue women are challenged by raising families, but if you ask me that’s bullshit. I was 9 months pregnant when I competed in my first Best Sommelier of Quebec contest. While preparing for my studies, I had to young children running around me. It’s all a question of dedication and support.
Is there something that you do to support the women in our industry?
Honestly, I will help anyone that asks. I spend a lot of time now teaching and mentoring young sommeliers. I strongly believe you learn a lot from teaching and I you can learn from others. At the recent Somm360 in Montreal, I was working with 22 of the top sommeliers in the world. I forced them to share their insights on how they were studying and preparing, so they could learn from each other.
Is there anyone who has become a mentor for you, or otherwise been especially inspirational or supportive?
There’s actually too many to name. I’ve had a lot of small heroes in my life. Of course, there is Gerard Basset, but I would also say the head of the family at the winery I worked for in Alsace. There is also my parents who taught me the love of sharing food and wine and Charlie and Jen – the owners of Les Fougères Restaurant in Chelsea where I worked for 12 years.
My post hoc is now. My goal was always the podium at the Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World. I was super excited to achieve this honour. Prior to that I’d been thinking about a wine bar for 10 years. It’s now been 5 years since we open Soif Bar à vin.