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A Sommelier teaches Whistler servers and wine lovers the basics

It takes more than a good nose and a good cellar to sell wine in this town

Wine, when taken to the next level, is as much of an intellectual pursuit as it is a guilty pleasure, and picking up a good bottle is like picking up a good book. It has a beginning in the vines, a middle in the barrel and an end on the dinner table. Whether it’s a good ending or a disappointment after all the buildup is largely up to the author, but partly attributable to the tastes of the reader – while there’s no arguing that James Joyce’s Ulysses is a literary masterpiece, it’s clearly not for everybody.

To get the most out of a book or a bottle of wine, you have to study the art, the context, the content and the creator. You have to read between the lines.

In Whistler, where our finer restaurants are in the same league and serve the same clientele as the finest restaurants on the planet, it’s important to have a good wine cellar. Customers have come to expect it.

However, without the knowledge to back up the cellar, a server is like a guide in an art gallery who has no idea who the old guy in the painting is or why the painting is important.

That’s the concept behind the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s decision to open their basic sommelier courses to resort employees in the food and beverage industry, and locals who just want to know more.

The Chateau recently received approval from the Canadian Sommelier Guild to offer their accredited Wine Appreciation Program to the public, under the direction of David Smuck, a graduate of George Brown College in Toronto and the Sommelier for The Wildflower restaurant at the Chateau.

"The people I plan on teaching, they may not necessarily want to go on to become sommeliers, but the course is designed so that the food and beverage staff at our hotel will have a firm grasp of wine and food knowledge," says Smuck. "Right now they have varied degrees of knowledge.

"I believe that the more knowledge you have as a service professional, whether you’re actually serving the tables or managing a room, makes your job easier."

When you’re prepared to spend a small fortune on dinner and a bottle of wine, you have every right to expect your server to know how the meat was cooked and what wine will go best with the meal, says Smuck.

"The clientele we serve are becoming more and more sophisticated – they come from parts of the world where wine is a significant part of their life, and they have very detailed knowledge. We need to be able to meet that level of knowledge and have intelligent conversations with them, know what to suggest, and show them new things in case they’d like to try something different."

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