I’ve been lucky enough to eat a few times at Raymonds, in St John’s, Newfoundland. I enjoy it enough to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is by far one of the best tables in the country. What, or shall I say whom, made Raymonds one of my favourite places to be in the world, though, is Kim Cyr. She is one of the most passionate, whimsical and knowledgeable wine person I know and everybody I brought to Raymonds (myself and boyfriend included) left with kind of a crush on her. I think her answers will have the same effect on you.
Where and when did your passion for wine start?
Naturally, I think. I grew up around viticulture and community farms as a child. I have been fortunate enough to have lived across Canada and worked with some great chefs and management. Working under Peter Bodnar Rod and Chef Robert Clark in Vancouver, at a restaurant that was one of the first ones to promote 100-mile and local wines, was inspiring. Within my career, working with the Oliver and Bonacini Group in Toronto truly brought out the education level aspect (this is a great company that provides and promotes a lot of in-house food and wine education). The people that I worked with over my career and crossed paths with, we all shared a desire to further knowledge and push each other. Some of these people I consider my mentors, and they are some of the best in Canada. I pale in comparison to them. Sebastien LeGoff, Anton Potvin, Neil Ingram, Mark Stenge, among others. We competed, we learned, we had fun.
What makes natural wines better?
The term “natural wine” has become a bit of catch phrase, lately, and one has to be careful when using it. This “trend”, per se, has always been in existence. Farming in small lots has been going on since the beginning of time. Bringing back into trend small lot, family owned wineries and obscure, esoteric varietals is focusing on something that has always existed. I am glad they have recognition now. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the first biodynamic conference in Toronto, ten years ago.
A fantastic supplier in Toronto, Mark Cuff, from the wine company “Living Vine” (who’s originally from Newfoundland) introduced me to many things. Jeremy Bonia, my colleague/employer has helped broaden my horizons. It doesn’t take a lot to understand (as featured in the recent Canadian documentary “Grand Cru”) that things like Parkinson's have been linked to pesticide use in vineyards.
Doing community farming in Nova Scotia really had an impact on me, by showing me how you can keep soil alive with items like seaweed and natural compost. We demand so much from our food labelling, it's odd to me that we have not demanded that for so long with our wine. In the end, sometimes, beauty is in the flaws… even with wine.
All-time favourite wine? Winemaker?
Like anything in life, it has to do with the time, place, food, music and people you are with. Many years ago, I shared a bottle of Nicolas Joly’s Coulée de Serrant with a great friend. We were discussing many pivotal life changes, and this wine changed with every turn. It was a momentous occasion. I can't pick a favourite wine or winemaker since it would be so unfair to do so but I am always in love with aromatic whites, especially Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, and I am a major proponent of Canadian wine.
Best wine region in the world?
Canada is up there for me. We have so much potential and great advocates like Norman Hardie, Paul Pender, Francois Morissette, Heidi Noble, Anne Sperling and Peter Gamble. I am so excited to see where Nova Scotia is going. Benjamin Bridge, Lightfoot and Wolfville and Grand Pré are showcasing some of the best wines in the country. People forget how untouched the area has been by industry, and it still has a lot of natural forests and fields. One has to recognize where these wines are going and acknowledge their potential for greatness.
Although not necessarily celebrated in our home country, our Icewine and apple dessert wines are the best in the world as they are so naturally crafted in our terroir. I have deep respect for these styles.
I do want to mention that my European “trifecta“, or favourites, would be Alsace, Germany, and Austria.
I also have huge love for Washington State. It is an unbelievably beautiful part of the world.
Wine is intimidating for some. Where should a person start when getting interested in wines? Does it have to be intellectual?
We tend to over-intellectualize it. For instance I am a big fan of history, so I love the historical aspect of wine. “Wine and War” is one of my favourite books. I can be guilty of loving a wine just due to its history. So I, myself, can be guilty of overthinking.
The most important thing is to enjoy it. To start slow in educating yourself, take a look at what style of food comes from the area that the wine comes from. People often forget when dealing with wines that the historic food styles from those areas are what you should draw from when pairing food and wine, as Viticulture and Agriculture have primarily existed together and developed in harmony.
Wine should never be intimidating. Take your time and learn about different styles and areas. Consider drinking different wines as an experiment.
In the end, though, it is as easy as this: You either like it or you don’t.