On any given night in downtown Toronto amateurs and oenophiles alike throng a Queen Street West back alley to experience the city’s hottest new offering – a wine cave. Tucked away in trendy downtown Queen Street West between Simcoe and Duncan, the wine cave is easy to miss: the only thing that gives it away is the distinguishing graffiti on the door.
The new wine club is inclusive and acts as a collective experience – a community, a tribe, and a circle of friends with common interests.As I enter the cave on a Friday night, the back alley atmosphere disappears and I’m transported to an aficionado’s paradise: select vintages from world-class wine producing regions line the walls. Plush chairs and wine books scattered throughout create an inviting environment for curious guests. I spot a record player in the corner and imagine it emitting a soft background jazz that adds to the already electric ambiance.
The cave is packed with connoisseurs and wine lovers alike as the fragrant and light floral aroma of Muscadet fills the air. Oysters are served and wine is poured as the excitement in the room mounts. Esteemed winemaker Pierre-Jean Sauvion has travelled from the French Loire Valley to lead this exclusive vintage Muscadet event (the grape is known as Melon de Bourgogne). As he leads us through a structured tasting featuring six different Muscadets, he proudly calls himself ‘Façonneur de Plaisir’ – a pleasure craftsman, reminding us that wine and learning about wine is a pleasure. He continues to explain the differences that sub-appellations and micro-climates have on the specific vintages in the western part of the Loire Valley. If enjoying wine is a pleasure, then enjoying wine in a bona fide ‘wine cave’ is the definition of pure bliss.
The wine cave is the central hub of iYellow Wine Club – Toronto’s premier urban wine club for the young and affluent (or wanna be affluent!). The wine cave is differentiating the landscape for consumers to participate in fun, interactive and engaging wine based events. Wine clubs make learning about wine fun and accessible (well at least this one does), they offer a more dynamic experience than your typical night out. “iYellow Wine Club never fails to throw an amazing event or an epic party, I love going to iYellow events,” says Katie Durant, a fellow Muscadet lover at the iYellow Wine Cave. “It is the perfect way to taste and discover new wines that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to try.”
“It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or seasoned wine expert, being an iYellow Wine Club member is all about discovering and tasting new local and domestic wines while meeting like-minded wine lovers in Toronto.”Founded by Angela Aiello, iYellow Wine Club is creating unique wine experiences that are actively changing the history of modern wine culture – you might even say she’s leading a wine revolution in the new world. iYellow offers regular trips to wine country (from local to abroad), industry led tutored tastings in their wine cave and great events all over the city in cool new spots and venues. “It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or seasoned wine expert, being an iYellow Wine Club member is all about discovering and tasting new local and domestic wines while meeting like-minded wine lovers in Toronto,” says Aiello. “We offer the perfect environment to build your personal wine confidence. We teach you the basics of wine tasting right at the beginning, and make our events accessible to everyone with an open mind for learning more about the fantastic world of wine.”
In recent years, there has been a pragmatic shift in the way wine clubs now operate. Wine clubs used to be simply ‘wine in the mail’ clubs, but the new type of wine club, trailblazed by Aiello is robust and socially integrated. The new wine club is inclusive and acts as a collective experience – a community, a tribe, and a circle of friends with common interests. As I enjoy the magic of a Muscadet and oyster pairing, I am encouraged to share my wine cave experience as live-tweets and Instagram pictures are displayed on a media screen in the cave. With interactive new media techniques that speak to the social aspects of wine enjoyment, the iYellow Wine Club wine cave is taking wine appreciation to the next level. There has never been a better time to discover and appreciate great wine in Toronto.
The Ontario Wine Society knows this all too well. As the oldest wine club dedicated to promoting Ontario wine, it regularly hosts Ontario-focused, winemaker-led, tutored wine tastings for its members. “We are so lucky to have a great, and growing, wine industry right here in Ontario,” says President Ken Burford. “The quality, selection and value for money of Ontario wines has improved immensely in the past 20 years.” The success and hype of the wine cave is a testament to the evolution of wine clubs and consumer preferences. “Wine consumption is at an all-time high,” says Tara DeMattos, a Wine Rack store Manager. “According the Global Agricultural Information Network, as of July 2013, Canada’s wine sales are growing at a rate triple that of average growth.”
As I exit the wine cave and back into the dark alley, the magic of Muscadet lingers and I feel my new wine confidence shining through. I know I will be attending another iYellow event – it really is a wine cave wonder. Plus, joining the club is free! You can sign up online at www.iyellowwineclub.com and then pick and choose the events that you are able to make it to. With close to 80 events over the course of the year, there is bound to be something that will excite your palate.