Christopher Sealy, Winner of the 2022 MICHELIN Guide Toronto Sommelier Award

Christopher Sealy is the Wine Director of One Star Alo and One Star Alobar Yorkville, where its impressive wine list highlights the excellent cuisine. Sealy is the 2022 Toronto Sommelier Award Winner. In addition to his work as a sommelier for Alo, Sealy is a mentor at Vinequity, which works to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, Color and LGBTQ+ members of the Canadian wine community. As part of the inaugural launch of the MICHELIN Guide Toronto, we spoke with Sealy about coffee to start and tea to end the day, home cooking with Afro-Caribbean ingredients and how a wine makes a difference.

What are you drinking these days?
When I’m home on my two or three days off, I rarely drink. One bottle can last through dinner and lunch the next day. With this in mind, I choose wines that have the energy to evolve over time; I tend to find this energy most often in wines from biodynamics or natural aging. Crisp and energetic white wines like Gruner Veltliner from Austria, Assrytiko from Santorini and Loire wines, red and white.

What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
I consume my original daily coffee only in the morning using the pour technique, or cortado if I’m running errands. I end my rest days (Sunday, Monday and sometimes Tuesday) with thyme, lemon balm, verbena or rosemary herbal teas. I think morning coffee is the most important drink; the practice of pouring is a slow, gentle movement throughout the day. Grinding the coffee, boiling the water, letting it cool a bit, and steeping for 2-3 minutes to enjoy in one of the English-made coffee mugs I’ve had for years.

What is your ideal dish and pairing?
The ideal meal is based on carefully selected products / proteins, combined with dynamic tasting wines. When I cook at home, I tend to buy select cuts of meat – which I would get if I went to fancy restaurants. I have two children; I prefer to cook slowly and simply at home, incorporating Afro-Caribbean ingredients (okra, yams, cassava). I look for proteins like duck, heirloom poultry, etc. and ethically sourced seafood (Canadian fish and sea bream or sea bass, shrimp, scallops, oysters, halibut cheeks, etc.)

My ideal meal is to have a balance of protein and vegetables (mushrooms! and greens) prepared with little fuss, but using herbs and aromatics. When it comes to wine pairings, I always look for a shared energy/dynamic between the wine and the elements of the meal, like what works well with mushrooms or grilled vegetables or herbs used in fish. I’m not picky about accuracy, nor about drinking aged or marquee wines. What I want is an experience with wine in my mouth wherever I can find it.

Alo dining room © Jonathan Adediji/Alo

What is the biggest misconception about being a sommelier, or wine in general, that you would like to dispel?
Not all sommeliers try to be a master sommelier, like in the movie sum. It’s problematic to always think it’s like that. Another big received idea is that we are all acolytes in Bordeaux and Burgundy. The best of us remain students, examining and looking at wines for what they are, not for their value. Of course, part of our job is to find and provide pleasure. Yes, shout from the highest mountain about what you love or what you need to list, but be sure to put it into context.

What are your criteria for adding a new wine to your menu?
Potability immediately. The perception of “young wines/recent vintages” as not being serious or good is over! In the modern era of winemaking, we have more wines available that deliver fun and adventure the moment you pull the cork. On the list [at Alo], there are very few wines, almost none, that are “closed/tight” and need cellaring. Indeed, there are “sleeping” Barolos or Burgundy wines that will release more energy over time in the cellar, but if they are not happy now, they will not be later.

Not all the wines I list are wines I like. But I like/appreciate what is stated. I like to defend wines with a story of origin, whether it is rooted in healthy agriculture or conventional ultra tech. I would prefer to know the full history of the winery/wine before making a purchase. Wine remains a business with diverse philosophies, whether for cultivation or for profit, biodynamics or large-scale production.

Some customers just want the transaction of having juice in their glass. Then there are those looking for a story. With the story, I believe I continue to translate them by listing the wineries and regions I have visited and spent time with.

Dish of Alobar Yorkville © Jonathan Adediji/Alobar Yorkville

Dish of Alobar Yorkville © Jonathan Adediji/Alobar Yorkville

Hero Image: Christopher Sealy, Wine Director of Alo and Alobar Yorkville
© Nikki Leigh McKean

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