Personal Diary of a sommelier

Article by Kristine Mansuy

Photo Credit: Danny Landry


8 October 2019 |

Montréal, Spring 2012.

I’m headed to Western Canada, leaving by train from Toronto to Vancouver, to work in the Okanagan Valley.

I was excited by the unknown, the adventure, drawn by these desert mountain landscapes, drastically different from ours. I had seen pictures in wine magazines, read some articles on the region, and I was fascinated by this part of Canada. I could have gone anywhere in the world, but British Columbia was calling me.

The year before, I had done a one-month internship in a vineyard in Beaujolais, France. After a few weeks of manual labour in the vines, followed by a decisive stay at the Vinexpo Bordeaux exhibition, I felt the urge to delve into sales. I found work in Oliver Town ( a few minutes from Osoyoos) in one of the most renowned winery of the Valley that had just opened a brand new tasting and experience centre. Inspired by Californian wineries, this company was the first ever in Canada to offer such experiences.

I ended up spending five months in this beautiful region and it proved to be a revelation. After having tasted wines in nearly every wineries of the Valley and tried many customer experiences, I was taken away by the beauty of the region, the cellars infrastructures, and especially the quality of the wines as well as all the marketing work behind it.

Every winery had its own specific branding, but all shared the same guidelines: pride towards the region and its resources, and the determination to make the Okanagan Valley the next key destination for wine tourism.

Inspired by all this creativity and passion, I was resolved to bring this mindset to Quebec.

Charmed by my sales experience at the winery, I was drawn to make an expertise out of it. I started working as a sales representative for one of Quebec’s prime wine agencies. I was representing more than a hundred wineries from Europe and all over the world. This proved to be a decisive experience in my professional career because it allowed me to meet great winemakers.

All sommeliers will tell you, the meetings with these wine artisans – these farmers in love with their land – make you grasp the essence of the product. Wine is a product made by man, but it’s also a history, a place and a philosophy. These moments are so fulfilling they become the motivation of our work.

Isn’t a sommelier’s role to serve as a link between the winemaker and the client? Telling these stories, sharing the passion and the vision of these creators was for me a great privilege. A task as important as it is demanding, requiring to adequately share messages and present wines in a customary manner.
At the vineyard where I worked in Oliver, people called us the Wine Evangelists. We lived up to our name!

My trip on the wine route had begun. A route where I learned a lot and kept learning more every day. A route filled with high emotions, love at first sight, new encounters and above all, discoveries that I love sharing with as many people as possible.

People who are that dedicated to their work, their art, deserve to be known.
After many years on the road selling fancy “bottles of history”, my course led me to the Eastern Townships, in Dunham, the cradle of Quebec’s winemaking. I could share my expertise and take part in this new wine era of Quebec.

Not familiar with Quebec’s nascent wine industry, and full of ambition, I was convinced I had to change province to find work in a Canadian winery! Little did I know that here, too, people as audacious and crazy as myself were dreaming of internationally acclaimed quality wines.

So I helped to open an esteemed vineyard in Dunham. I soaked in its fertile land and right away fell under the charm of the Eastern Townships. I could see the potential of an emerging destination that had all the necessary qualities to become Canada’s next ultimate wine destination.

And thus two years later, in 2016, KiKico was born. My wine event company was based on the desire to create wine-themed events that pay tribute to the beauty and creators of the region.

I then developed an expertise and a passion for canadian wines. Show casing our talent on the regional and international level became a mission. Through my events, workshops and lectures, I hope to shed a new light on the Canadian wine industry and sow this seed of curiosity that will hopefully become a passion for people and products made here !