Open That Bottle by LINDA GARSON photography by INGRID KUENZEL
In 1983 Anthony Chalmers chose his career, in 1993 he graduated, but it wasn’t until 2003 that he understood what he was doing. At 18, Chalmers wanted to be a limousine driver, ”picking up all those rich and famous people at the airport.” Within two months he was working at the Valhalla Inn in Toronto, not quite driving a limousine, but picking up customers. The following year, he decided that he really wanted to be a server and took a job in Le Café at the Bristol Place Hotel. His career in hospitality had started.
From breakfast server at Sanssouci in Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel, in the halcyon days when chef was Mark McEwan and Wolfgang Puck was guest chef, Chalmers worked his way up to be manager, earning a salary of $27,000 in 1983. A move to the Mövenpick Group saw Chalmers working with wine director David Lawrason who had just started Wine Access magazine. He took Chalmers under his wing, holding classes in ‘The Caveau’ underneath the York Street location, and pushed him to take his sommelier course. “I just loved it,” says Chalmers, “I started reading and researching; I just dove into it. I thought ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my career’. I get to drink, I get to socialise, I get to eat good food, recommend wines, but I also understood how ignorant I was ten years earlier, in not knowing as much as I should have known as a professional in the business. I made a conscious decision to say I am going to learn this.” Chalmers was awarded ‘Best Blind Taster’ at graduation as he “nailed every wine, and named every wine. I thought this is meant to be, this is what I should be doing.” In 1996 he was asked if he would like to work at Banff Springs, and was flown out
to meet wine director Peter Blattman. On leaving, was given a package and told not to open it till he was on the plane. It was a job offer. Chalmers packed up and moved out west. He worked at Lake Louise’s Post Hotel, before joining Vintage Group in Calgary, and now The Bear’s Den. “I realise that all the jobs lead to one right place, which is where I am now,” he says. So what bottle is Chalmers saving for a special occasion? In 2001, Banff Springs arranged a wine trip to California. They stayed at Cakebread, Benziger and then Trefethen Winery. At lunch, Chalmers was chatting to owner Janet Trefethen, and she asked what he thought of her wines. He was so impressed with the Halo that he helped find an importer for her wines into Alberta and BC. As a thank you gift, Trefethen sent the Halo label (named for her children, Hayley and Loren) as a beautiful framed picture, and Chalmers took it straight to his favourite tattoo artist. He visits most years to spend time with the family. “I want to buy a bottle every year and keep it to see how it evolves”, Chalmers says. “It’s a label I love from a family I love; their business ethics, their generosity, their hospitality - they are the epitome of success.”
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