They say there is truth in wine, but there is also passion, knowledge, excitement and joy. Sommelier Thierry Alcantara-Stewart bubbles over with all of it.
The Consecon train station that will soon be home to Adega Wine Bar is bustling with activity…
A pair of robins dart back and forth, feeding chirping babies nesting under the eaves; electricians come and go; the phone guy is hooking up the lines, and there’s a man up a ladder doing something or other to bring Thierry Alcantara- Stewart ever closer to his dream. Tufts of pink insulation drift around the gorgeous old wood plank floor, and up above, a framework of handsome beams has been revealed. It’s going to be a stunning space, full of natural light and character, and it can’t happen soon enough for the 31-yearold sommelier. His energy can barely be contained; he paces and fidgets non-stop as he paints a picture of what this place will be.
Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thierry (sounds like Terry) wasn’t planning on a life in wine. At 22, he left Brazil for Ireland to study accounting at the Dublin Business School, where he stayed for three years, returning home only to discover that a) it wasn’t that easy to find a good job in accounting, and b) he wasn’t that happy there. But fate, as it so often does, intervened. “I was looking for a job in accounting and someone offered me a job as a bartender on a cruise ship, and I said ‘why not!?’” That someone was Royal Caribbean, and the job would lead to so much more than a paycheque and some travel.
“It was on my first day aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas,” recalls Thierry. “I met my husband and business partner, A.J.”
And thus began two love stories.
The two were married in 2016 and moved to Toronto, where A.J. is from. They worked cruises from 2013 to 2015, sometimes together, but often apart. “It was hard,” says Thierry. “There were a lot of separations. We couldn’t always work together on the same cruises or even at the same time.”
At home in Toronto, Thierry studied Hospitality Management at George Brown College, and after graduating, he did a stint at the Fairmont Banff Springs, where, it’s fair to say, his love of wine and hospitality was ignited and his fate was sealed. He began studying wine at the Court of Master Sommeliers and with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). But with wine, there’s always more to learn. “I’m still studying there,” says Thierry, “pursuing the higher levels of their sommelier program and now preparing for my next exam and the ‘Advanced’ certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers.”
Thierry was happily complementing his studies by working as a sommelier at Grand Cru Deli in Toronto when the pandemic came along and changed everything: Thierry was laid off and so was A.J.
“We were living in a tiny condo in the Junction neighbourhood,” he says. “A.J. was working on a cruise, and he came home just in time – just before the lockdown. He could have been stranded on a ship! We were both out of work, paying huge rent for a tiny box, and we looked at each other and said, ‘are we going to eat or pay rent?’ It felt like we couldn’t afford to stay in Toronto. I’m a very proud person: I like to work. I didn’t want to take CERB, I didn’t want government money. So we decided to move out of the city.”
The couple considered Niagara, as Thierry wanted to be in in the heart of wine country. But A.J. wanted to learn to fly, so with its proximity to the military airport at Trenton – where A.J. might take flying lessons – and a burgeoning viticulture scene, Prince Edward County made more sense.
They found a place in Rossmore, on the County side of Belleville. “It’s a nice house right on the water and the rent is much less than we were paying for that tiny condo in Toronto,” says Thierry. He got a job at the Karlo Estates tasting bar for the summer, and later joined Mary and Colin Stanners at Stanners Vineyard, helping them with everything, learning all aspects of the wine business. “I was a sommelier and cellar hand; I even helped with the harvest. I learned so much, and when you understand the process and know all that goes into each bottle, it’s much easier to pass that along to the customer. It really increases your appreciation for the wine.”
But Thierry kept asking people, “Is there a wine bar out here?” And there wasn’t. “Yes, the wineries all have tasting bars,” he says, “but it’s not the same as a place where you can go and try wines from all over the world and have something different to eat, too.” Thierry saw a niche that needed filling in the County, and Adega – Portuguese for “cellar” – and The County Somm pop-ups were born.
In November 2020, he found the 1,100-squarefoot train station right next to The Grist Mill in Consecon. “The owner, Brittiny, and I hit it off,” recalls Thierry. “And she offered up her space for pop-ups while my place was undergoing renovations.” He was still aiming for April 2021 back then, but once again, enter the pandemic, although with some silver linings. The delay has given Thierry more time to plan the menu. “I’ll be sourcing my produce and foods locally,” he says. “I want to work with Littlejohn Farm – the co- owner is Brazilian too! – La Cultura, PECish Baking Company and Raining Gold for my menu of small dishes that pair well with wine.”
“Here I want the food to complement the wine, not the other way around,” says Thierry. Usually, he says, you order food and then get wine to go with it. “Here, the wine will be the star of the show.” He’ll be honouring his heritage with a few Brazilian dishes too: pão de queijo (cheese bread), coxinha (chicken croquette), and empanda (Brazilian empanada). “I’m not a chef, the kitchen isn’t my thing,” admits Thierry. “So I plan on partnering with chefs from here and elsewhere to come in and do their own wine pairing dinners, so that every now and then – maybe once a month – we’ll offer the full dinner experience; that’s when a chef will come in and take over for the night, and I’ll get to focus on the wine and the customers.”
His new space will be intimate, seating about 50 inside, with a small private tasting loft in the rafters of the tall, open room, and more seating on the charming covered porch. “I want to be able to talk to every table,” says Thierry. “I want to explain the wines, not just serve them.” From the bar, Thierry will pour from an inventory of over 100 bottles of fine, off-the-beaten- path wines, showcasing local wines but also wines from all over the world, listed by grape. “I’ll have a strong by-the-glass program, offering wines you can’t just get everywhere.” He’s taking an inclusive approach – beer and cocktail drinkers are most welcome – and enjoying the best of his wines won’t break the bank. “I invested in the Coravin wine preservation system,” says Thierry. “which will allow me to pour a glass from a very expensive bottle for a customer. It makes good wine accessible to more people.”
Thierry has his sights set on mid-summer for a grand opening, but until then, he’ll still be doing pop-ups at the Grist Mill – pandemic permitting, of course.
Two Summer Sippers from Adega Wine Bar
Sommelier Thierry Alcantara-Stewart’s first love is wine, but in the heat of summer, there’s nothing like a cold cocktail.
“I use locally-crafted vermouth in this classic cocktail, giving it a County twist. Haberdasher Vermouth, from Traynor Family Vineyards contains over 20 herbs and flowers grown on the Traynors’ farm. They pick the herbs fresh and steep them in wine for a period of days to months depending on the flavour profile and intensity desired. Each lot is kept separate until they conduct their master blend. Dominated by notes of wormwood, hyssop, mint and roses, this vermouth is slightly sweet with an alcohol level of 18.5%. Using Haberdasher makes a less sweet Negroni, which traditionally calls for sweet vermouth.”
- 1 oz. Kinsip gin
- 1 oz. Traynor Family Vineyard Haberdasher vermouth
- 1 oz. Campari
- orange peel
Preparation: Combine the three spirits in a mixing glass with ice, stir, and strain over fresh ice in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a curl of orange peel, and enjoy.
Makes 1 cocktail.
“Sangria can be made in a variety of ways with many different ingredients. We use a local favourite, Stanners Vineyard Pinot Gris “cuivré” for its aromatic and tropical flavours.
This wine has a beautiful copper colour – cuivre is “copper” in French – which comes from leaving the skins in contact with the juice for 72 hours prior to pressing and starting fermentation. This technique results in a wine with added complexity, flavours and aromas of mandarin, blood orange, orange pith, and apricot, and a touch of tannins. It’s a wine style that dates back hundreds of years and is now not very common.”
- 1/2 oz. peach schnapps
- 1/2 oz. Campari
- 4 oz. Stanners Vineyard Pinot Gris cuivré
- 1 oz. ginger ale
- A selection of fresh fruits such as: oranges, lemons, limes, berries, peaches – be creative!
Preparation: In a wine glass, add ice and combine all ingredients in the order above. Don’t stir, let the pretty layers of colour float on each other, garnish and enjoy! Makes 1 cocktail
Traynor Family Vineyard
Owner and winemaker Mike Traynor is as committed to crafting wonderfully daring wines as he is to fostering a healthy and fair workplace: Traynor is Canada’s first Certified Living Wage winery. He’s also committed to nature and making wines in a more natural style, using ancient techniques with minimal intervention, and often eschewing the filter. But as serious as this all sounds, Traynor approaches it all with a sense of humour and fun, with names such as: Ch-Ch-Ch Cherry Bomb and Marmalade Pie adorning colourful, zany labels on bottles of “Mamma Juice.”
Thierry Alcantara-Stewart is a serious fan of Traynor and his wines and vermouths. “Mike Traynor is a hard-working individual. He started at a very young age and has worked his way up. He started Traynor Family Vineyard in 2008 and since then has worked tirelessly to get where they are. Mike isn’t afraid to experiment, applying modern knowledge with ancient and forgotten techniques; his wines are handcrafted and cared for. Traynor Family Vineyard is dedicated to sustainability, whether in the vineyard, implementing many permaculture practices and organic standards, in the winery, with low-intervention winemaking, or by being a living wage employer and ensuring a healthy and happy work environment.”
Cliff and Dorothy Stanners, Mary MacDonald,
Colin Stanners | Stanners Vineyard
Pinot Noir is the main focus at this award-winning, eco-friendly vineyard. It started for husband and wife Colin and Mary Stanners in 2003, with the purchase of a farm in Hillier, PEC, sitting atop the calcareous, limestone-rich soils perfect for growing pinot noir; and when it came time to build the winery in 2009, they turned to eco-friendly strawbale construction for their above-ground barrel room.
Thierry Alcantara-Stewart recalls, “I had the pleasure of working with Colin and Mary. Everything they do is made with love and passion. Over the past year, I’ve developed a close working relationship with them, and they have been huge supporters of my dreams and my business vision.”
“Stanners is one of the pioneers in Prince Edward County,” says Thierry. “And they remain a family-owned winery with a focus on premium Pinot Noir. Colin is a man of many talents and his creativity and passion is such an inspiration. They make unique wines that are true to our county terroir with meticulous, patient winemaking using minimal, gentle intervention at every stage, allowing for the clear expression of each unique vintage. From skin contact white wines to red wines using whole berry fermentation, Colin’s creativity and pursuit of excellence never ends.”
The Grist Mill
To call The Grist Mill in Consecon simply a wedding and event venue doesn’t begin to do it justice. It’s a magically romantic Bohemian space of rustic-meets-neon charm, perched above a river joining Lake Ontario with Lake Consecon. When not making wedding dreams come true, owner Brittiny Blodgett, a certified wedding planner, runs the place as a lounge, and it’s where Thierry Alcantara-Stewart got his start in the County.
“My business would not exist if it wasn’t for The Grist Mill,” says Thierry. “I met Brittiny in the winter of 2020. We quickly hit it off, and she offered me the use of her space for pop-ups while mine was under renovation. Her vision, her commitment to building something unique for the community really captivated me. I cannot thank her enough.” Thierry explains, “The Grist Mill is a wedding and event venue that partners with small businesses operating as pop-ups. This gives other businesses without a brick and mortar space an opportunity to showcase their talents. The Grist Mill also hosts drag shows, live music events, public markets, and of course, jaw-dropping weddings hosted by Brittiny. It is truly a space that makes dreams come true. Moreover, it’s a space for everyone, free of judgment and prejudice of any kind – everyone is welcomed.”
Johnny C. Y. Lam