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Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

  • 60 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 0A4 , Canada
TFY_748_square_300x300

Julie Garton

Wine Director
“In the end, my job is to make sure our guests find the perfect bottle for the occasion.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 2019
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Current

Employment History

  • The Oxley Public House, Toronto

Birthplace

  • Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Certified Sommelier, Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, George Brown College, Toronto; Certified Advanced Sommelier, Court of Master Sommeliers; Bachelor’s Degree with honors in film study and film theory, University of Western Ontario

Languages Spoken

  • English

Wine goes down easy at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. So does wine selection. “I think the main thing for me is making wine approachable and comfortable for people,” says Julie Garton, who as Wine Director of Café Boulud and its sibling d│bar walks a fine line in knowing the level of engagement required when offering advice to guests.

“We have a very wine-savvy clientele, many of whom know perfectly well what wines they enjoy drinking or what they’re in the mood for,” she explains. “So I focus more on the specifics of wine or guiding them toward a niche producer or something they haven’t experienced before. In the end, my job is to make sure our guests find the perfect bottle for the occasion.”

Essential to that, she continues, is “creating a great experience for everyone within their comfort and range.” For instance, people often pop bubbly when they are celebrating a special occasion. “So, I like to think, why not enjoy a special bottle and make a regular day feel like a special occasion?”

Garton’s ability to read her clientele came with time and experience. It’s a real skill, she says, one shared by servers, bartenders and sommeliers alike, and it may only require a moment of conversation to employ. “I’ll ask a couple of questions, and I can tell right away what a guest needs from me.” The most important thing is to find out what they enjoy drinking, she adds, “and to suggest something based on their preference, not mine.”

Garton recognises the great foundation that the Hotel’s wine program is built upon, including a fair share of “bucket list” bottles and more rare and fine wines than she has had opportunity to work with in the past. “It’s a real bonus for someone like me who wants to continue to develop their wine skills.”

Though focused primarily on French producers, the list also recognises wines from all over the world – including picks from Canada. “I will only speak positively about the local wine industry,” she says with a smile, noting that the younger generation of wine drinkers is more supportive of Canadian wines these days. “Ontario is still relatively young as a wine-producing region, but what I’ve noticed over the past 10 years is a real focus by producers on what makes sense for our terroir.”

Garton took a long, winding, and busy path to wine. She enjoyed her university days studying film and film theory – “I wasn’t sure what career path to take, so I chose a topic I enjoyed” – but recalls her final year of school as one of the “most difficult” of her life. “I graduated, and I had no idea what to do next.”

So she travelled widely, experiencing the world and earning her keep along the way. She taught English in Taiwan, spent a year working in and exploring Australia, visited New Zealand, South East Asia and India, and climbed to Everest base camp in Nepal. Then she moved on and worked for a time in London and then Buenos Aires. “There were restaurant jobs for me all along the way and I fell in love with the hospitality industry.”

After nearly seven years abroad, Garton felt it was time to plant some roots. So she headed back to Ontario. “I wasn’t going to my small hometown – no way!” she recalls with a laugh, referring to “the Royal City” of Guelph. Instead, she landed in Toronto and worked as a server while taking a wine course on the side. All of a sudden, everything clicked. “I loved it! I was drawn right to it. Wine gave me exactly what I needed: A way to develop an expertise and grow in an industry that I already loved.”

She went on to land a spot as a manager and sommelier at a popular gastropub located just up Yorkville Avenue from Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. The position found her curating the wine list and lending creativity to cocktail development while doubling as restaurant manager, training staff and curating the wine lists at three sister pubs within the city. Meanwhile, Garton continued to study wine, eventually passing the gruelling Advanced Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2019.  

Garton is still studying with her next goal the CMS Master Sommelier Exam, deemed one of the most challenging exams in the world. And of course she is still drinking wine. “Lately I’ve been into a lot more high-acid, minerally-style whites that are cleaner and not super oaky, like Chablis, Chenin Blanc and Riesling.” And reds? “Ethereal reds: I love Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Loire Valley.” Austrian wines have been tempting her, too. Both “whites and reds.”    

Meantime, she really enjoys chilling out away from the Hotel by shopping at local markets and cooking at home. “I’ll grab ingredients, gather some friends, and crack open a couple of great bottles. Other than travel, there’s nothing better.”