Jonathan’s Champagne deal at lbs. in Toronto

lbs. in downtown Toronto has shed its lobster focus and is now a sustainable seafood restaurant with new chefs from top London restaurants and a wine list to match. Meet lbs’ outspoken sommelier Jonathan Gonsenhauser.

– The whole program is really now focused on sustainable whole fish finished on charcoal. We also have some of the things that our chef learned in the UK with dry-ageing fish and depending on the fish we dry-age them from seven to 22 days, says Jonathan Gonsenhauser, sommelier and partner at lbs.

lbs. launched in downtown Toronto in 2016. New chef John Williams has worked at top London restaurants like Clove Club and Hedone and with a sous-chef who has been at Dinner by Heston, the star power in the kitchen has risen dramatically. lbs. serves both an a la carte menu and a set tasting menu with a wine pairing.

Jonathan Gonsenhauser has a background as sommelier at Momofuku, Air Canada Centre and other restaurants in Toronto, and he holds the advanced certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

The lbs. wine list has a large selection of Champagne (and it is a Krug embassy) followed up by white wines from classical wine regions in France, Germany, Austria but also New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Italy. The red selection is naturally a bit more limited, and so is the selection of Canadian wines.

– I should support the local market a bit more, and I’ll say that honestly, but I tend to find that a lot of the wineries are trying to make wines that are uncharacteristic of our climate. You end up with wines that are in ripe, rich styles trying to be in the vein of California and Australia but we don’t have the growing season to ripen them. They are not inexpensive wines and when you compare with wines from great properties around the world, the quality for me at this moment just isn’t there.

– There are obviously exceptions to that rule, like Five rows, Malivoire and Tawse who are doing exceptional jobs and the quality is there in specific grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Riesling.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Jonathan Gonsenhauser’s taste lies to the classical European styles, with favourites like the famous Riesling producer Dönnhoff from Nahe in Germany.

– And then I have to go to Champagne, for everyday drinking I don’t think you can go wrong with Henriot Brut Souverain. And I’m a Burgundy nut, I always love wines from Dujac and wines coming from (the vineyard) Taillepieds in Volnay, they are some of the most seductive wines that you can find. And the only other wine that for me has just been ethereal is La Chapelle (Paul Jaboulet Hermitage) with 20 years of age to it. I think they are undervalued.

Which are your favourite places to go to for wine in Toronto?

– The wine bar Paris Paris is doing a really cool job. Brothers has an amazing food program, a wine list with good balance of hard to find grape varieties and classic producers and an an amazing service team. And around the corner from Brothers a place called Chabrol, with just a great classic program in food and wine.

Summarising the summer and looking forward, Jonathan Gonsenhauser has seen a trend for people taking rosé wines more seriously this year, and an increasing appetite for tasting wines outside their comfort zone.

– The wine scene is growing. I can certainly see a change over the last 10 years being and the market and running wine programs, there has been a very good shift in terms of knowledge and openness to other grape varieties. I think another element in our market has been the wine schools, in particular the Sommelier Factory run by Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner. He has been really pushing it and expanding not only to the industry but the overall education level to consumers as well.

Find the lbs wine list and info via the link below.

Published 16-August-2018
Interview / Toronto

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