Raised by a single mother in Nova Scotia, Natalie MacLean learned the value of a deal, hard work and ambition at a young age. A strong work ethic and drive, combined with study at Oxford University and in Canada, has helped to shape her into the woman she is today: an award-winning author of two best-selling books and an internationally-acclaimed writer on wines.
Natalie enjoys life to the fullest, sharing a love of movies with her 14 year-old-son Rian, and engaging in the family sport of dining out on weekends. There is nothing she likes more than great conversation and camaraderie that happens over good food and wine.
Growing up on the East Coast, beer and whisky were plentiful, but she never developed a taste for either and didn't think she liked alcohol at all. In her mid-twenties, while having dinner at an Italian restaurant, she tasted a robust red wine and marvelled at how wonderful it was with her meal. She still remembers how the taste of wine intrigued her, but had no words to describe it. Wanting to learn more, she pursued courses in wine appreciation and graduated from the sommelier program at Algonquin College.
Now, armed with an MBA and honed business experience, Natalie has 148,000 subscribers to her e-newsletter and a mobile app that helps you find that perfect bottle of wine at the LCBO. She is always developing and expanding her brand around her love of wine, by travelling to discover new wines and meeting the people behind the bottle. With over one-million wine producers world-wide, Natalie is committed to trying as many wines as possible and believes that a glass of fine wine with a good meal is a wonderful way to live.
BEST WINERIES YOU HAVE VISITED? Mission Hill in West Kelowna, B.C. and Jackson-Triggs in Niagara.
ARE THE MOST EXPENSIVE WINES THE BEST ONES? Definitely not! What is my favourite wine? The one that somebody else paid for. I do have a nose for a bargain and know we all want a good deal. When I recommend wines for the LCBO, I try to find wines that taste twice as expensive as they cost.
OTHER THAN WINE, WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DRINKING? I'm a big tea drinker being from the East Coast. I don't drink coffee. So it's tannins in the morning and tannins at night.
BEST TIP TO PICK A NEW WINE IN A RESTAURANT? Ask your server or a sommelier for a recommendation. Tell them what you are eating, what you usually like and ask them for a wine in the price range you are comfortable with. Good restaurants have wines on their list that you won't find in the liquor store because they want to offer you a different taste experience.
WHAT WINE SHOULD EVERY WINE COLLECTOR HAVE? Something that is memorable for that person. A wine with a story. Your story. One you can share with others when you open that bottle.
CAN YOU GET A WINE HANGOVER? Too much alcohol of any kind - where the body has to process an overload of it - whether you drink rotgut or a $1,000 bottle of Chateau Petrus, will still give you a hangover.
ARE CANADIAN WINES GAINING POPULARITY INTERNATIONALLY? It's really important for us to drink what is in our own backyard, not just to be patriotic, but because we make great wines. Internationally, we win awards and medals and compete head-to-head with the world's best wines, but are known for our ice wines.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO MATCH YOUR FOOD WITH A GREAT WINE? Some people say any wine goes with any food, and some say there is the perfect wine for the perfect dish. I'm in the middle. There is a range of choices and ultimately the perfect pairing is between you and a wine that you like. Experiment, have fun and see what works for you.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE . . .
Favourite wine region: Niagara
Most expensive wine you've tasted: Domaine de la Romanee-Conti
Favourite white: Riesling
Favourite red: Pinot Noir
Best wine value: Argentine Malbec
Wine trends: Lighter wines like Rosé, Pinot Grigio
Best winery tour: Fairview winery in Suider-Paarl, South Africa