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Open That Bottle...with Elizabeth Chorney-Booth

“I grew up a bit of a punk rock kid who wanted to get out - there weren't a lot of creative opportunities here in the late ‘90s. But I always wanted to be a writer,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth.

With a mother from an Alberta farming family and dad working in the oil industry, she grew up in Calgary wanting to be a music journalist from a young age. “I really liked music and I really liked writing; it was always apparent,” she says. Studying English at the University of Calgary, she joined the campus radio station, CGSW, who published a music magazine. “I started writing, and I was a popular campus radio DJ for about eight years.” In 1997, the magazine was bought by the Georgia Strait, and they launched the Calgary Strait. At only 22 years old, Chorney-Booth was hired as the listings editor, then music editor. 

“Then I met Aaron, my husband. He's a musician, and we decided to try our fortune in Toronto, where I got a job at Chart, a glossy music magazine. I worked there for a few years, and then had my daughter, Ruby, who's 18 now.” Deciding she wasn't interested in staying up to 3:00 am at rock clubs, and bored with media-trained musicians promoting their records, she says it stopped being interesting, even though she interviewed tons of her favourite rock stars. “I got to live this fun rock and roll life. I still have Noel Gallagher, from Oasis's, number on my phone.”

In 2006 they moved back to Calgary, and after having another child, Chorney-Booth wanted to get back to work. “There was an explosion in food media; we were treating chefs like rock stars, so that seemed a fairly lateral shift,” she laughs. “The first food story I wrote was for Culinaire. I pitched a story to Swerve about a Christmas dinner from retro recipes, and was nominated for an award – and it just snowballed from there.”

She collaborated on Best of Bridge cookbooks with Julie Van Rosendaal, and John Gilchrist proposed her to take over his column when he retired: “So I'm in the Herald every week, and regularly for CBC, Culinaire, Avenue, Toronto Star, and Globe. I also write other stuff too to pay the bills.”

Over the pandemic she became more interested in wine. “We built a wine cellar in our basement and have a little collection now, and spirits too. Wine culture has become more of my life over the last few years.”

So what wine has Chorney-Booth been saving for a special occasion?

“We bought this 2017 Valentini Trebbiano D'Abruzzo in Italy,” she says. “Aaron has an uncle and aunt who have retired there. We were going last summer, and Keith, a good friend from Toronto, who’s very knowledgeable about wine, said ‘the best white I've ever had was Valentini from Abruzzo. Try to find some when you're there.’” 

Valentini Winery is one of the most prestigious wineries in Abruzzo. “You cannot visit the winery, and they're not in most wine shops,” Chorney-Booth adds. “We didn't realize this and were keeping an eye out for it as our friends spoke so highly of it.” Fortunately, they were able to visit Reale, a 3-Michelin Star restaurant with eight tables that books six months in advance. “I called for a reservation, and they laughed at me,” she says. However, two days later there was a cancellation and places opened up. She was really impressed with a 2015 Valentini pairing, but they still couldn't find the wine. “We thought it would be like the Okanagan and they're all just there,” she laughs. However, a family friend tracked it down, and they found it sitting in a box in the corner of a deli. “It was about €100, and I wish we had bought a couple bottles,” says Chorney-Booth.

They wrapped it in a pair of jeans and brought it home. “I know you can cellar it for years, but Keith is coming to visit. He's a university professor and has a conference here, so we're looking forward to sharing it with him as we have a tradition of opening our best bottles when we're together.” 


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