where is your family from: aka, why is Nicole so pale with hair as black as night!? Let me tell you, my friends. But only if you promise to call me a beautiful ghost and not a see-through woman-girl! I am a third generation new comer North American on both sides. My mother's family is from Eastern Europe and settled in the suburbs of Detroit. My father's family is from Scotland and settled on a farm in a very small town in Northern Ontario. Shockingly I can't grow anything, but freckles. They cover my cheeks when the sun shines.
first time you did something witchy: This probably roughly coincides to the time this photo was taken. I took to running around in this witch hat with lipstick-rasperry juice all over my face. I also refused to be referred to as Nicole and insisted that my name was Toey. Toey is a pretty cool name and is my witch identity before I turned 10.
first glass of wine: My dad had a lovely wine bar when I was growing up. By lovely, I mean, in retrospect it was as lovely, as at the time I was principally concerned with root beer and plain bagels. When I was 9 we went on a family trip to Italy. We were in the tiny town of Montalcino having dinner with Pierluigi Talenti, an extremely talented, traditional maker of some of the world's best Sangiovese. We had a very long lunch with no bagels and I didn't drink any wine because it wasn't root beer, my favourite. At the end of the meal, Pierluigi asked through a translator why I wasn't drinking. I told him the wine was too bitter (i.e., was not root beer). With a glimmer in his eye, he shuffled to the back of the restaurant and brought me a shimmering golden goblet. "A sweet wine for a sweet girl", he murmured. I was neither sweet nor a girl, as I was spirtful and a witch, but nevertheless I enjoyed it greatly. I still have a soft spot for sweet wines.
first spell: eating poison berries wrapped in non-edible leaves made by my older sister Lisa, to murder and or maim me, and not dying. She was disappointed. Thank you magic!
what makes your heart beat very fast: Sooooo many things. Top picks! Movement! I self-identify as a reformed-jock, but like a soulful jock who feels more centred and connected with the world through things like dancing wildly, closing my eyes in yoga, breathing weird in pilates and skipping with glee. I swim deep to find cold spots, and forever dream of becoming a dog walker.
I also swoon when I meet a dreamer. A buzzy human deeply passionate about something, anything. They tend to dedicate their lives to chasing this passion. Always learning and seeking, open to what comes. Like, whoa. They radiate. You want to be around them. Learn from them. It's the best.
Can I have one more??? Please?? It's not that cool, but I'm a powerful witch, so I insist! This is great! Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with my day job importing the best wines from the raddest humans around the world into Canada. Having the chance to travel to incredible places, learn the geography, history and powerful tradition of a place and then share those stories and potions (aka, wines!) all day to sommeliers at the best restaurants across Canada is just about the most magical thing I can imagine.
first boy or girl you ever kissed, tell us the story: His name was Ben. I was 12. We were on the TTC. Three days earlier we had announced we were boyfriend and girlfriend. The doors opened at Davisville station. I went for the hug and was interrupted by his open mouth, his tongue a soft, wet spill on my teeth and lips. I pulled away in horror as the doors chimed their imminent closure. We never kissed again. He broke up with me the following Thursday while I copied The Word of the Day from his desk in Mr. Cope's English class. (my witch eyes are bad at seeing so I can smell you better!) I don't remember the word. He is now a firefighter in BC and looks very strong and also nice, I saw it once in a bubbling cauldron I call the Book of Faces. I bet he is a way better kisser and if not his impressive saliva must come in handy around all those flames. :)
how many sultry dresses do you own: 3! The real question is how many sultry jumpsuits do I own, which is 7!!!!! I love a good jumpsuit. If I'm wearing a very silky dress, jumpsuit, or fashion pant I will 100% ask you to feel it in a non-threatening way. I will later use your skin particles and forgotten eyelashes for important spells.
what is your favourite thing to make in a cauldron: I am very good at making a thick tomato sauce, I am also partial to risotto with mushrooms and asparagus and forever working on my spell to stir this with sorcery.
what do you most love in a wine: I love wines that are complex without being heavy. Wines with layers of savoury, playful flavours that remind me of visceral experiences. An old growth forest after a rain, a dry field of flowers on a crisp fall day, berries baking in the sun. I also love vin de soifs - wines meant to be served cold and enjoyed that do not take themselves so seriously. Most importantly, I love wines that come from people I love and places that mean something to me. To share pure flavours and the joy supporting artisans bring.
what do you most want to teach muggles (NON WINE PROFESSIONALS): I want to empower all humans to discover naturally made wines that sommeliers are obsessed with. To take away any fear or pretension around wine and bring it back to its roots as a communal food, spreading joy and bringing people together. I want to allow interested wine lovers to find interesting makers from all corners of the planet. I want to support farmers, native grapes and close-held traditions. I want people to drink less chemicals and have less headaches. I want to teach presence and curiosity and foster my coven's inner powerful witch or wizard or at least help their dating life with awesome wines! Related to love, I wish for all to be sheathed in silk and velvet and feel like the human christmas gifts they are to the world.
three witchy women you admire:
1. My mom - my mom is incredible. She grew up in Detroit. Her passion for modern dance led her to New York and then Toronto, where she founded the Toronto Independent Dance Enterprise (TIDE) with some of her best friends. She was (is!) a fierce performer, teacher and choreographer. Two children later, she went back to school at 37 (!) to become a doctor. She is my model for the ultimate witch: brave af, always learning, taking chances, being generous with her spells, silly with her aura and bubbling with magic.
2. Jill Soloway - Watching Jill Soloway's TIFF talk on The Female Gaze exploded my mind. It invited all these swirly brain waves I had hosted in my psyche for years to the best seance rave of an idea. That idea was what it means to be a creative woman maker. How that vision looks and feels. It helped me articulate what type of space I wanted to create and what unique message I wished to whisper (but probably yell!) to the world. Listen to it.
I am cheating, but I also adore Maggie Nelson's work. The way she weaves her personal story into her philosophy is powerful magic that is so fucking feminine and perfect it makes me want to yell with my bifanas at the solstice and send it down the chimney of every 16 year old girl on her first full moon. These two women together have largely formed how I wish to work and be and I am grateful for them.
3. Robyn - I have seen Robyn so many times live it is concerning. I love how she moves SO MUCH. Seeing her eat a banana on stage and dance like no one was watching was a HOLY SHIT this girl is the raddest and my hero moment for 21 year old me in Montreal. I love how she is still making weird, interesting music and refuses to compromise her sound and style. I also love that she started as a pop star. It is okay to start somewhere you like less and move to your authentic truth. It is also fun to change. If I am at a seance rave and you put on Robyn, I will drop everything I am doing and perform for you.