As with last year, I’m not limiting these lists to things that came out this calendar year, just what I consumed this year. And, as with last year, everything is listed in alphabetical order unless stated otherwise.
My favourite albums this year
I’m well-behind here, having not yet fully gone through this year’s albums by Alvvays, Beach House, black midi, Horsegirl, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, The Smile, Regina Spektor, or Sharon Van Etten, but here’s where I’m at for now.
XI: Bleed Here Now by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
Just when you think Trail Of Dead can’t get more epic, they drop a 22-song double album on you. Hit and miss like many of their albums, but the strongest ones stuck with me.
Life On Earth by Hurray For The Riff Raff
My first pass through this album I didn’t like it, but I kept coming back to it (mostly drawn back by “Rhododendron”) and eventually found a cozy little home in it.
King’s Disease by Nas
It was a happy coincidence that I was prompted to revisit Illmatic (see the TV section for the backstory there) not long before this was released, so there was some continuity there. Hard to imagine someone being this strong for this long.
11:11 by Pinegrove
Somehow it feels like every song is kind of the same, and every album is kind of the same, and yet somehow I’m captivated by each one.
Everything Was Beautiful by Spiritualized
This one grabbed me from the first listen, and only got better on replays. “Best Thing You Never Had” belongs right up there with their very best songs, IMO.
Lucifer On The Sofa by Spoon
Speaking of so strong for so long, it’s hard to believe this banger came out a full 20 years after Kill The Moonlight, still one of my all-time favourite albums.
Dig Me In: A Dig Me Out Covers Album by Various Artists
This set of covers of the seminal Sleater-Kinney album surprised me — it’s excellent pretty much top to bottom. When I saw a country artist was covering “Turn It On” (one of my favourite songs of all time) I was horrified, but…it’s good. It’s all good.
My favourite songs this year
This is still very much a work in progress, until I work my way through the list above.
- …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead . “No Confidence”
- Ethel Cain . “Thoroughfare”
- Cat Power . “I Had A Dream Joe:
- Dehd . “Window”
- Hurray for the Riff Raff . “Rhododendron”
- Nas . “Beef”
- Angel Olsen . “Go Home”
- Sault . “Life We Rent But Love Is Rent Free”
- The Smile . “Pana-vision”
- Spiritualized . “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)”
My favourite movies this year
My movie consumption this year was even more meagre than in 2020. In fact, I watched only six movies released in 2022. Given the smaller pool to select from, I didn’t even make it to ten. Nonetheless:
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
Hoo boy. I’m not sure I’ve ever swung so wildly between laughter and despair in a single movie. Beautifully shot and worth all the accolades for all four primary cast members. A tidy little metaphor for the civil war happening just across the water too.
The Dig (2021)
An austere and pastoral film set in the English countryside on the eve of WWII, a study of relationships and class and avarice and the quest for knowledge, all centered around some lumps in a field. Really lovely.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story (2022)
Oh, how I’ve missed Benoit Blanc. So much fun, this movie. Such a delightful little dinner theatre romp. Such fun skewering so many awful people. Such a cute little Hugh Grant cameo. More please!!
The Good Nurse (2022)
I knew nothing about this, but it showed up on the TV one day and we felt like watching it, and…oof. A dark story, made all the darker because it’s true, but so skillfully acted by Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne that it didn’t come off as hacky or gross.
Hi there, I’m 32 years too late. Somehow, somehow, I had never seen this movie. I don’t know how it happened. I think I saw bits and pieces of it? Or maybe I saw it so long ago that I didn’t remember/appreciate it? I don’t know, but I’m glad I finally got to it. Another Scorsese masterpiece, as if that needed to be said.
Shang-chi: Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021)
Holy action sequences, kids. Really brought some martial arts flavour to the Marvel universe. Also: Awkwafina, who was so so so great. Aside: I laughed so hard at the chicken pig that I spit Diet Pepsi everywhere.
Spiderman: No Way Home (2021)
Sure, guys, sure. Prey on Dan and his Spider-Man nostalgia. At this point I suppose most people know the twist, but I shan’t spoil it. I’ll just say that a kind-of dopey worked for me in a year when I was probably going through a bit of Marvel withdrawal. (I’m looking at you, Thor: Love and Thunder.)
The F Word (2013)
Not a great movie, but a clever little rom-com that won some points with me for being set in Toronto. Like, actually in Toronto, and they made it look gorgeous. The scene where Daniel Radcliffe sits on his roof looks like he was somewhere in Riverdale, and the diner scenes made me miss brunch at my old local the George Street Diner. Also: Adam Driver is very hilarious.
Wind River (2017)
Basically a straight procedural set in the harsh American wilderness, but Taylor Sheridan does those well enough to keep me hooked for a couple hours. And maybe enough to make me kind of want to watch Yellowstone. We’ll see.
My favourite TV shows this year
As with last year, this is the only medium we’re consuming with such frequency that I had to actually pick a top ten. Still, I find myself behind: I haven’t yet watched Severance, Fleishman Is In Trouble, The Bear, Reservation Dogs, Our Flag means Death, or any of Better Call Saul.
One of the best Star Wars series is also the least Star Wars-y. No Force, no lightsabers, no Yodas baby or otherwise, virtually no space battles. Just the sparks of rebellion, lighting little fires everywhere.
The story obviously wasn’t new, but Amanda Seyfried’s performance was a revelation. Takes on new weight, too, now that Elizabeth Holmes has been convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Let’s be honest, this is only here for two reasons: Zendaya’s brilliant ongoing portrayal of Rue, and Lexi’s play.
One of the things I loved about the Slow Burn podcast season about Watergate is that it told a part of the story that I — whose understanding of the incident was based almost entirely on All The President’s Men — didn’t know. That story was about Martha Mitchell, and it got turned into this excellent limited series starring Sean Penn and Julia Roberts.
House of the Dragon (S1)
I’ve been waiting a while for more GoT content, and finally got it with HotD. It was at once slow to get moving while also taking massive time jumps forward, but as season one comes to a close we’re finally ready for the dance of dragons…and I, for one, cannot wait.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (S1)
Speaking of slow to get moving, this series took its time, but by the end of season one I was hooked. Good reveals. Good backstory. Great visuals. I’m into it.
I stepped away from this show for a long time, but ended up coming back to it and blazed through the final couple seasons in one go. Bonus content: Ruth’s impromptu music review with Killer Mike made me go back and listen to Illmatic again for the first time in a while.
We Own This City
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ll watch anything David Simon makes, especially if it’s about Baltimore policing and the rot at the heart of that city’s municipal systems. It was infuriating, but I suppose I expected that going in. Also: it’s always jarring, if a little fun, to see the actors behind such well-known Wire characters (Marlo! Landsman! etc.) play new parts here.
The White Lotus (S2)
We didn’t know how season 2 could live up to season 1, but…it did. Oh, it did. This time gender politics came in for its turn under the microscope (though some class politics seeped over from season 1, which I guess at a fancy resort will always be the case) and the run-up to the dead body mystery was *chef’s kiss*.
We’d heard about it but hadn’t watched it. Then we threw on an episode to see what it was about…and binged it all in like 2 days. Frankly, I’m glad we came to it late, because now we only have to wait three months for season 2. Killer (ha!) soundtrack too.
My favourite books this year
After several of reading two, one, or even zero books per year, I came back strong this year. Granted, I petered off halfway through the year, and granted too that 50% of them were about wine, but still…this is progress. I forgot how much I love reading.
The Cinema Of Survival: Mad Max Fury Road by Matt Brown
I was part of the Kickstarter for this one, both a film-nerdy look at an excellent action movie, and a cipher for what Brown was experiencing at the time.
Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
A book club book which took the three of us (me, Lindsay, our friend Shannon) nearly two years to finish. Staggering in its poetry (even translated into English), profundity, and relevance — some 60+ years on — the weight of the work demanded we take our time of it.
Dune by Frank Herbert
I finally got around to reading this, one of my dad’s all-time favourite books, after watching last year’s movie remake. From the elements of the book which now seem so familiar, it’s apparent just how influential and ahead of its time it was.
Wine Girl by Victoria James
The first of four wine books I read this year, this one was about the struggles of a young woman becoming a sommelier in the archaic and abusive wine & restaurant industry. As much as I love learning about wine and delving deeper into the world of it, this book just reinforced that even as a privileged white dude I would never want to enter the service side of it.
Wine and War by Don & Petie Kladstrup
A look at how French winemakers survived, and protected their greatest vintages, during Nazi occupation in WWII, from Alsace to Bordeaux.
The Lynching by Laurence Leamer
The story of a 1981 lynching of a black man in the American south, and the lawyer who launched a court battle that splintered the KKK. That same lawyer founded the Southern Poverty Law Centre…so there’s a lot going on in this book. Not an easy read, but an interesting one.
Tenth Of December by George Saunders
A collection of short stories that’s been sitting on my shelf for ages. I wish I’d reached for it sooner — so many of the stories are still in my head many months after reading it.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace
More riveting than you might think, this story about rich people buying ancient Bordeaux wines, including bottles that may or may not have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. Read like a John le Carré novel, and exposed me to a whole wine subculture I didn’t know about.
Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson
A non-fiction endorsement of adventurous wine tasting, focusing on grapes beyond the everyday noble sort that can be found on any wine list. Bonus points for making the title a gentle poke in the eye to Robert Parker.
My favourite podcasts this year
A change to the format this year: we can assume that perpetual favourites like 99% Invisible, Against The Rules, Dead Eyes, Office Ladies, Revisionist History, This American Life, You Are Good, and You’re Wrong About will remain so. I’ll instead list my favourite new (to me) podcasts here.
Passenger List (S2)
I finally got around to listening to season 2 of this narrative series, and got sucked right back in. The sound design continues to amaze.
Sure, the stories of people who use social media (or similar) influence to scam others out of money, trust, etc. are entertaining in a “Wait, what?!” kind of way, but the real draw here is the banter between Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi.
Imagine that, wine content! I’m late to this series, but I’ve already spent one episode disagreeing loudly with the hose while alone in my car, so you know I’m engaged.
The Wire: Way Down In The Hole
Again, I’m very late to this episode-by-episode deep dive on every episode of The Wire, but I’m excited to have finally discovered it.
Will Be Wild
A compelling and informative look at the run-up to, and events of, the 6 Jan 2021 insurrection at the US capitol building. The series ended up wrapping around the same time as the select committee hearings, and the producers were able to loop back with that new context.
My favourite meals this year
Quite the inverse of last year: the majority of my top ten this year were outside of Toronto. Listed in chronological order.
The first of two visits this year, this NotL mainstay never disappoints. Every time, the meal is so good we beg for a lunch reservation the next day.
Our first night back in Montreal we took a bit of a flier on this place in the old city, and it was tremendous. A great bottle of Meursault didn’t hurt.
Maison Publique, Montreal
Our return to our favourite Montreal restaurant lived up to our memories, and felt like coming home. I still think about the spicy duck hearts we ate that night.
Tucked into a cozy booth with N+J, trying not to sweat to death, piling one delicious dish (and bottle) after another down our necks — what a dinner.
The Yellow Pear, St. Catharines
Lindsay did a bit of digging before we drove from NotL to wineries in Vineland, and found this unassuming place in a strip mall. My barbacoa pork skillet was a revelation.
I’d eaten solo at Drift several times during my visit earlier in the year, but this full-on dinner with Lindsay in the summer produced several superb dishes, and a stellar bottle of Chard.
Chez Muffy, Quebec City
The sort of gastronomic tasting menu we’d missed for years. Not surprising we found it in Quebec City. Many hours later, we were grateful our hotel was just around the corner.
Chez Rioux & Pettigrew, Quebec City
Honestly, we were just looking to kill a few hours before our flight home to Toronto, but this brunch spot ended up being an absolute gem. The fixed menu was loaded with enough food — delicious food, at that — to count as two meals on this list.
Greta Solomon’s, Toronto
Finally, a Toronto restaurant! This one’s been just down the street from us for years, but we’d never tried it until this month. It turned out to be a classic, tasty little French bistro.
The last of my three visits to Barberians this year. This one had the edge thanks to the steak/lamb combo, and the out-of-the-blue wine from Washington State.
My favourite (new) wines this year
A process improvement over last year: I’ve added (occasional) scoring in Cellartracker to my sources from previous years — Instagram and blog posts. Perhaps surprising: five of these are white wines. Two notes: I’ve excluded anything my company makes, and these are listed in chronological order.
Dopff au Moulin 2018 Grand Cru Brand Gewurztraminer
Kind of fitting that I drank this one while studying for a WSET exam and watching a wine documentary.
Domaine du Bel Air 2012 Grand Mont Bourgueil
We bought this bottle in Paris nearly fiive years before, and managed to leave it alone until one night this past January. It was worth the wait.
Bachelder 2014 Wismer-Parke Pinot Noir
My favourite of the night (poured from a magnum) in an evening filled with Thomas Bachelder’s Chards and Pinots, at a charity-won dinner at Barberians with good friends.
Exultet 2019 The Blessed Chardonnay
No special occasion drove opening this one, other than the opening of it. Surely one of the best Chardonnays in a province that makes exceptional ones.
P. Frick 2018 Auxerrois Crémant d’Alsace
A delightful opener for a (somewhat disastrous) dinner at Nora Grey in Montreal. Beat out the Meursault we’d drunk the night before on the strength of how much it surprised me.
Robert Mondavi 2016 To-Kalon Vineyard Reserve Fumé Blanc
To-Kalon vineyard: believe the hype.
From the Heart Cuvée Number One 2019 Chardonnay
Not the most remarkable megnum of Chardonnay, perhaps, but noteworthy because of the story behind it (a blend of top Ontario chards created by Thomas Bachelder, purchased at the afore-mentioned charity dinner), the signature on the bottle (Geddy Lee!), and the company with whom we shared it (brother #2 and his wife).
Olga Raffault 2006 Les Picasses Chinon
Another magnum, this one shared with friends at Kojin.
Kelly Mason 2020 Wild Ferment Frontier Block Chardonnay
While doing a tasting at Southbrook in Niagara on the Lake, an employee heard us saying we’d ordered a couple of bottles of this particular Chardonnay from Kelly Mason. She insisted we buy more. We emailed Kelly and added two more to our order, and I’m glad we did — this one was unreal. I’m relieved we have three more in the cellar.
Andrew Will 2003 Sheridan Vineyard red blend
On the advice of our sommelier at Barberian’s, we ordered this mature Washington blend with our steak and lamb, and my goodness. It was superb.
My favourite (new) beers this year
Like my movie consumption, my beer-drinking has reached its nadir, to the point where I barely drink — barely can drink — beer at all. In fact, I tried only three new beers all year.
Avling Foxtail Zwickelbier
Living even closer to Avling means it’s a pretty easy stop-in for us, like the dinner with our friend V where I tried this decent little zwickel.
Nine Locks Brewing Co. Double Chocolate Stout
I drank this on Canada Day, sat on a Halifax patio, one of the few remaining places I will probably always feel compelled to drink a beer.
Tilquin Oude Pinot Gris Gueuze
A variant of one of my all-time favourite beers, done on the skins of Pinot Gris grapes, this gueuze was one of the best things I drank all year.
My favourite moments this year
In chronological order.
- Seeing a snowy owl launch itself off our roof, then fly back.
- An epic dinner at Barberians hosted by Thomas Bachelder.
- Seeing old Delano friends for the first time in decades:
- My first real haircut in two years, thank the maker.
- Book club in Riverdale Park with our friend Shannon.
- Getting over-porked in Port Perry.
- Seeing Sigur Ros live again, and tearing up at the end of Popplagið.
- Forest trails and roadside fries outside Montreal with N+J.
- Free drinks at Cluny with T+K, just for being nice Maritimers.
- Catching up with old classmates at my 25th university reunion.
- Speakeasy drinks with brother #1 looking over Halifax Harbour.
- Getting pooped on by a bird at Southbrook on my birthday.
- Meeting two of my favourite Niagara winemakers in one weekend.
- Hanging out with a school of fish on the Halifax waterfront stairs one night.
- Lindsay and I drinking the list at Obladee in one night.
- A glorious day driving down the Minas Basin shore with my mom.
- Eating the best donairs ever at a cottage in the Annapolis Valley.
- Skipping rocks on a beach while a seal kept an eye on us.
- A spontaneous art buy in Quebec City.
- Loading the first bottle into our new wine cellar.
[Cover photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]