Cigar Aficionado

Cigars at The Post Hotel

Andre Schwarz is worried. He’s sitting at the table with me, my wife and daughter in the dining room of his award-winning restaurant and hotel and talking about what’s heading toward him at The Post Hotel. If you’ve been to Lake Louise, Alberta in Canada, then you can’t miss the hotel; it sits just to right of the main intersection at the Samson Mall, just off the exit of the Trans-Canada highway. Its red metal roofs beckon travelers, and with their steep smooth slopes remind everyone that while the place is beautiful in the summer, there’s a ton of snow in the wintertime that creates world class skiing.

That’s why Andre and his brother George came to Lake Louise back in the 70s. They were skiers, and once they arrived from Switzerland, they basically never left. It’s a long story, but they took over what amounted to an aging motel, and transformed it into the Relais et Chateau property that it is today—in other words, it is among the best hotels in the world. The brothers also bought into the idea that great food and wine attract a great crowd, and they have devoted a lot of their investments, and personal passions, to the dining room and the wine cellar. The wine list has received the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, and it is filled with gems. At the recommendation of the sommelier, my family and I drank a 1998 Clos Vougeot, from the Domaine Gros Frere; it was fabulous. The kitchen focuses on classis dishes with some modern touches, and it excels. For us, those elements of the good life also happen to make The Post a perfect bookend to the week we spent mountain climbing in early July at a nearby mountain valley lodge in Lake O’Hara.

So why was Andre worried? He has one of the nicest cigar-smoking lounges anywhere in North America. It’s just off the main dining room with nice leather chairs, wood paneling and a full range of great spirits, from Cognacs and single malt Scotches to fine Rums. Here are some highlights from his cigar list. The prices are all in Canadian dollars, which once upon a time actually meant somewhere between a 20 and 30 percent discount for Americans; alas, the Canadian dollar is trading at about 95 cents on the U.S. dollar today. But he has Bolivar Royal Coronas at $23, Cohiba Esplendidos, $48, Montecristo No. 1s, $28, El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme, $23 and San Cristobal de la Habana el Morros, $34. If you need any help deciding on a choice, he lists the Cigar Aficionado ratings of the cigars that we’ve tasted.

So, again, what’s the worry? Well, the Canadian government, like governments everywhere, is thinking about imposing a federal smoking ban. And if it goes through, it is likely that Andre and George will have to close the lounge, at least that’s what is worrying him. Now mind you, this is the perfect set-up for a smoking room; a separate door, a ventilation system and the possibility of self-serve arrangement that if necessary could keep employees out of the room. Furthermore, I’ve seen it with my own eyes and smelled it with my own nose; when someone is smoking in there, you can’t tell it in the adjacent dining room. Isn’t that the perfect compromise? Doesn’t that allow adults to make a free choice to smoke a cigar, if they choose to, without affecting anyone but themselves?

Maybe common sense will prevail, and Andre and George can stop worrying about having to dismantle one piece of the puzzle that they’ve put together in creating a great haven for cigar lovers. In the meantime, if you’re around Lake Louise, stop in and say hello to the Schwarzs. They are great restaurateurs and hoteliers, and great people.

"It is a shame that government intrusion in simple pleasures will cause many cigar smokers to smoke in the confines of their own homes. Great blog Gordon; I hope that the Canadian government has the foresight to not enact a law that prohibits personal freedoms." —July 18, 2007 14:43 PM