Vancouver sommeliers reveal their wine picks

From $7 glasses to $1,100 bottles, here’s what’s drinking well at local restaurants.
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So I asked around to favourite eateries and their owners, managers, chefs, and sommeliers. “What wine(s) do you like to drink these days?” One caveat: it had to be something from the restaurant’s current wine list or out of the cellar.

Got plenty of answers. In fact, only one never got back to me. Conclusion: those in the biz like their wine. Here’s the response sheet, in alphabetical order. Go ahead and ask for these wines when you go—and enjoy!

John Blakeley, owner of Bistro Pastis (and busy renovating the old Café de Paris on Denman, soon to open as Le Parisien), picked a great all-around food wine—French, what else?—and excellent value from his cellar: Domaine de Grachies Côtes de Gascogne 2009 ($39.50 in the restaurant).

Kathleen Bolton, manager at Thierry, the city’s hot new sweet shop, picked Chapoutier Banyuls, the beautiful dessert wine that “loves to be paired with chocolate” ($8.95 by the glass). Chocolate available in abundance.

Robert Byford (Black + Blue) is the Glowbal Group’s operating partner and sommelier who loves the newcomer Plume, which he describes as “a blend of 90 percent Cabernet Sauvignon fleshed out with Petit Verdot, Petite Syrah, Malbec, and a dash of Merlot; a collaboration of the Stewart family from Quails’ Gate [Estate Winery] in B.C. and the Zepponi family from the Napa Valley. [It] delivers a lush complexity at a respectful price [$60].” His match made in heaven is a pairing with one of the steak restaurant’s medium-rare P.E.I. Blue Ribbon strip loins.

Manuel Ferreira is the owner and cellar-keys-keeper of Le Gavroche, Vancouver’s oldest standing French restaurant, now with a back-to-basics menu and a genial manager in David Fert. “You’ll laugh,” says Ferreira, digging deep into his Portuguese roots. “I’m drinking lots of Gazela Rosé.” (A bottle will run you $10.99 at LDB liquor stores.) But then he hews true to the strength of his cellar, which includes an astonishing selection of French wines, for Ogier Héritages Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2010 ($35 the bottle in the restaurant) and Nicolas Potel Chorey Les Beaunes for the red ($65 per bottle in the restaurant).

Superchef David Hawksworth, who’s making major waves with his new restaurant of the same name in the dazzlingly refurbished Rosewood Hotel Georgia, calls Meursault Les Narvaux 2009 Domaine Vincent Girardin “a lovely big Burgundy with great acidity…an excellent partner to our pan-roasted Pacific sablefish [with] maitake, chayote, tom yum broth…one of our most popular dinner items”. It’s $30 by the glass or $150 for a bottle.

Abel Jacinto is the long-time maître d’ and sommelier at Bishop’s Restaurant. (I’ve always wondered how—and where!—they fit all those fabulous wines into that tiny space.) Jacinto had a tough time picking favourites (“There are so many”) but likes “a wine that has been on our list as long as I’ve been at Bishop’s [over 22 years]…consistent in quality and the price is right: Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2007.…We sell it for $60.”

Sebastien Le Goff—supersommelier at the just-opened Cactus Club Cafe on English Bay—and food concept architect Rob Feenie each picked two favourites from that restaurant’s cellar.

Feenie chose the Haywire Pinot Gris ($12 per glass) from Summerland. This is the one he paired with his win last November in the Gold Medal Plates qualifying round. He also chose Evening Land Pinot Noir ($19 per glass), from Oregon. He loves the latter for its “walk-on-a-recently-wet-forest-floor flavour characteristic” and says it pairs well with hunter chicken or Dijon salmon on the current menu.

Le Goff selected Azul Portugal Vinho Verde ($8 per glass; “great pairing with seafood, particularly tuna tataki”) and Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava ($7 per glass), a “dry citrusy bubble, from the northeast corner of Spain…great as an apéritif or with seafood, even our spicy chicken”.

Michael Mameli, sommelier at Lupo, is waffling: Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2006 ($30 retail), “rich, spicy, layered, good value”, or Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo ($34.95 retail)—“many good memories from my visit; Sangiovese and Merlot blend, modern style, consistency; pleases all palates”. Plus “all Brunellos, [we have] an unbelievable string of vintages.”

Not one to disdain B.C. wines, Mameli is finding “a lot of people really enjoy the Young & Wyse wines, and Foxtrot is really opening wine drinkers’ eyes for quality Pinot Noir in the [Okanagan] Valley.”

Italian restaurant icon Umberto Menghi (Il Giardino et al., downtown and Whistler) likes ’em big and bold—and, in some cases, expensive. Of course. Menghi picks three from the Il Giardino cellars: Tenuta Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 ($105 per bottle); Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2008 ($440 per bottle); and Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia Masseto 2008—get ready to celebrate something very special, because it’s $1,100 per bottle.

Holding down the Qs are the Quaglias, Alessandra and Jean-Francis, at the two Provences: Marinaside downtown and Mediterranean Grill on West 10th. Alessandra’s pick is JoieFarm Reserve Chardonnay ($68 at the Mediterranean Grill): “First time I tasted the 2008, I felt like I was transported to the Côte de Beaune or, say, the Mâconnais. It goes best with our mushroom ravioli or prawns Provençal.”

Jean-Francis likes Sandhill Viognier ($60 on the Marinaside wine list): “You can drink it any time of the day. It’s my favourite wine and I always love promoting local wine, as well.”

Steeve Raye and Tony Lafleur are the executive chef and front guy, respectively, at Café Régalade. “One of our favourites—and also of many of our customers—is the so elegant Gamay Burgundy Morgon Côtes du Py 2009 from Jean Foillard,” says Raye. (Available for $80 in the café.)

David Tremblay, sommelier at MARKET by Jean-Georges, says he’s “torn between a few different white wines, but the wet Vancouver swill sways me into the red zone: Château Pesquié Terrasses 2009 [$11 per glass], a Grenache/Syrah from Ventoux.…A plate of roasted game meat would complement nicely.”

Andrea Vescovi, wine director at Blue Water Café in Yaletown, likes Nino Franco Grave di Stucco Valdobbiadene Prosecco: “great with chilled seafood from our Seafood on Ice menu”. It runs $75 per bottle, and is available by the glass ($18).

Vikram Vij is the owner and wine guru of Vij’s restaurant; he’s busy building a bigger place right now, and isn’t it about time? Vij loves Riesling, so I would have expected a Riesling, but his pick this time is Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc from the south Okanagan ($39 per bottle). Yes, with the lamb popsicles, too!

Emily Walker, sales manager at YEW restaurant + bar in the Four Seasons Hotel, picked a rosé as her current favourite: Pierre Naigeon Marsannay Rosé ($78 per bottle; occasionally available by the glass). “Ultra food-friendly, with plenty of sweet field strawberries.…It pairs perfectly with chef Ned Bell’s steelhead tataki and freshly shucked oysters.”

Get at it if you want it.

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