Picks of the local wine lists
What follows here should not be construed as a complete collection of wine info; rather, it is a random roundup of wines at favourite restaurants I can walk to (and, more importantly, home from), since they’re all within a few blocks of where I live.
In each case, I skimmed the wine list and when possible had a quick chat with the sommelier, then identified 1) the cheapest bottle on the list and 2) a personal favourite regardless of price.
(in the Wedgewood Hotel, 845 Hornby Street)
The cheapest wine to be seen is Beringer White Zinfandel ($33), but we’ll move right along to the lovely Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc ($39). One of my all-time favourite French reds is also here: Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage ($90). There’s no sommelier as such, but food and beverage manager Edward Sweetman does those duties as required, and with aplomb.
Black + Blue
(1032 Alberni Street)
The city’s hot new-ish steakhouse offers Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Noir ($47). My fave is the fabulous rosé from Lebanon by Chateau Musar: more than you might be used to paying for a pink wine but well worth the $78 being asked. Robert Byford pulls the corks and dispenses the wine lore, but general manager Richard Goodine is no slouch in that department, if he’s on the floor.
(in the Moda Hotel, 900 Seymour Street)
Home to one of the largest collections of Italian treasures from the house of Gaja in the whole country. Cheapest: Giorgio & Gianni Nero Negroamaro ($35). Fascinating and rare is a Rioja: R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia ($165; only three remain as of this writing). The sommelier is general manager and wine director Steve Edwards, ex Whistler’s Bearfoot Bistro.
(1154 Robson Street)
Here’s where you can find one of the best collections of half-bottles anywhere as part of the terrific wine list; they offer wine flights, too. CinCin pretty much pioneered the city’s house resto-blend concept. Cheapest and also a big personal fave is Cono Sur Viognier ($25). My fave here is JoieFarm Pinot Blanc ($40). Dave Marchand is sommelier, with assistant wine director Jamie Lauder providing affable backup.
(1616 Alberni Street)
The city’s longest-running French restaurant has an amazing cellar. (Go ahead, ask for the Château Petrus—it’s only $5,990!) Cheapest: Pavillon Arnaud Minervois ($55); my new fave: Terravista Figaro, a cool Spanish varietal blend from the Naramata area ($60). David Fert does the sommelier-ing, with Manuel Ferreira wielding supporting corkscrews when he’s not up in the South Okanagan at his other property, Miradoro.
(in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 West Georgia Street)
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner; call for hours. It’s hard to pick a favourite from the exhaustive list. Cheapest: Domaine de Grachies Côtes de Gascogne ($36). Managed to pick one anyway: Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile from Alsace ($198). Sommelier Terry Threlfall rides knowledgeable herd over all these treasures.
The Keg Steakhouse
(742 Thurlow Street)
Still my favourite Keg—dark and cozy, with excellent service and a great prime rib. Cheapest: Jackson-Triggs Merlot ($22); I’m drinking Painter Bridge Zinfandel ($32). The Yaletown Keg may have a cooler vibe, but at least here you don’t have to pay $200 for an hour’s parking! Adam Wilkes handles wine training; general manager Bill Modrovic steps in as sommelier as required.
(333 Menchions Mews)
The place for fabulous weekend brunch, courtesy of superchef Scott Kidd. The cheapest is Las Moras Reserve Torrontés ($41). My fave: Venturi-Schulze Brut Naturel bubbly ($51 for the half-bottle). The sommelier is Michael Moller.
(869 Hamilton Street; dinner only)
Sommelier and coproprietor Michael Mameli installed the city’s first Prosecco dispenser in order to have the popular Italian bubbly on tap. He presides over a fine, mostly Italian list. Cheapest (“our staple”): Placido-Banfi Pinot Grigio and Chianti, both $9.50 per glass, $38 for the bottle. A fascinating treat from Sicily is Tenuta Delle Terre Nere ($98), off the slopes of Mount Etna. Ask Mameli for a recommendation.
Market by Jean-Georges
(in the Shangri-La Hotel, 1115 Alberni Street)
A long-time favourite for lunch—love those little truffle pizzas! Cheapest: Château de Pennautier Viognier ($42). My faves (I get to pick two): Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Riesling ($68; supplies may be getting low) and Schug Pinot Noir from California ($81). Sommelier is David Tremblay.
(751 Denman Street)
Restaurateur John Blakely’s second French eatery, this has revitalized the West End space that used to house Café de Paris. Cheapest: Three Winds Viognier and Gatao Vinho Verde ($36 each). My fave: Pfaffenheim Alsace Gewürztraminer ($52). Wine-pouring is supervised by general manager Geraldine Daugy.
Red Card Sports Bar
(in the Moda Hotel, 560 Smithe Street)
It’s all about beer here: 40 different ones, including 16 on tap. General manager Darryl Paquin suggests Chimay Bleue ($9), Acme California Pale Ale ($8), and Green Flash West Coast IPA ($8). I’ll have to check them out before committing.
(in the Loden Hotel, 1181 Melville Street)
Here you’ll encounter one of the most interesting wine lists in the city, along with lovely lunch specials, including state-of-the-art steak tartare and a brilliant plate of mushrooms on toast. And they offer takeout! Cheapest: Terre de Neptune Picpoul de Pinet ($39). My fave: Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris ($55; also by the glass for $12). The sommelier is assistant manager Alex Thornley, who has the knowledge and panache to back up the cool, quirky list.
(1059 Alberni Street)
Vancouver’s first true chocolaterie is heaven for sweets lovers—and it’s open seven days a week until midnight to cater to all cravings! If you like wine with your pastries, there’s Quails’ Gate Rosé ($35). I’m drinking Chapoutier Banyuls ($9.95 a glass—well, you wouldn’t want a whole bottle of the sweet stuff!). No sommelier required.
Zefferelli’s Spaghetti Joint
(1136 Robson Street)
Pasta rules, and Alberto Lemmo does it right (besides acting as sommelier and all-around wine guy); his chicken livers with sage happens to be one of my favourite dishes. Cheapest: Folonari Verona Bianco ($30); I can drink the Kettle Valley Pinot Gris ($47) all dinner long.