Platinum winners from the Vancouver International Wine Festival share their fave bottles

The half-dozen top finishers in the Wine Program Excellence Awards category expertly match vintages with their eateries’ fare

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      The dust had barely settled on this year’s edition of the Wine Program Excellence Awards at the Vancouver International Wine Festival when I grabbed my phone and got to work on this week’s column.

      Out of the 33 restaurants that had nabbed honourable mentions or bronze, silver, gold, or platinum awards, it was the half-dozen sommeliers at the helm of the six platinum-award winning spots I was calling. Their wine programs were lauded for not only spot-on wine listings but excellent service and great compatibility with what is coming out of their respec­tive kitchens. For this year’s Golden Plates issue of the Straight, we’re getting wine recommendations from Vancouver’s best sommeliers.


      Lisa Haley
      L’Abattoir (217 Carrall Street)

      Fratelli Alessandria “Speziale” Verduno Pelaverga DOC 2016 (Piedmont, Italy; $32 to $36, private liquor stores)

      “We’ve really latched onto Fratelli Alessandria’s Verduno Pelaverga, and sell tons of it,” says Haley (who does double duty, also overseeing the wine program at new sister restaurant Coquille Fine Seafood). “It’s very light and fresh and filled with blood orange and black pepper. We use it for those guests who need a wine for their fish and their duck!” When purchasing your own bottle at places like Village Liquor Store in West Vancouver, Haley recommends putting a little chill on it before serving.


      William Mulholland
      Blue Water Cafe (1095 Hamilton Street)

      Champagne Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs d’Aÿ Brut (Champagne, France; $66.86, Marquis Wine Cellars)

      It’s no surprise Mulholland opted for a little celebratory Champagne, as Blue Water arguably carries the best selection of the stuff in town. “I really like this Champagne,” he tells me. “It’s well integrated, with good creaminess, and a super-fine mousse gives it some elegance, and you can also purchase it in 1.5-litre format, which I find gives it some more depth. In the magnum, it’s the perfect wine when entertaining, especially as a first course with oysters, caviar, green-apple stuffed brioche. For Champagne of this quality, the price is unbeatable.”


      Bryant Mao
      Hawksworth Restaurant (801 West Georgia Street)

      Château du Hureau Tuffe 2015 (Saumur-Champigny, France; $31.99, Liberty Wine Merchants)

      “I always have a soft spot for Cabernet Franc,” Mao says. “It’s bright and juicy with lovely, brambly fruit. With such fresh acidity, it’s a very versatile pairing with spring fruit and vegetables.” A perfect wine for the season, you can always give it a whirl at Hawksworth, where he’s pouring it by the glass.


      Shane Taylor
      CinCin Ristorante + Bar (1154 Robson Street)

      Marqués de Riscal Reserva 2013 (Rioja, Spain; $29.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Taylor calls this wine “Classic Rioja that ticks all the boxes”. He enjoys its old-school style, with “beautiful aromatics, red fruit, perfume, dill, and coconut in the background from American oak, with crunchy red fruit on the palate. It’ll make you crave a big hunk of meat or a barbecued Portobello mushroom.” The best part? “It’s only $30 but drinks like a $50 bottle of wine!” he declares.

      Sean Nelson
      Vij’s (3106 Cambie Street)

      Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan Riesling Trocken 2016 (Pfalz, Germany; $26.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      “Trocken Rieslings can often be very austere and hard-edged, especially in youth,” British Columbia’s 2018 sommelier of the year tells me. “But the slightly warmer climate of the Pfalz gives this wine a rounder mouthfeel and a great balance of fruitiness and vibrancy. As a pairing, try grilled sausages with roasted potato and apple!”


      Matthew Sherlock
      Burdock & Co. (2702 Main Street)

      Domaine de la Pépière “Clisson” Muscadet Cru 2014 (Loire Valley, France; $37 to $42, private liquor stores)

      Possibly the busiest guy in the business, Sherlock is part of the team running Naramata’s Nichol Vineyard and Lock & Worth Winery, and he is also a partner at Sedimentary Wines, a western Canadian import company specializing in European natural wines. On top of all that, he also acts as wine director at Mount Pleasant’s Burdock & Co., working with chef-owner Andrea Carlson.

      For his recommendation, Sherlock heads to the Loire Valley in France for a crisp and cool Muscadet, saying: “In this market, it’s very rare when you can drink one of the greatest wines from any region for around $40. This is one of those wines. It’s cellar-worthy (it can easily go five to 15 years), and seriously complex, but it’s also downright chuggable.” The wine can be found at Kitsilano Wine Cellar and Liberty Wine Merchants on Commercial Drive, while other selections from the organic domaine can also be found on Burdock & Co.’s list.