Raise a Golden Glass to some first-rate Vancouver wine lists

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      For this Golden Plates edition of the Straight, we shine a spotlight on many restaurants at the top of their game. Once votes are tabulated, there are always both some surprises and, of course, perennial winners in various categories. On the wine side of things, there are places often top of mind we know we can depend on for a killer selection of bottles, but there are always others a step or two away from that spotlight that are also worthy of our attention. This week, I want to tout a trio of ’em; let’s dub these my personal Golden Glass awards.

      One of these places is my local, Mamie Taylor’s in Chinatown (251 East Georgia Street). Since 2013, it has been a go-to for many when craving homey, southern U.S. fare like fried chicken (with roast cauliflower waffle, Szechuan honey, slaw, and gravy) or the comfort of a juicy burger (with Swiss cheese, red-pepper relish, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and fries). Step into the space anytime the joint is jumping and you’ll spot craft beer from local breweries like Strange Fellows Brewing or Superflux Beer Company atop many a table among a slew of well-made cocktails. The cocktail aspect is a given at the place; proprietor Ron Oliver was at the top of the local cocktail game with positions at places like Blue Water Cafe and the Diamond before opening shop.

      Though it may not be the first instinct for most walking in the door, Mamie’s wine list deserves more than a casual glance. Hovering around the 40-bottle mark, the program offers both value and balance, with a selection beyond what many would expect for the casual spot. Sure, when you’re tucking into that hanger steak (with Brussels sprouts, new potatoes, red kale, and red wine jus), that rich and plummy Tinto Negro Malbec 2016 from Argentina ($11 per glass or $50 per bottle) will come up a treat. Let’s say, though, that there are a couple of wine geeks at the table (likely, considering the place is a restaurant-industry hot spot) and they’re looking for something off the beaten path. Alpha Box & Dice 2016 “Rebel Rebel” Montepulciano from Langhorne Creek, Australia, would fit the bill too, with its proper take on the Italian variety, chock-full of peppery mulberries and cherries at a very reasonable $70. Looking to impress your father-in-law? Let’s head to Burgundy for a little Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin 2013 ($155), shall we?

      Yup, there are fancy bottles, too. The best part is, you’re not gonna get gouged when ordering them. Case in point: want to go all-out with your popcorn-shrimp po’ boy (with apple-jicama slaw, Old Bay mayo, cilantro, and fries)? Why not pop a cork from a chilled Pierre Paillard Non-Vintage “Les Parcelles” Bouzy Grand Cru Champagne? At $120, it’s a more than fair, less-than-100-percent markup, considering it’s $67.99 on B.C. Liquor Store shelves. That’s certainly worthy of toasting a glass of the citrus-and-brioche laden fizz.

      Sebastien Le Goff oversees the wine program at Cactus Club Cafe, which offers discounts on bottles of vino every Tuesday.

      Speaking of deals, it doesn’t get much better than Tuesdays at Cactus Club Cafe (various locations), when the entire wine list is on offer for half-price. Sebastien Le Goff’s wine program is a spirited accompaniment to chef Rob Feenie’s menu, regardless of what we’re noshing on. Whether it’s his classic butternut-squash ravioli with prawns (butternut-squash-and-mascarpone ravioli, truffle butter, sautéed jumbo prawns, pine nuts, crispy sage) or a simple order of crispy yam fries with garlic aioli, there will be many a wine suited to pair. That bottle of British Columbia’s Tantalus Vineyards Chardonnay, overflowing with lemon, pear, and hazelnuts, is regularly $57 on the list but on Tuesdays is a mere $28.50. Hell, you can go crazy and pop some Dom Pérignon Champagne on that day, when its $460 price tag becomes $230, which is six bucks cheaper than you’ll find it for at B.C. Liquor Stores.

      Finally, I’ve really been digging what Siôn Iorwerth has been doing at Juice Bar at the Birds & the Beets in Gastown (55 Powell Street). What was originally a weekly pop-up natural-wine bar has now morphed into a four-nights-a-week flight of good times running every Wednesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. onward. Each night, the guy and his cheery team of wine enthusiasts crack a varying selection of wines from all around the world to offer by the glass. A rotating roster of guest chefs brings a dynamic food program where a fresh oyster bar one night turns into an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria the next. You never know who will stop by, either. Just in the past few weeks, actor-comedian Aziz Ansari stopped in postshow; a few days later, guests could enjoy a fresh and fruity glass of La Stoppa Trebbiolo out of Emilia-Romagna, Italy, poured by cellar and vineyard guy Nico Sciackitano, who was visiting from the winery.

      Less fussy, more fun: there’s a great wine scene happening in Vancouver. Get out there and drink it up.