I’m rather confident there’s been no better time to be a burger lover in Vancouver than right now. Sure, there are icons around that are steeped in local history, from White Spot to Vera’s Burger Shack, but in recent years we seem to have upped the game. These days, I have a personal holy trinity of favourite burgers to tuck into.
Chef Robert Belcham’s Monarch Burger, currently available at Campagnolo Upstairs and the American (both on Main Street), is made from locally farmed beef aged 45 days, then ground fresh daily and hand-formed. Its goodness is in its juiciness and simplicity, placed as it is in a soft bun and topped with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, and a “special sauce”, which has a composition no amount of sleuthing can uncover.
Over in Kitsilano at Hundy (2042 West 4th Avenue), chef Michael Robbins’s patty is made from Two Rivers Specialty Meats beef brisket and shoulder, sandwiched in a brioche bun, and dressed up with my favourite element: enough thinly sliced tangy pickle that you get a good crunch of it in every bite.
Rounding out this trio is what’s on offer at Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann’s weekly burger pop-up on Mondays at the DownLow Chicken Shack (905 Commercial Drive). They’re using Two Rivers Specialty Meats’ dry-aged ground beef, with Canadian cheddar, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions, all held in place with a Livia Sweets potato bun.
All three are available for takeout, but, of course, those inclined can always build their own at-home version. My wife and I like the grass-fed beef burgers from Empire Ranch we get with our subscription to chef Trevor Bird’s Meatme.ca, a CSA-style (community-supported/shared agriculture) program that delivers ethically raised meat from local farms right to your door). (Yes, we have a meat subscription; how awesome is that?)
This ain’t a burger column, though; it’s a wine column, and now we need wine to go with these burgers!
I’ve really been digging the wines Costa Gavaris and his wife, Jody Wright, craft in the Okanagan under the moniker Rigour & Whimsy. For those looking for a white to accompany their burger, I like the idea of one that has a bit of a grip to it, like the Rigour & Whimsy Flux Capacitor 2018 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $28 to $32, private wine stores). A quirky blend of Pinot Blanc, Roussanne, Muscat, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, the wine macerates with the skins for two months, then spends seven months in oak barrels. Both of those processes give the wine great texture. Orange blossom and fresh-sliced ginger make for charming aromatics, while the charismatic palate carries notes of Bosc pear, guava, peach, spicy ginger beer, and a dash of white pepper on the finish.
They’ve got things covered on the red side of things, too.
Rigour & Whimsy Gamay 2018 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $37 to $42, private wine stores) is a single-vineyard wine from West Kelowna, whole-cluster-fermented, then aged in old oak for eight months. Served with a bit of a chill, the wine is quite expressive, with hibiscus flowers, Spartan apples, ultraripe blackberries, roasted peanuts, and a smidge of fresh-ground pink peppercorns. It’s so juicy and fun; what a dazzling take on the grape!
Both are stocked at Liberty Wine Merchants’ Commercial Drive location and Broadway International Wine Shop in Kitsilano, or those interested can always follow up with the duo at rigourandwhimsy.ca.
Moving along, let’s stick with Gamay, since it’s always a good bet with burgers and you’re likely not drinking enough of it. Château de Pierreux Brouilly 2017 (Beaujolais, France; $19.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) is a widely available gem of a wine, and a steal at its $20 price tag. From the variety’s homeland in Beaujolais and 45-year-old vines steeped in pink-granitic, schistous, and siliceous soils comes this plummy red that was destemmed and then fermented in concrete. After that, the wine spent seven months in oak barrels, which frames all those perfumed blackberries and Bing cherries quite well. A crowd pleaser of wine that sails across the palate with ease.
Finally, a little something to stain our teeth.
Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2016 (Barossa Valley, Australia; $33.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) comes from carefully sourced vineyard plots across the Barossa Valley, with vines planted anywhere from nine to more than 100 years ago. In fact, the Lindner family, who are the Langmeil proprietors, are also the caretakers of Shiraz vines that were planted in 1843, the oldest known Shiraz/Syrah vines on the planet. From this historic land and their vineyards we get a multilayered red chock-full of mulberries, blackberries, beef brisket, and pepper, and nicely saddled with mocha flavours, courtesy of 24 months spent in oak. A fine balance of fruit, well-integrated tannins, and pitch-perfect acidity meet a distinct mineral core. Yeah, there’s some power to this wine, but it’s not lacking in finesse. I can’t help but think a wine of this quality and pedigree hailing from France or California would easily be twice the price. Burgerworthy, to say the least.