Think of the new Wine Adventure dinners at Mott 32 (1161 West Georgia Street) as omakase, only for wine. The Japanese term means literally "I'll leave it up to you” and describes a meal carefully created and chosen by the chef. Here, the drinks you’ll be enjoying throughout an evening of high-end Chinese food are all selected by the sommelier, Robert Stelmachuk.
The custom-designed reservations are best suited for groups of four to eight. Dietary preferences are accommodated, of course, but other than that, you don’t know what you’re going to eat or drink until your food and beverages are right there before you.
Sound risky? Not in the hands of Stelmachuk, one of the most knowledgeable sommeliers in city, if not the country. Currently studying for his Master Sommelier designation, Stelmachuk gained experience at such esteemed restaurants as William Tell, Blue Water Café, Le Crocodile, Market by Jean-Georges, Chambar, and Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca, to name a few, before opening Mott 32.
His goal with Wine Adventure (a format he’s been testing out for some time with a few regulars) is twofold: to educate people in a fun way about wine and to quash certain stereotypes surrounding wine and Chinese food.
Beverages are served blind—not to make you guess what you’re drinking but rather to do away with any preconceived notions you may have about certain types of wine.
“It’s an opportunity for me to push the boundaries of food and wine harmony and dispel all the myths of wine with Chinese food,” Stelmachuk says in an interview at the high-end restaurant. “I use everything in my arsenal. I want to use lesser known grapes, regions, and countries. I use as many twists and turns and surprises in there as I can.
“It wouldn’t be uncommon per se for me to maybe add a really cool beer in there or a sake or crisp apple cider or umeshu [Japanese plum wine]," he says. "I’m fortunate to be given an arena that I have everything in my arsenal, every toy in my toy box, and I want to use these to create experiences.”
Here's an example. It's not uncommon for Stelmachuk to hear from guests that they don’t like oaked chardonnays. He’ll turn that idea on its head. “With our particular barbecued pork, I’m going to pour you a little oaked chardonnay and I’m going to literally change the way you think about food and wine harmony,” he says.
With Chinese food, people seem to think of wine in two dimensions: Riesling and Pinot Noir. While both work beautifully as pairings, and although Mott 32 has some incredible selections of each from around the world, Stelmachuk will likely choose something else for you to sip.
There may be classics that people never saw coming, like a Chianto Classico, which Stelmachuk says goes exceptionally well with Chinese food. So do Lambic beers and farmhouse saison ales.
“If what you like about Pinot Noir is that it’s a light, soft, elegant red that’s fruit forward, I have 15 other ways to present that to you in grapes you may not be familiar with,” he says. “So, it’s literally to expand your horizons. You come up with your own opinions, but it’s an opportunity for guests to start thinking about wine more outside the box.
“With a communal table, you may have three or four dishes at one time, maybe one is warm, maybe one is cold. Maybe there’s something with some elevated spice to it, maybe there’s something with more delicate tendencies I need a wine to land on all four of those,” he says. “When you make a perfect pairing, it can stir an emotional response, and that’s amazing.”
Mott 32's Wine Adventure starts at $165 per person (but you could go as high as you like pricewise) plus tax and tip, including all food and beverages. You won’t leave hungry or thirsty.
Advanced reservations are required. Visit Mott 32 Vancouver for more information.