This is the second in a four-part series called Buy the Glass, a neighbourhood-focused tour designed to catch up with those behind the wine program at notable Vancouver restaurants and get a recommendation from their by-the-glass wine offerings. This week, we head to Kitsilano.
3689 West 4th Avenue
Tyler Dawson has recently wrapped up his long tenure managing the Park Royal location of Liberty Wine Merchants. As he explores new opportunities, he’s continuing various freelance gigs he’s always done on the side, including his role as sommelier consultant at chef Adam Pegg’s much-loved La Quercia and sister wine bar L’Ufficio next door.
Besides advising on the wine program of both Italian joints, Dawson hosts semiregular evenings called Vivace, where he pops some corks of off-list wines from a particular Italian region and offers them by two- or three-ounce pours, full glasses, flights, or (of course) the full bottle, along with casual chats about their provenance and background. The next edition, on November 18, focuses on Veneto; we can look forward to splashes of Valpolicella, Amarone, Trebbiano, and more.
When I reached him by phone, Dawson not only offered a by-the-glass recommendation, he added in a bit of a wish: “Foradori 2012 Manzoni Bianco [$17 per glass, $90 per bottle] from Trentino–Alto Adige is a crossing of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, bringing Pinot Blanc’s tree fruit like apple and pear to Riesling’s minerality and intensity. It’s made honestly, both unfined and unfiltered, and it has so much concentration that it could actually use a good decanting before serving. The crossing of the two cool-climate grapes works so well, I really would like someone to stick a few vines in the ground here in the Okanagan or Similkameen and see what happens!”
Dawson views the wine as a perfect match for Pegg’s cardoon fonduta, a dish made from a vegetable that’s somewhere between an artichoke and a leek that’s cooked down until soft, then topped with warmed, aromatic, and nutty Taleggio cheese. I may or may not have drooled on my keyboard as I typed that.
1809 West 1st Avenue
Vancouver restaurant fans have been adoring the modern Canadian comfort food from chef Michael Robbins at AnnaLena, so much so that it was crowned the winner of the people’s choice award in enRoute magazine’s recent Canada’s Best New Restaurants issue. Although the food’s focus is Canadian, when I called co-owner and general manager Jeff Parr, he also opted for Italy for his by-the-glass selection.
“One of our favourite dishes right now is Mike’s mussels off the shell with braised garlic, white-wine fennel broth, torn bread, and thyme oil,” Parr said. “And with a dish like that, and with much of our food, texture is very important. One of our favourite little sippers right now is La Valentina 2014 Pecorino [$10 per glass, $50 per bottle], a white from Abruzzo with good acidity, citrus and floral notes, plus a cool dash of white pepper on the finish.”
1938 West 4th Avenue
Heading back up the hill to Maenam, restaurant manager Kristi Linneboe has recently grabbed the reins of the wine program from, well, me. (I had done a couple years of consulting with them.) While chef Angus An’s inspired Thai cuisine absolutely sings with Riesling and other aromatic whites, you can slide over to the red department, too.
“The thing with red wine and Thai food is that you can’t go too high on tannins or alcohol,” Linneboe told me by phone as she dashed around Cornucopia, Whistler’s celebration of food and drink. “Alcohol is the tough one because when there’s too much, it just accentuates the heat of the food. At the same time, now that it’s getting colder out, people do want to cozy up with a red when they come in, and I’ve been turning people on to Naramata’s Tightrope Winery and their 2014 Syrah [$12 per glass, $60 per bottle]. Cofermented with a bit of Viognier, it’s more of a lighter, French-styled Syrah with silky, soft tannins that has a delicate, peppery character with plum, mocha, and dark-berry fruit notes.” When asked what it pairs well with, she responded: “Definitely with some of our heavier dishes, like a meaty Penang curry or others, like the aromatic curry of lamb shank.” Sounds like a fine rainy-evening plan.
You’re set up for some fun Kitsilano wandering this week! Enjoy these sips and dishes. In the next edition of Buy the Glass, we’ll head downtown.