Buy the Glass: Downtown Vancouver

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      This is the third week of Buy the Glass, a four-part neighbourhood-focused series I’ve been doing as a way to introduce readers to by-the-glass gems at some of Vancouver’s most acclaimed restaurants. Rather than choose a glass myself, I ask the person behind the wine program to share what they’re excited about pouring right now, along with a favourite dish to go with it.

      This week, we get all dolled up and head downtown.

      Hawksworth Restaurant

      (801 West Georgia Street)

      I reached Hawksworth wine director Bryant Mao while he was playing tourist in his own city, wandering Granville Island with family friends who were visiting from Taiwan. The guy always has time to talk about wine, though, even on his day off.

      “A wine I’ve really been enjoying lately is Stadt Krems 2013 Grüner Veltliner [$14 per glass, $68 per bottle],” Mao told me by phone. “It has lovely minerality, along with clear and crisp pear and stone fruit, with some citrus curd in there, too. It’s very vibrant and has a good energy to it, plus it’s very versatile with our food, from lighter seafood dishes to those with richer textures.” When asked for a Hawksworth menu item that’s an ideal match for it, he opted for the apple beet salad with caramelized honey, burrata, walnut, and dill, “A dish that’s just as bright as the wine”.

      ShuRaku Sake Bar + Bistro

      (833 Granville Street)

      Tatsuya Katagiri is the executive chef and wine director of Kitsilano’s Zest Japanese Cuisine and also oversees the wine program for its sister restaurant downtown, ShuRaku Sake Bar + Bistro. When reached by phone as he prepped for Sunday-night service at Zest, he shared his wine philosophy with me.

      “It’s important for wines to not overpower Japanese food, and since the crowd at ShuRaku is made up of both tourists and locals, I like to go with easily approachable wines made from familiar grape varieties,” Katagiri said. “I work with a lot of local B.C. wines that are personal favourites, and they also happen to be made by some of my favourite people. One of my very favourites is from my friend Richard Kanazawa, and it’s his Kanazawa 2013 Nomu [$8 per glass, $38 per bottle], an Okanagan blend of Viognier, Sémillon, and Muscat Blanc.” Katagiri describes it as “floral from the Viognier portion, with the Sémillon adding citrus and herbaceous notes. It actually has flavours similar to sake, which makes it an easy wine to pair with Japanese food, since sake is always a good pairing.”

      So what’s a good food match with the Nomu? “Everything!” he said with a laugh. “But a good place to start is our three ways of tuna, which is local albacore sashimi served in three sauces: red-hot lava, creamy wasabi, and sesame sauce. There is some heat to the dish, but the fruit and toasty oak of the wine take care of it well.”

      CinCin Ristorante + Bar

      (1154 Robson Street)

      When I sidled up to the bar to get a recommendation from Shane Taylor, CinCin’s wine director, the first thing he said to me was, “Can it be expensive?” I told him he could go for it because while he had quite a pricey by-the-glass option to share, it offered a good opportunity for guests to try one of his favourite wines without having to spring for a whole bottle. G. D. Vajra Albe 2010 Barolo from Piedmont, Italy ($31.25 per glass, $125 per bottle), was the wine in question and he went on to share why he’s such a fan.

      “It’s a boutique producer, and it ticks all of the boxes for quality Barolo,” Taylor said. “The 2010 vintage is one of the best in many years, and it actually pains me to say that pretty soon this vintage is going to run out. In fact, I love the wine so much that I bought the entire city’s supply. It’s elegant yet powerful, with distinct notes of rose petal and asphalt. Actually, I liken it to walking up to the Daytona 500 while carrying a bouquet of roses. It’s delicious and earthy, and while fantastic with any dish that incorporates wild mushrooms or truffles, if I found myself in a situation where it was my last meal, I’d have to go with chef Andrew Richardson’s osso buco. The dish is braised Montreal veal shin with tomato, saffron risotto, and gremolata, and that gremolata is what makes it unique—giving everything a really nice lift. Also, it doesn’t get more ideal for a regional pairing than Barolo and osso buco.”

      That’s definitely enough fodder for quite a night on the town! Next week, we’ll wrap up the series by visiting a few spots over in East Van. Cheers!