Buy the Glass: East Vancouver

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      This is the fourth and final chapter of Buy the Glass, a neighbourhood-focused series where each week I’ve hit up a trio of Vancouver restaurants, asking their on-staff wine pros to share a by-the-glass wine they’ve been digging lately, along with a dish to go with it. We’ve covered Gastown, Kitsilano, and downtown so far; this week we wrap things up in East Van.

      Merchant’s Oyster Bar

      (1590 Commercial Drive)

      Doug Stephen wears many hats at the popular Commercial Drive seafood spot, as co-owner, chef, and guy behind the wine program. When I caught him by phone, he was just beginning dinner service, and in the background I could hear the rattling of pots and pans along with the din of the first couple of tables being greeted and guests getting comfortable. These days, Stephen’s been enjoying British Columbia’s Bartier Bros. 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($12 per glass, $55 per bottle).

      “It’s the best of both worlds; 40 percent of the wine was fermented in oak, so it makes for great approachability with a rich mouth feel, but then it’s nicely balanced with zingy green apple and the restraint of a European-style Chardonnay.” He went on to say that slight richness is an easy match for their Dungeness crab and side-stripe prawn bucatini pasta with cream, house-fermented chilies, and tarragon. “Besides Chardonnay and shellfish being a classic pairing, the fruity aspect of the wine cuts through the cream well, while the wine’s richer side balances the heat from the chilies perfectly.”

      Mamie Taylor’s

      (250 East Georgia Street)

      Since 2013, Chinatown’s Mamie Taylor’s has been slingin’ inspired odes to the cuisine of the American South, with Chef Tobias Grignon dishing out classics like shrimp and grits and Louisiana country ham, along with culinary mashups like their signature ham grenades (ham-hock tater tots, with aioli, piccalilli, and garlic chives). With an onslaught of big, bold flavours, co-owner Simon Kaulback told me over the phone that he likes to balance things out with a lighter red, like Road 13 Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir ($10 per glass, $50 per bottle).

      “You know, I just think it’s a great example of B.C. Pinot Noir,” he said. “I sometimes find New World Pinots can be simple strawberry fields and bubble gum, but Road 13’s is so well-structured, with a touch of herbs and just a hint of that Old World barnyard character I’m a fan of. It’s the kind of wine I like to drink while I’m making dinner, and then drink more of it while I’m eating dinner.” His pairing suggestion is Grignon’s fried chicken with sweet-potato-and-cheddar waffle, watermelon salad, jalapeños, and gravy.

      When asked why he likes Road 13’s Pinot with that dish, he laughed, “Because it’s just really damn good with the fried chicken!”


      Savio Volpe

      (615 Kingsway)

      Arguably Vancouver’s hottest restaurant of the moment (and barely three weeks old), Savio Volpe is modelled after an Italian osteria, a casual neighbourhood place for simple and authentic bites, wine, and cheer. The reason for such immediate fanfare could be traced to its highly reputable ownership, consisting of restaurateur Paul Grunberg (L’Abattoir), designer Craig Stanghetta (Revolver, Bao Bei), and chef Mark Perrier (CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Two Rivers Specialty Meats); its front-of-house team of Vancouver all-stars; or even that it’s bringing the goods to an underserved neighbourhood.

      After my first visit a few days ago, I’d have to add that it simply hits all the right notes. The small plates and pastas, the warm and inviting room, the tight and appropriate Italian wine program, all of it. Heading up that wine program, and one of said front-of-house all-stars is Amorita Adair (Legacy Liquor Store, Bufala). I love that when reached by phone, she totally geeked out with her recommendation of Fattoria Colmone della Marca Il Ciarliero Vernaccia Nera ($10 per glass, $50 per bottle) from Marche. It’s a red sparkling (the Vernaccia Nera part is the grape variety, a regional Grenache) that Adair describes as “more like a robust, fuller-bodied Lambrusco with Black Forest cake and earthy character and medium-dry with a persistent finish.”

      For those curious but exhibiting mild trepidation, she’s always happy to provide guests with a small splash first, “because when people like it, they love it! Nothing makes me happier than a table starting with a few glasses of it alongside our salumi board, enjoying how it suits the bresaola, fennel sausage, soppressata, and everything else on there so well.”

      I missed this awesome-sounding combo on my visit; after our brief chat, I’m already planning my return!

      Oh, and I wanted to mention that last week’s recommendation of G. D. Vajra Albe 2010 Barolo by CinCin Ristorante + Bar’s Shane Taylor is offered at $31.25 per glass and $125 per bottle. The $93.75 price I’d noted is their carafe price, so there are actually three ways guests can enjoy what he referred to as a wine that “ticks all of the boxes for quality Barolo”, from a vintage that is “one of the best in many years”.