A Vancouver wine wish list for 2016

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      Here we are at the beginning of the new year and, at press time, my resolutions are still intact. They’re all the usual fodder, really: being better with money, nutrition, exercise, and so on.

      When it comes to looking at the year ahead in wine, though, I notice that I’ve strayed from resolutions and have veered toward a wish list. With that in mind, here’s what I’d like to see around these parts over the next 12 months.

      Let’s see more wine bars. I think of how rich our craft-beer scene has become over the last half-decade; there’s a wide variety of places around town where one can sidle up to a flight of three or four craft-beer pours of various styles, venturing into a brave new world of unique ales, lagers, sours, or saisons from home or abroad.

      I look at places like Gastown’s Alibi Room and Commercial Drive’s St. Augustine’s hosting a thriving beer culture, with menus specially built to lift the beer to greater heights.

      There are fantastic wine-by-the-glass programs in many Vancouver restaurants, but what I’d like to see is more places fully centred on wine: smaller pours as an option, flights, and small bites to play around with. I’m not talking $16 starters, but an array of one- or two-bite options. Casual drop-in places, too.

      I look at joints like Toronto’s Bar Raval, where the room is tiny but gorgeous and there are only a handful of seats so most people have to lean or stand, and the boisterous, social energy and atmosphere are second to none. Where possible, let’s geek out a little more.

      New York’s Terroir Tribeca recently featured a 10-glass (!) flight of Beaujolais, a splash from every single official cru, so guests could have a blast navigating through and seeing what makes each one unique. Simply put, I’d love to see more play with wine in restaurant or bar settings.

      Come to think of it, let’s travel more! Really, don’t we all get inspired by travel? Whether they’ve visited cities to catch up on their wine scenes or toured wine country, I absolutely love chatting with local restaurant owners and sommeliers after they’ve been on a trip somewhere, especially when their inspiration comes to fruition with new entries in their wine programs.

      We often think we have a handle on certain wine regions of the world, but even a short visit to those regions can be a game-changer.

      Case in point: many local sommeliers give Argentina a pass due to the ubiquity of the country’s Malbecs and the like; I couldn’t help but notice that shortly after Wildebeest wine director Justin Everett visited Argentina recently, a 100-percent Sémillon from Mendel Wines popped up on his list. An uncommon wine in our market for sure, it gave me the opportunity to try a Mendoza take on the grape, my maiden voyage with such a style.

      Let’s champion the further evolution of B.C. wine. As mentioned in my last column, with the rollout of B.C. wine in grocery stores in 2015, a certain amount of internal industry politics and strife made its way into the public realm. Let’s not let that overshadow the positive strides made in our local wine industry.

      A B.C. Wine Appellation Task Group was created to re-examine industry policy and logistics, and after many months of hard work and diligence, it delivered a final report detailing the direction we should be heading in.

      A big part of this involves carving the Okanagan into North, Central, and South appellations so consumers can discern whether that Pinot Noir is more likely to be bright and lively, since it hails from the cooler lake country of the North, or if it’ll lean toward a more fruit-driven, richer style coming out of the deserts of the South.

      Other motions presented include streamlining the auditing process so wineries can spend less time tangled in red tape and more time amongst the vines. I’m looking forward to seeing these recommendations put into action.

      We need to support our private wine stores. Also mentioned last issue was the competitive disadvantage they have compared to government liquor stores due to not being able to sell to restaurants, not being permitted to sell beer, and so on.

      These stores have been the backbone of Vancouver’s wine culture by offering elevated selection and service, along with many selections not offered elsewhere. Let’s ensure we show these stores the love they deserve, so they can keep doing what they do best.

      I’d like more of us to engage with politicians. Tired of paying some of the highest wine prices in the world? Me too! Think restaurants should receive wholesale discounts like they do almost everywhere else on the planet and not pay shelf price for wine? Me too!

      Let’s keep in mind that the provincial-government politicians who enforce these policies are only a tweet, an email, or a phone call away.