At the start of the year, Straight writer Kurtis Kolt listed “more wine bars” on his Vancouver wine wish list for 2016, and it looks like Homan and Mina Haftbaradaran have heard his plea.
The couple opened City Side Winery (328 West 2nd Avenue), a distillery and wine tasting room, in Olympic Village last month and the space has since captured the attention of experienced wine drinkers and neophytes alike, thanks to its cozy ambiance, fresh concept, and lineup of approachable, house-made vinos.
“We wanted to make a casual place where people can discuss, taste, and learn about wine,” Homan says during an interview with the Straight in the tasting room, “and our goal is to promote wines in B.C. in general.”
After working extensively in the hospitality and wine industries throughout Germany, England, and the U.S., Homan and his wife settled in Vancouver in 2011 with the dream of sharing their favourite wines in a way that would feel akin to entertaining friends at home.
The couple has certainly accomplished this on the interiors front. With its vintage Persian rug, reclaimed wood furnishings, and inviting, board game-equipped sitting area, City Side feels more like your well-traveled buddy’s hip, rustic-chic living space than a public wine tasting room. The service bar, meanwhile, is meant to mimic a residential kitchen.
In terms of wine, City Side serves up its own Mystic Pearl label, which is produced in-house from Okanagan-grown grapes. At the moment, there are four easy-drinking varieties available: a 2014 Semillon with subtle citrus notes; a 2014 Riesling with hints of aromatic, tropical fruit; a herbaceous 2012 merlot aged for three-and-a-half years in French oak barrels; and a 2012 cuvee that Homan describes as particularly “jammy”.
Complimentary samples of each are currently being offered to guests during City Side’s soft opening period. They can also be enjoyed as part of two- or four-glass tasting flights, though you’d be hard-pressed to find any of the above tasting notes on the winery’s website.
“We are not aiming to publish this, because we don’t want to tell people what they should [taste or] smell,” says Homan. “We want to train, teach, and show them the flavours that are actually involved.”
In this vein, Homan hopes to conduct wine tours at City Side in the near future that will serve to further promote and educate Vancouverites about B.C.’s wine culture. He also has plans to produce more wines under the Mystic Pearl label, beginning with a rosé for the summer, and to introduce other varieties from lesser-known B.C. wineries.
An expanded menu and the creation of a special wine-lunch offer, which will give guests a deal on a glass of wine and a lunch item, are also in the works. In addition, Homan hopes to get live music into the mix through a series of “Living Room Sessions” that kicks off tomorrow (March 18) at 7 p.m. with a performance by local singer-guitarist Colin Bullock.
“That’s the kind of culture we are encouraging,” Homan says, “just take your time and slow down when you are here.”