It was just in the past few weeks that the CAPA Centre for Aviation named Vancouver International Airport the best airport in the world at the Aviation Awards in Amsterdam.
Overall, sure—I’ll go with it. Although there are perks and comforts aplenty, I can’t help but view the accolade from the perspective of a wine guy.
West Coast Liquor Store
Before going through security to depart our fair city, there are numerous opportunities for wine enthusiasts. One of them is the West Coast Liquor Store, situated on the lower level beneath international arrivals (right next to the 7-Eleven).
Before a trip, the store is often a last-minute stop to pick up a bottle or two of British Columbian wine as a gift for those I may be visiting with, wherever I’m going.
I always try to ensure I do this, particularly when travelling to the U.S. or overseas, as it’s quite rare for British Columbian wines to be found very far outside of our market.
The store has an excellent collection of local wine, far beyond the confounding array of icewine in duty-free shops. (Don’t bother gifting icewine; it’s likely to gather dust, get regifted, or just perpetuate the myth that it’s the only type of wine we make well.)
Highlighted are top-tier producers of various B.C. wine varieties and styles. For those looking to be a little celebratory when sharing our goods, there are traditional-method sparkling wines available from veterans like Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars, as well as newer kids on the block, like Naramata’s Bella Wines.
Riesling, of course, is something B.C. excels at, and you can take your pick of bottlings from Stag’s Hollow of Okanagan Falls, or get a little geekier with the limestone-driven Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling from Orofino Winery in the Similkameen Valley.
For those people with a penchant for Burgundian varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, there’s a good selection of outings from Meyer Family Vineyards. Fans of bigger, richer reds would probably be into a Bordeaux-inspired blend like Fairview Cellars’ Two Hoots 2013 or Church and State Wines Coyote Bowl Series Syrah 2013, an award-winning modern classic.
So, you’ve got a bottle or two of local cheer tucked into your suitcase (that you’ll have to check through and not carry on, don’t forget), and now you’re finding yourself with some extra time for a glass before proceeding through security.
There are a few opportunities here. In the domestic terminal, there’s the White Spot if you’re hankering for casual fare. Wine-by-the-glass options, although mainly local, aren’t overly exciting—mostly large-production, big corporate-backed pours from the likes of Jackson-Triggs, Calona Vineyards, and Sumac Ridge Estate Winery.
Decent enough stuff, just not too much to write home about, though there are dependable options like Steller’s Jay Sparkling Brut or Sandhill Cabernet Merlot.
Koho Restaurant and Bar
Quite a similar list is presented at Koho Restaurant and Bar in the international terminal, just past the check-in counters, although they do veer into pretty frustrating territory by listing a Pinot Grigio and Shiraz from Naked Grape and touting them as hailing from Canada.
Technically, by labelling standards, the Naked Grape wines are referred to as international Canadian blends, which is a roundabout way of saying that although they are bottled here, the wine is of dubious provenance, likely a mix of local and international budget juice and of no discernible quality.
It kills me that well-meaning tourists might want one more glass of decent Canadian wine before heading back home and may get one of these as their choice.
If you want what is by far the best selection of wine by the glass at the airport, head to the international-arrivals area on the bottom level and find yourself a seat at Vino Volo, part of an international chain of airport wine bars. (In fact, there’s a couple more at YVR once you pass through security.)
You can order your wine by the glass, or there are various flights of three different smaller pours.
There are some fun local drops, like a Gamay Syrah blend from Summerland’s Okanagan Crush Pad Winery and a Chardonnay from Poplar Grove in Penticton, and dynamic international options like Saveurs du Temps Syrah from Costières de Nîemes in France or a crisp and lively Matua Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.
You pay a couple bucks more than at the other places mentioned, but you get much higher-quality wines (and a bonus of keen, savvy staff to guide you through them).
And so, to my mind, the wine component of YVR may not be the world’s best, but it’s good to know there are a couple of places pushing it in the right direction.