I was walking home from Gastown to Chinatown recently and was beginning to think about what my dinner plans were going to be. Strolling east on Keefer Street, I’d actually just walked past Juke (182 Keefer Street) when a mild gust of wind came from behind, carrying the unmistakable aroma of fried chicken.
That’s all it took. Within moments, I was inside the place, placing my to-go order for their Juke Box Combo: fried chicken and ribs along with a side of fried Brussels sprouts and kale salad.
When I got home, there was a bottle of wine open on my kitchen table, something I’d opened the night before, and as fortuitous as my dinner decision was, so was the evening’s wine pairing. The wine was Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache 2014 ($25 to $30, private liquor stores), a classic Australian red from the Barossa Valley and an ideal wine to slurp up all of that fried, salty goodness. The wine’s juicy, purple fruit easily lapped up each component of my dinner, and its baking spices added an extra dash of delicious.
The spontaneous food and wine pairing had my wheels turning and prompted me to embark on further adventures, pairing some of my favourite Vancouver takeout dishes with wines to suit.
Heather Johnston opened Hey, Dumplings! (721 Gore Avenue) in early March, and I’ve had to employ some serious willpower to not make the tiny storefront a daily stop. Her specialty is pelmeni (ear-shaped) dumplings, available in three savoury flavours: poutine, ginger scallion, and (my favourite) sunflower seed and arugula pesto. There are both meat and potato options for the filling, so it’s vegetarian-friendly as well. For those with a sweet tooth, she also has seasonal berry dumplings served hot with cinnamon-honey ice cream.
On a recent venture, my wife and I shared both the poutine and pesto dumplings, and with all that flavour going on, we needed a wine that wouldn’t be shy. Winemaker Nikki Callaway’s Quails’ Gate Rosé 2016 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $16.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) blends Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris into a cavalcade of red berry fruit, with plenty of bright mandarin orange notes providing a nice lift. All that fruitiness provides a dynamic contrast with the rich dumplings, while the lively acidity freshens the palate after each sip.
When a hankering for Mexican strikes, I always appreciate that between food trucks and brick-and-mortar locations, Tacofino (various locations) is never too far away. Although I could point and shoot, enjoying anything struck on the menu, I do like a touch of heat in my food from time to time. The Walking Burrito (also available in taco form) is loaded with bean dip, rice, chorizo sausage, corn chips, nacho cheese, arugula, cilantro, and Valentina hot sauce.
Again, when we have a dish jam-packed with so many ingredients and an abundance of flavour, a subtle, nuanced wine will simply be buried underneath it all. My vote is for something superfruity and sparkling, like 8th Generation Integrity 2015 ($21). It’s a fun bottle of fizz; the Summerland winery has decidedly not made a traditional-method, Champagne-style wine.
Instead, this blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Kerner is injected with carbon dioxide, just like a soda, giving the cheery peach and apricot flavours extra propulsion and zip. There’s a hint of sweetness on the finish, just a little bit, perfect for tangling with the heat brought by the chorizo. While the wine can be ordered winery-direct, it can also be found at private stores around town for a few bucks more. I recently spotted it at Legacy Liquor Store in Olympic Village.
It doesn’t take any arm-twisting to get me drinking Chenin Blanc; it’s one of my favourite white grapes, particularly when vinified dry, with juicy acidity carrying hallmark pear and quince flavours. Spier Chenin Blanc 2016 (Western Cape, South Africa; $13.49, B.C. Liquor Stores) is an absolute gem and a bargain, too. In fact, until April 29, B.C. Liquor Stores have knocked a buck off, bringing it to an ultrareasonable $12.49.
Along with the fruit, Spier’s bottling also has light herbal notes; fresh sage and thyme round it out well. There’s also a hint of salinity, which brings my mind to fish, with Main Street’s Fish Counter (3825 Main Street) immediately trailing that thought.
With this wine, it’s impossible to make an incorrect choice. Whether you’re in the mood for an oyster po’boy, halibut fish and chips, or New England–style clam chowder, the wine will leave your palate getting along with things swimmingly.