Sure, I could have done due diligence by tasting through an array of bottles to come up with the best wines for fall. It occurred to me, though, that I have contact info for some of the city’s top sommeliers and restaurant managers in my phone. When looking for the best wines, why not hit up some of Vancouver’s best palates? I went ahead and did just that, and now, just like Georgia Straight readers, I have five new wines to discover.
Layla Shea runs the wine program at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie and Kissa Tanto and enjoys the opportunity to pair unique wines with chef Joel Watanabe’s modern Chinese fare at the former and his blend of Japanese and Italian cuisine at the latter. With her cheery, enthusiastic demeanour, I knew she’d pick a wine carrying a festive flair.
Lambrusco Solco Paltrinieri 2016 from Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($28.99, Liberty Wine Merchants, Commercial Drive location), made from Lambrusco Salamino, is “a rustic, semi-secco frizzante perfectly at home with the year’s last outdoor cookout, as it is with autumnal dinner favourites, including mushrooms, blackberries, duck, and turkey”. When asked for the flavour profile of the wine, she headed straight to “ripe plums, blackberry, and cherries drizzled in sweet balsamic”, advising wine enthusiasts to “pair it with charcuterie and bonfires”.
Over at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, general manager and wine director Andrea Vescovi also opted to go Italian. The guy was born in Rome, so I guess it’s not too much of a stretch that he went with the home team.
“I’m liking Luce della Vite 2014 Lucente [Tuscany, $34.99, B.C. Liquor Stores] for its well-rounded mouth-feel and textured tannins balancing the acidity nicely,” he said. The Merlot and Sangiovese blend “has fruit notes of dark berries, then sage and spice with pleasant vanilla and mocha in the background”. As a bonus, Vescovi’s selection is three dollars off until September 30, so stock up!
After a lengthy tenure as the wine director at the Four Seasons Hotel, Emily Walker had a couple kids and is now back at it as the sommelier for the Tap & Barrel group. Although her wine program in the restaurants offers a fantastic selection of British Columbian wines, she opted to venture to the Old World for her chosen bottle.
“Odé d’Aydie 2014 Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec [Madiran, France; $23.49, Liberty Wine Merchants, various locations] is a richly textured, dry white wine with loads of complexity from citrus fruit and warm, honeyed notes, with flavours of toasted pine nuts on the finish.” She sees it “paired with the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven on a fall afternoon”, calling the combo “bliss”.
Miguel Quezada manages the bustling Savio Volpe up by Kingsway and Fraser. There’s always Italian deliciousness coming out of chef Mark Perrier’s kitchen, so it’s no surprise that he takes us back to Italy with a wine recently added to its list by sommelier Meghan Carr. “Biferno Rosso 2012 Di Majo Norante Ramitello [Molise; $23.99, B.C. Liquor Stores] is Montepulciano beefed up with some Aglianico, and it hits all the right notes: some soft edges, fruity, and subtle spice.” Looking at Perrier’s menu, I can see his grass-fed–veal chop with prosciutto, Taleggio cheese, and sage hittin’ that quite well.
Ben de Champlain runs front of house at Tempranillo, a 26-seater in Gastown. He oversees a solid roster of Spanish wines, sherry, craft beer, and cider as well as a small cocktail list wherein his Vaquero—made from bourbon, sherry, Basque apple honey, and bitters—is likely to be the first thing I order next time I pop in. Seriously, how good does that sound? He flies the Spanish flag with his selection, a gem coming from acclaimed winemaker Telmo Rodriguez.
Available at Marquis Wine Cellars, Legacy Liquor Store, and Liberty Wine Merchants on Commercial Drive, the 2014 Al-muvedre Tinto Monastrell (Alicante; $19 to $24) was his choice without a moment of hesitation. Monastrell, also known as Mourvèdre, is the grape variety here and has de Champlain calling it “a beauty, loaded with dark, juicy fruit and spice; perfect for digging out your favourite sweater, gathering your friends, and revelling in all that fall has to offer!”
It shouldn’t be too difficult to find inspiration when looking at chef and co-owner Bill Robitaille’s menu, with highlights like saffron-braised chicken thigh thickened with almond picada or the simple goodness of marinated manchego cheese with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs.
Although these will all be great bottles to enjoy at home, consider visiting these fine folks at their establishments. Not only will you have the opportunity to tuck into some great meals but you can hit them up for more recommendations, live and in person.More