Wine Experts Recommend Their Favourite Bottles

Order like a boss thanks to these tips from local sommeliers and wine directors

Order like a boss thanks to these tips from top city sommeliers

Sure, we all love our $5 glass of happy hour hooch, and god knows, I’ve panic-ordered Pinot Grigiot when faced with an unfamiliar wine list before, but those days are now over. Behold! Your handy guide to knowing your way around some of the best wine lists in VanCity. From good deals by the glass to rare finds tucked away in the middle of the list, and the favourite wines of some of the city’s award-winning sommeliers, we’ve got you covered. Save this story to your favourites and get ready to wow your friends next time you go out for wine.

Click through for all the wine insider info…

Credit: KK Law

Steve Edwards, Director of Operations, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

Describe your wine list at Boulevard

Boulevard offers a smart, well-curated list with a similar focus to that of the restaurant. It features a lot of organic and naturally produced wines that mirror the ingredients we use in the kitchen. We’re always sure to carry plenty of wines that pair well with seafood while also not ignoring the big reds from B.C.’s most prolific wine regions.

any stand-out good deals?

Our happy hour wines at Boulevard are available for $6 from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, and rotate regularly with a focus on organic wines. We also have an off-dry wine from the Loire Valley, Les Champs Vignots Chenin Blanc, that’s $9 per glass and a great pairing for oysters as well as a lovely organic Emiliana Carménère available for the same price.

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

We carry wines from all sorts of amazing producers that are not easy to come by. One of my favourites is a very cool wine from Croatia called Stina Mali Barrique, which is made from the plavac mali grape, a cross between an ancient Zinfandel and a native Croatian grape. It really delivers.

what would you order from your list?

It would have to be our Philippe Pacalet Puligny Montrachet 2011. I would drink white Burgundy every day if I could, and Pacalet is the most exciting micro-négociant I’ve come across in years.

Gord Bury, Sommelier, Joe Fortes

Describe your wine list

Joe Fortes’ wine list is large (275-300 labels) with a focus on the Pacific Northwest. We also have a monthly feature highlighting local wineries. The quality of the wines being produced in B.C. has been steadily improving and we are happy to showcase them. They really hold their own and can compete proudly with any region in the world.

any stand-out good deals?

My selection for a by-the-glass pour for white wine would be Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc at $10.50. I chose this because I think that this is a very nice representation of this grape varietal. I feel Pinot Blanc is under appreciated, but when done well, can be very good. Blue Mountain is one of those Okanagan wineries that I’ve always been a fan of; they don’t make a bad wine. For a red glass selection, I would choose the Juan Gil Monastrell for $10. Spain is producing some great value wines and this is no exception. It ticks off all the boxes for a red wine drinker.

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

My choice here would be the Heidi Schrock Furmint, a varietal often used to make the Hungarian dessert wine Tokaji. This particular wine is from Austria, which is not known for this grape varietal. What I like about it is that it has a very different flavour profile than most people would expect from some more popular white wines. Unusual, but delicious!

what would you order from your list?

There are many special bottles on our list but I will pick the Culmina Gruner Veltliner from the Okanagan Valley. This is a varietal that is traditionally made in Austria, so right there is something unique. The thing that makes this wine special for me is that it’s so good! It’s exciting to see someone try something new and to be successful with it.

On the red side, I would opt for one of our Washington State offerings. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot do quite well there and think that these wines are often overlooked in favour of California, i.e Napa. These wines have a finesse and elegance to them reminiscent of Bordeaux.

Darren Kaushal, Restaurant Manager, Homer Street Cafe and Bar

Describe your wine list at homer street cafe and bar

It is a boutique list with a good mix of domestic and internationally sourced wines. The list is curated to offer something for everyone, from the always dependable local favorites to the off-the-beaten path more rarely seen producers or varietals. We also have a great selection of bio-dynamic and natural wine for the extra adventurous.

any stand-out good deals?

One great deal we have at the Homer is Moet Chandon Imperial Champagne. We sell it for $20 a glass and $100 a bottle. Most other restaurants sell it for between $28 and $35 a glass or between $130 and $150 per bottle.

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

We have a “rare finds” program where we are always featuring something new and exciting. These typically have limited availability and the offerings can change daily.

what would you order from your list?

The 3-1 Sangiovese/Syrah. Our team worked closely with the crew at Camaraderie Cellars in Washington to create this unique blend especially for us. It’s a gorgeous, full-bodied red with expressive notes of lush red fruit and a velvety smooth finish. It’s exclusive to Homer Street Cafe and Bar and our sister restaurant, Tableau Bar Bistro.

Margot Baloro, Restaurant Operations Manager, Forage

Describe your wine list at forage

The wine list philosophy is very important to us at Forage. I feel strongly that B.C. is a global leader in vineyard management and winery practices. Our local wineries are a part of the farming community in B.C., so we approached the list with the land in mind. I love maps. I think maps tell us so much about what to expect from the land. We’ve developed relationships with wineries that we think best represent the land they farm on. We looked for Salmon Safe certifications. We visit the wineries and check out what kind of land management is going on. At Forage, we champion B.C. wine in a big way.

any stand-out good deals?

We are offering Meyer family vineyards 2012 Micro cuveé Chard for $135 (this hard-to-get wine is typically priced at $150). And we put Orofino Pinot Noir on by the glass at $12. That’s a steal! It’ll be on all summer at that price.

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

We have a strong relationship with Covert Farms. They have a giant love for the Okanagan, they’re right up against MacIntyre Bluff, on 650 acres. They aren’t super flashy: they’re owned by a family, not a corporation. It was their 2012 ‘Grand Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon that we poured as the paired wine for the dish that won Chef Chris Whittaker the silver medal at last year’s Gold Medal Plates in Victoria. We’re the only restaurant in Vancouver to have it on our list. It’s my favourite B.C. red at the moment. It’s a beautiful varietally-correct Cabernet Sauvignon and it’s no longer available at the winery, but we have some!

what would you order from your list?

I have a bit of a crush on Stag’s Hollow at the moment. We’re bringing in their Albarino shortly. I’m a big fan of Pentâge’s Tempranillo 2012. And I’m really digging anything Richard Kanazawa makes! All the regions in B.C. have their own distinctive terroir. I enjoy something form all of them. I really support all we’re doing. I LOVE B.C. WINE!

Alain Canuel, General Manager, Pidgin

Describe your wine list at Pidgin

We don’t really buy wines that we don’t think are food-friendly at Pidgin. To us, a food-friendly wine has a little bit of reserve to it, whether that means a higher acid content to help you taste each bite and sip anew, or more restrained wood and tannin to keep you from turning into a purple-toothed fire-breather. We’re always happy to help you choose a bottle or glass that will pair seamlessly with your meal, but we also believe in the value of simply drinking what you love (assuming you can find something you love on our list of what we love), whether or not it’s a perfect pairing.

any stand-out good deals?

The Hiedler Gruner Veltliner 2014 is fresh slightly aromatic super clean and at 11.5% you cannot help yourself but drink the whole bottle. $12gl/$56 btl

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

My favourite at the moment is Faia, Chenin Blanc from Mai and Kenji Odgson. Two Vancouverites who relocated to France. Definitely a wine we can call geeky. Very small production and reminiscent flavors and aromas of natural wine making methods. It is delicious for those open minded kind.

what would you order from your list?

I would order a bottle of Antonelli Chiusa di pannone Sagrantino 2007. Delicious, full bodied gem and hard to find! 


Mark McNeil, Head Sommelier, Osteria Savio Volpe

Describe your wine list at Osteria Savio Volpe

The wine list at Osteria Savio Volpe is 100% Italian with approximately 60 selections. It showcases a broad selection of the majority of the wine regions with an eye towards several of the classics, as well as championing a dozen or so lesser known varietals. 

any stand-out good deals?

The 2014 Rivera Rose from the Castel del Monte DOC of Puglia made from Bombino Nero for $8 a glass and $40 a bottle.

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

Several in fact… Teroldego from Mezzacorona, Pelaverga from Terre del Barolo, Cattaratto from Graci and a white Sangiovese to name a few. 

what would you order from your list?

Pieropan ‘La Rocca’ 2013. It’s a single vineyard Soave made from Gargagnega. I just added this to the white wine section of our list. It is a classic from one of the best Garagnega producers of the Soave Classico region. It pairs beautifully with chef Mark Perrier’s Italian fare and will bring pleasure to all that drink it. 

Credit: Brandon Hart

William Mulholland, Wine Director, Blue Water Cafe

Describe your wine list at Blue Water

Blue Water’s wine list is all encompassing with great local wines as well as the best wines from the major regions of the world. It offers value and quality at every price point and is a collection of unique and unheard of wines as well as wines from famous producers.

any stand-out good deals?

All the wines on the list are priced to provide value to the guest. Our list is among the most competitively priced in the city, especially considering the depth of the list.

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

There are some fantastic grower champagnes, such as the wines from Cedric Bouchard and Serge Mathieu, as well as some lovely Austrian whites that complement our food, such as Heidi Schrock Grauburgunder and Leo Alzinger’s single vineyard Rieslings. 

what would you order from your list?

Each wine has a specific place on our list for a reason. There are no favourites; there are just opportunities to find the right wine with the right dish for the right person. That is my favourite thing to do as a sommelier and should be the goal of any wine professional.

Eryn Dorman, Co-owner, General Manager and Sommelier, Latab Food

Describe your wine list at Latab

The wine list I have curated at Latab is ever-changing. I work within a parameter of natural, biodynamic, organic and terroir-driven wines. The wines that I choose for the list are driven by a number of factors, such as minimal intervention, expression of terroir, taste, uniqueness and food pairing versatility. I feel the list is playful, familiar and challenging. By that I mean the wines I choose may be varietals that are common to most, but the style in which they are vinified are very much outside the box.

any stand-out good deals?

All of my wines are available by 3 oz glass, 5 oz glass and bottle. Some of my more modest priced wines, such as the Lock and Worth Merlot from Naramata, are priced at $6/3 oz, $9/5 oz and $40 a bottle which is tremendous value for a non-interventionalist wine from B.C. As well the Domaine De Grachies, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Gros Manseng, is very approachable and is $8/glass. 

any rarely seen wines that excite you?

One of the wines I am most excited by is the Antonio Sasa Nerello Mescalese from Mt.Etna, Sicily. This beautiful wine is very reminiscent of a Sangiovese but with more notes of chocolate and earth tones followed by a mouth-watering mineral note due to the volcanic soils of Mt.Etna. This particular wine I have not seen on many lists in the city if at all. 

what would you order from your list?

If I were to recommend one wine on the list that would be my favourite, it would certainly be the Denavolo Catavela which is an orange wine from Emilia-Romagna. This wine is a blend of five white grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Maria, Marsanne, Ortrugo and Malvasia. The versatility of this wine when it comes to food pairing is incredible. This wine can be paired with some of the lighter more delicate dishes on the menu as well as standing its ground to heavier proteins. This particular wine has been very exciting to have on the list as many of our guests are not familiar with orange wines and the opportunity to introduce something so special and it be well received is tremendously satisfying.