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Sommelier Highlight

Stephanie Mathis

Fairmont pacific rim sommelier

Next wine region on your radar to visit? There are so many! I was planning to go to South Africa pre-Covid. So I would say that it is still #1 on my radar. I find that there are so many quality wines coming out of that region and I just can’t taste enough of them. And everyone that I speak to about it says that it is a MUST go to area. Not to mention I hear the food scene is incredible too.

Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry?
It’s never the same wine with me. I’m always trying something new. Usually some sort of wine with charcuterie and cheese. I love trying new combinations of cold cuts/cheese/paté with different wines and experiencing the dance that happens on my palate. Most recently: Gianni Gagliardo Barolo and Paté de Strasbourg, epic.

Biggest epiphany during these trying times?                  Life keeps going, even when you feel like it stops. “Go with the flow” really is a thing. It’s important to adapt and change your mindset to see what is available in front of you instead of focusing on what is no longer. Change isn’t always easy but it’s always an option.

Guilty pleasure wine?                                                                     Champagne. All Champagne. I’m always looking for a reason to buy a bottle. Even when my pocket book says I shouldn’t. Whether it’s a Growers Champagne or a Grande Marque, I love trying a new bottle and sharing with someone I value.

September 2020

What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like?    Time spent with friends, eating good food and drinking good wine (or cocktails/fine liquors) - outdoors if weather permits. Being in an environment where I don’t have to worry about time constraints, and I can just let the evening flow with the only thought being about how much I’m enjoying myself.

Who is your biggest inspiration in wine?                                     Definitely my father. Being from France, wine was always important to him and it was a big part of my life growing up. What wine he was drinking with what dish was crucial. Wine was never an afterthought. As an adult, I found myself wanting to understand more about wine. Once I delved into that world, I couldn’t get enough! 

If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be?    Any winery in the Canary Islands. I love the idea of discovering a completely different wine region from what I know: extreme viticulture, rugged terroir, volcanic soils, an outstanding ecosystem, unknown grape varieties, and of course, a very pleasing climate. Plus I would get to experience a new culture, which I love doing.

Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Remember that everyone starts somewhere. Keep it fun. Don’t feel pressured by the “supposed to” aspects. Jump into the world of wine in the way that you want to, and just start learning. And taste, a lot, “study hard”. The more often you are trying different wines, the faster you will train your palate.

What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? Downtown wine tasting rooms. I think this would be a great option for the BC wine industry. It would give both locals and travellers alike, the option to try local wines before investing in a bottle. It would promote our local wine industry and it would be a fun place to go as well!

If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Telmo Rodriguez. I love his approach to winemaking/viticulture and I would love to be able to learn more from him. From his dedication to revitalizing the abandoned vineyards of Spain, to honoring traditional winemaking (depending on the area of the vineyard) while at the same time modernizing it (eg. Mountain Blanco Muscat), to Biodynamic Viticulture: I feel like dinner wouldn’t be long enough to discuss it all.

Mike Wong

assistant wine director, Chambar restaurant

Next wine region on your radar to visit?                                 I'm ashamed to say that I have never left North America, and I am DYING to visit Europe and its viticultural splendor. I love all things Italy however I would love to visit the southern regions such as Calabria or Sicily. Of course, I'm heading up to the Okanagan Valley for wine country! We're lucky we have a vibrant and diverse wine region right here in our backyard!

Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry?
There's always a bottle of bubbly and/or some natural BC wine in my fridge. Right now I have Else Wine's Piquette (who knew you could make another type of wine from leftover grape skins that were used to make wine). Since it's summer I also have the Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé, because who doesn't love sparkling rosé?

Biggest epiphany during these trying times?              Staying at home was really tough for me, as I like to be productive and always moving: symptoms of living a busy city life. However, what I've noticed is that it was the little things that make a huge difference. When life slows down, you're more aware of the surroundings around you. Things like taking walks and appreciating what a beautiful place that we live in. We need to remember that it's okay to take a pause to just notice what's around you, and appreciate them for what they are. :)

Guilty pleasure wine?                                                                     I don't know why, but I always have a bottle of the Antonio Scala Ciro Rosso at home. I absolutely love how juicy and fresh it is; it's the perfect companion to any food dish, although I do love drinking it chilled on its own too. I also love their vintage-style label, it reminds me of the old-school racing logos from the 70s. 

August 2020

What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like?       With the long-overdue summer that's finally here, my ideal night now consists of being by the water. I also love BBQs, and nothing beats grilled burgers and veggies after being at the beach the whole day! With what's going on right now, it's definitely good for the soul to be outside and enjoying our backyard. :)

Who is your biggest inspiration in wine?                                     Just being around people that are so passionate and articulate about wine inspires me everyday and reminds me how much fun (and sometimes intense) wine can be. I'll admit it was quite intimidating to work with Kelcie Jones (Chambar's Wine Director), as she's a wine maven in her own right, but working with her over the years has shown me how to navigate the wine world in a thoughtful, intentional, and ethical way. 

If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be?    I would love to spend a vintage at Cristom Vineyards down in Oregon. Starting out I was never a Pinot Noir fan; I much preferred the bigger and bolder stuff. However when I started at Chambar I tasted Cristom's Sommers Reserve, and I didn't realize how much I was missing out on such an archetype of a grape. I was an instant convert from then on. :)

Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Forget feeling nervous or intimidated, sometimes you just need to jump in and do it! I started out by just drinking wine, and eventually I signed up for my first wine class. There's so many opportunities to learn about wine, and a lot of it is at our fingertips. Sign up for a wine education course like WSET or the French/Italian/Spanish Wine Scholar, or just start up your own tasting group with your own friends. Wine at the end of the day is meant to be shared and enjoyed with good company!

What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? I wish there were more wine bars that break the expectation that you have to spend money or have vast wine knowledge to appreciate wine. Right now we have the fun and hip joints like Juice Bar and Dachi that fosters a playful and come-as-you-are attitude when it comes to wine, and that's what wine should be about! 

If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? I would love to have dinner with Elisabetta Foradori, who put the local Italian grape Teroldego on the map. In a time where everyone else was trending to the popular international varieties and modern winemaking practices, she chose to showcase a grape that everyone said was not a good grape to make wine with. She not only proved them wrong, but also proved that genetically diverse vineyards (i.e. as mother nature intended) makes really good wine.  The story of her vineyards is so interesting and is one of the reasons why I love Italy so much. 

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