Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? My biggest inspiration in wine is the fact that more you learn, the less you know. And that keeps driving me forward on the topic. Wine captures place, time, the work and thought that was put into it, every detail can be captured but no moment is the same. It’s the people in the industry itself as well that inspire me every day. I was so just so lucky to be at the right place at the right time to be around so many talented sommeliers, winemakers, chefs, vineyard managers, sales people, educators, etc (the list goes on) that started me on this path as a career! These people inspired the passion I feel for our food and beverage industry as a whole.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? A night off in Vancouver is always special for us! My partner (he's a Chef) and I always work night shifts so a night off on the town is always appreciated! Since being back to the city we like to check out new spots for dinner we haven't been to or haven't been to in a long time! Getting out and enjoying good food and wine seems like a pretty dull answer but after the year and half we all have been through it is absolutely a thrill to just be out and supporting our friends in the industry doing amazing delicious things.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? My 48 hours in the Marlborough didn’t do it justice and I think I would beg Dogpoint to let me join them for a year! I absolutely loved the area and dream of returning one day again once things settle down.
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? Sometimes it wasn’t what I found but where I found it is what I wish there was more of. That is one thing that has been changing a bit more since the pandemic hit.
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? That life is very short so follow your passion! It’s a time to study, be healthy, mindful and master your skill.
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Italy is first on the list! As for regions where to start?! It’s just going to be such a priviledge to go any of them!
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine?Everyone starts somewhere so don’t feel intimated about the topic. The topic is always changing and there’s always a new vintage. So just start somewhere and study! Learn the basics and you’ll figure it out from there.
Guilty pleasure wine? Lambrusco
Next wine region on your radar to visit? I would love to visit Italy, Tuscany and Barolo, but really the entire country. From photos and videos I have seen the landscape looks so beautiful, the people I have met are very friendly, and the wines I have tried are incredible. Plus who hasn’t dreamed of driving a Ferrari or riding a Ducati through the hills of Italy…..
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? Always some red and white cheap ‘n’ cheerful and Rice Works Sweet Chili or Salsa Fresca.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Be open to trying as many different wines as you can and enjoy the journey of learning. Don’t worry to much about the ‘rules’. Try out your own pairings and make your own judgements on likes and dislikes. Most importantly have fun.
Guilty pleasure wine? Cheap Italian and Spanish reds……
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? I love connecting with friends that I haven’t seen in a while, going out trying restaurants that I have not been before and some old favourites too. If my wife is able to join me then we often make time for a quite night on our own to treat ourselves at a high end restaurant and expensive wine.
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? Many! All of my sommelier friends who are just so packed with information and down to earth. Their level of wine knowledge never ceases to amaze me. My wine maker friends who make me wish I could do what they do. George Schwarz of the Post Hotel who has an incredible palate, created an amazing cellar and has winery contacts around the globe. Finally I wouldn’t be in my position without the expert guidance and coaching from the oh so talented and passionate DJ Kearney.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? Anyone that would take me in, but I have been bugging Mike Bartier for a while now haha. I have always dreamed of making wine.
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Haha, same as above, anyone who would join me.
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? More casual outdoor dining. I realize the winter weather is not always so ‘outdoor friendly’, but I have dined in many covered outdoor venues that create such a unique dining experience, even in cooler weather.
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? I am so impressed by the dedication of the hospitality workers who push through to create amazing guest experiences every day despite staffing levels being critically short industry wide.
Wine Director, AnnaLena
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Wachau, Austria! Piedmont, Italy! Central Otago, NZ!
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? I love to have sparkling wine and Sherry on hand. Conveniently, there is always an array of cheese in the fridge. You can't go wrong!
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Nicolas Joly. Let's talk biodynamic farming while drinking Chenin!
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Show up and ask questions. Find out what wine tastings you can participate in, and then make sure you talk to as many people as possible. If you show that you are interested in the wine industry, you will find that there are so many people that want to help you to get involved!
Guilty pleasure wine? Sparkling Moscato! Sweet, lightly sparkling & low alcohol. Try it ice cold as an apéritif on a hot day! The Moscatos from Asti, Corsica or even the Okanagan (looking at you, LaStella) are delightful.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? The perfect night off would start out early enough on a sunny patio. I love to jump around from place to place with a drink & a snack at each stop. I would pick a neighbourhood, jump on my bike & go! Chinatown (Bar Gobo-Bao Bei-Keefer) or Fraserhood/Main (Bells & Whistles-Savio Volpe-Como) or Kits (Their There-Maenam-Au Comptoir). But you are just as likely to find me in the park or at the beach with friends and a bottle of wine!
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? I will always be learning! There are so many facets of wine to study, that I think that I have barely scratched the surface. You can approach wine from so many different directions - history, politics, geography, geology, viticulture, vinification, cuisine, marketing, sales, service & hospitality! I particularly love learning about the people who made the wine and the places that the wine comes from.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be?
Huré Frères, Champagne. I would love to spend a year being involved in the process of making Champagne. Huré Frères is located in Ludes in Montagne de Reims. Their wines were a revelation for me! A family run Champagne house with a strong focus on sustainability, the brothers are involved with every step of the process in the production, and I would love to be a part of that!
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? The tapas culture in Spain. In Logroño and Haro in Rioja there are streets lined with tapas restaurants. Everything is counter service, with great wine & lots of snacks. With very few tables and chairs available, everyone wanders through the streets drinking and eating. It doesn't seem to matter where the wine glasses are returned. It is so social and casual. My favourite part is the fact that you see people of all ages, from 5 year olds running around to grandparents, mingling in the streets until very late.
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Just put me on a plane! Given the current global condition I would be grateful to travel anywhere, but the old world has my heart. I've been dreaming about renting a motorbike and travelling through Burgundy or Tuscany nightly, but I have a strong affinity for Sicily and can't wait to see Etna!
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? Bubbles and cheese! Growing up my mother always had 15 types of cheese in the fridge... and I guess old habits die hard. I wish I could afford to have Champagne all the time, however, there's many beautiful styles of sparkling wine out there, like Albert Mann's Cremant d'Alsace, which I currently have chillin'! I think I only have six different cheeses though, guess I have to step my game up!
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Francis Egly of Egly-Ouriet. My love for Champagne is endless. Francis took over in 1982 and is the fourth generation of the Estate which was established in 1930. Although not wanting to be labelled as an organic or biodynamic producer, Francis follows very natural practices and determines the wines are clean and pure, reflecting the terroir of the Montagne de Reims while focusing on the environment around them. I can only imagine that dinner would consist of a few epic bottles!
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? I love the overall way of life around food & beverage in the old world countries - coffee culture, fun family lunches, pace of life and hello, siestas!!! We've come a long way in the last year here in Vancouver but I think we all wish the laws were a bit more relaxed. Hopefully we can see more park's and restaurant patios being licensed in the future.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? Let me paint you a picture: It's summer - the sun is shining and we don't have a state of emergency. I'd spend my time between parks and patios! Happy hour oysters and a prawn cocktail at Boulevard, followed by dinner in the park with my closest friends. We barbecue some local fare; everyone's laughing; we're playing all kinds of sports. Then, we clean up and make moves for a bottle (or two!) on the patio at Juice Bar. I also love visiting former colleagues so I'd stop for a piña colada at Bao Bei (and ask for a chartreuse float!). Lastly, If I could have a nightcap made by our Bar Manager at L'Abattoir, Dave Bulters, that would be the cherry on top!
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? The story! Almost every winemaker has a completely authentic, original story and I love hearing about the minute variations. Different passions, climates, terroirs, grapes, styles of winemaking - all contrasting in a crazy, beautiful way! To me, that's what makes every wine unique and when I get to translate that to a guest I feel lucky to be a part of a culture so special.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? Hands down it would have to be Littorai in Sebastopol, Sonoma - one of the best producers in the United States in my opinion. Ted Lemon, aka 'Le Comte de Citron', is the owner/operator and has been a winemaker since 1984 at the ripe age of 25. He was also the first ever American born winemaker at a Burgundian estate, Domaine Roulot in Meursault, no less! At Littorai, everything is alive.. They focus hugely on the Biodynamics and Ted's wines are spectacular! They produce mostly single vineyard site Pinot Noirs, with some Chardonnay and a few other special bottlings reserved for wine club members. Having already visited, it's a magical place... Plus I love the sunshine!
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Never stop learning! It may be cliche, but the more you learn about wine, the more you realize you don't know. I'm very fortunate to have been surrounded by a wonderful group of people over the years that guided my education. Now, there's nothing I love more than to inspire or mentor those who are interested in breaking into the wine industry :).
Guilty pleasure wine? Muscadet!! Most consistent, underrated wine style ever!? I think so! Typically citrusy, mineral & fresh, I love the 'sur lie' styles and the value is just incredible. Dom. de la Pépière & Dom. de l'Ecu 'Granite' are my favourites in our market. Is it a true 'guilty pleasure'? Ok maybe not, but it's quality, damn delicious and affordable!
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? I believe the way you treat each other during times of hardship reflects true colours. I've focused on being empathetic, kind and positive. People will remember how they were treated when this is all over, and I want to be looked at as someone who people could look to for solace. I've really put emphasis on finding all the silver linings throughout the pandemic.
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Admittedly my to-go list is pretty extensive, but I'd have to say one of the first places I would go is to Dao in Portugal. There have been so many new wines that have made it to BC recently that I have had the opportunity to try that make me so excited. It has been on my list for a long time. Chablis has also been one of the stalwart regions in my head to visit, as I am a huge geek for history, whether it be wine-based or no!
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? I'm a serial grazer, so the kitchen is pretty consistently filled with different cheeses, crackers and condiments - locally as often as possible - Saltspring Kitchen preserves, Poplar Grove Creamery (Tiger Blue!) and Upper Bench 'King Cole' Cheese, Olivia's Oils and Vinegars, and as many local bakeries as possible. For my sweet tooth i'll go to Deep Cove and grab some Honey's Doughnuts -but that's a once-in-a-while treat. Bottles though I like to keep my options open, but most often you can find a BC wine like Synchromesh Riesling in my fridge, as well as the odd Lambrusco by Paltrinieri from Italy. The pantry is currently stocked up with a vertical of Roche Pinot Noir, and Le Vieux Pin's 'Cuvée Violette' Syrah.
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Mac Forbes has been a name on my list for several years now. His approach to winemaking, and a focus on the Yarra Valley, has been something that I have admired as it brings a unique perspective to not only the region, but - in my mind - the future of Australian wines for BC consumers too. On a related note, Sam Berketa at Alpha Box & Dice would be very interesting company to keep as a young winemaker, paying hommage to tradition in South Australia, while being innovative in winemaking, and showcasing the growing potential of new varietals in the country. In the meantime if travel is restricted I will never complain staying local with BC and having a fantastic evening with the likes of Alan Dickinson (Synchromesh), Dwight Sick (Roche), David Paterson (Tantalus), Severine Pinte (Le Vieux Pin/La Stella), and Michael Bartier (Bartier Brothers), among several others!
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? I think a more relaxed view on wine and wine tastings for consumers - being an increase in Wine Bars, or just additional places where someone can walk in and gain experiences and knowledge. We are starting to see this, but more is always good!
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? These days, living in North Vancouver, i try to get outside as much as I can with so much nature around! Often times my ideal nights will be very low-key - making some dinner (i've definitely upped my culinary game over the last year), listening to - or singing - music, and socializing with friends and family as able. If I do venture out for the evening though I have been making a point this past year of creating a list and going to/ordering from a new place at least once a week on average, and supporting local - even if just for drinks and snacks.
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? In BC I always find inspiration in how supportive the Hospitality Industry is of each other. Especially in these days it has become increasingly prominent how much local, small-businesses are helping each other in whatever ways that they can. It is truly inspiring. I'm also inspired by what I can see as a modern-age renaissance for the BC wine industry both for Industry members and Consumers - experimentation, tradition, a resurgence of old styles...it is exciting to see not only an awareness of change, but embracing it in any way that we can, or at least we seem to have more resources and connections to access all of these! At the end of the day it means that our Industry is growing and evolving, and that can then be passed on from us to our guests, as they are eager to learn from us.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? Ooh boy now that's a tough one. I could easily ramble on for ages, but one of the wineries I would adore working at would be R. Lopez de Heredia in Spain. It was one of the houses that I learned about when I was first introduced to international wines and holds a special place in my mind, and each vintage fascinates me to this day as they hold such tradition. Domaine Michel Gros in Burgundy would also be a dream to experience.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Don't be afraid to just jump in! Wine can be daunting, even for people in the industry for years. Try different approaches depending on what you want to focus on, and expand from there. Do a bottle share with friends and pick a theme to get to try several wines while being cost-effective. Ask questions! Whether just researching online or asking local industry - Liquor Store and Restaurant Somms are eager to help, and these days there are no shortage of options - with so many local Somms and Restaurants having started their own Wine Clubs, (Somm Wine Club, T&A Wine Co, Wine Vikings, Good Wine Gal, Apéromode, Como Taperia's 'Mercado' etc, etc) providing in-depth information, people are around to help you out with whatever you need to know! A mindset that I have always thought of is that wine is a lot like music: everyone likes something, so start with something you know you like - a favourite song (varietal), and then look for new artists in that genre (producers), arrangements and compositions (winemaking/winemakers), and you may find some new 'music' you may not have known that you would like! Consult your local DJ (Sommelier) for advice anytime!
Guilty pleasure wine? It may have been made clear earlier, but I am a SUCKER for Riesling! Doesn't matter where it is from: Tantalus (BC), Markus Molitor (Germany), Rieslingfreak (Australia), Trimbach/Marcel Deiss (Alsace). Loire Valley Cab Francs are also a fun treat for me - Pierre & Catherine Breton is a favourite producer of mine...
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? Be excellent to each other. Even introverts need the support of others when it comes down to it. I always like my 'me-time', but only when it is optional. We need the support of one another to succeed day after day, and we are seeing that with current initiatives like BCHF's #hospitalityhustle, and Shiva Reddy's #reddytohelp program, amongst SO many others. Help others when you can, and at the same time don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Probably Etna. Sicily has been on my list for so long and I think it’s finally time to go! The quality of wines from Etna just keep getting better and I’m excited to see it up close and personal. Wine has been made there for over 3000 years (that we know of!) so I would just get lost in the history of all of it. Wineries I’d visit? Benanti and Pietradolce would definitely be my first stops.
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? I’m definitely a bubble freak so it’s usually a sparkling of some kind! I love Lambrusco and a good charcuterie & cheese board, or one of my all-time favourite pairings is Champagne and dumplings. I always have dumplings in my freezer!
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Such a hard question! I have a soft spot for Australia so I’d love the chance to sit down with Virginia Willcock from Vasse Felix. She is easily one of the world’s leading winemakers and is a big advocate of making wines that showcase that true sense of place. I love wines that tell you where they’re from and hers definitely do that. I would have a thousand questions for her, but in the spirit of keeping the dinner casual I would only ask 100.
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? Wine bars! When I was in France and Italy there were sidewalk wine bars on every corner. I loved that it was so easy to stop and take a break from playing tourist and have a nice glass of wine and a quick bite. More have popped up in Vancouver over the past few years, I just want more!
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? Pre-pandemic would include sherry and appies at Como Taperia, dinner and wine at Chambar or Annalena, and a nightcap at Boulevard or Keefer Bar. An ideal night these days would be an evening walk on the seawall with the pup and husband, followed by burgers from Hundy Burger while watching Law & Order! Wild times haha.
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? The people! I spent a year travelling through different wine regions and the people I met along the way were by far the best part. Everyone is so welcoming in our industry - no one ever hesitated to invite us in, open a special bottle and tell us their story. Drinking and tasting wine is great, but hearing about the people behind the label is even better!
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? Yikes, there are so many! The Champagne lover in me would love to stage at Krug or Pierre Peters but the Burgundy side of me would want to spend that year learning from Caroline Morey. She’s such a boss and I love her low intervention/purity of fruit approach to winemaking. A few others would be Hamilton Russell in South Africa, Shaw & Smith in the Adelaide Hills, and Felton Road in Central Otago.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Stay humble and keep going! At some point you’ll find yourself at a breaking point where you’re frustrated trying to understand German wine laws and you’ll want to give up. DON’T! We all hit this point. It’s a crazy and exhausting journey but it’s so worth it. Staying humble is also key. No one likes a know-it-all so make sure to check your ego at the door. You’ll soon learn that the more you learn about wine the more you realise you know nothing.
Guilty pleasure wine? Champagne! It’s not just for celebrations and is so versatile when it comes to food pairings. Oysters, burgers, Chinese food – so many options!
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? This industry can be extremely fast-paced and we sometimes forget to put aside time for ourselves, so I think this pandemic allowed everyone to finally slow down a little. My entire career I’ve constantly been on the move, taking the next course, working long hours, etc. but taking time for myself during this past year has been so beneficial for my mental health. I think we worry that if we slow down or take some time off that we’ll fall behind, but I honestly think it just makes us better professionals in the end. Sleep and an early bedtime will always trump 8 espresso days in my books. With all of that said though, I am ready for things to go back to normal. I can’t wait to hug my friends and family again!
Next wine region on your radar to visit? When we can travel again, I would really like to visit Piedmonte. Starting with a bomboloni and espresso in Milan watching the fashionable Italians heading off for work. Then hunting for truffles in the forest around the village of Alba. Finish off by eating a much-too-large portion of porcini risotto and of course, tasting through the crus of Barolo and Barbaresco. Piedmonte has a great diversity of food and wine it would be fun to explore local dishes and other lesser-known wine styles like Erbeluche with Rabbit Agnolotti, Osso Bucco with Pelaverga and Brachetto with Chocolate Ganache and Roero Strawberries – they’ll have to stuff me back into the plane. Also, the stunning backdrop of medieval hill-top towns, rolling hills and the snow-capped Alps wouldn’t hurt.
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? It’s been said a thousand times, but for good reason – bubbles! I will usually have a cheap local pet-nat, or crémant from France or Bella Gamay bubz just waiting for an excuse to be opened. After a late night I like pairing them with pork, ginger and chive dumplings…
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Assuming they would be providing the wines, it would be Egon Müller. I LOVE Riesling and so why not learn from arguably the best producer in the world. Egon is the 4th in his family line which has been producing wine in the Mosel since 1797 and is among the Primum Familiae Vini. You wanna talk tension in wine? Egon’s Riesling’s are a masterclass! Creamy yet bright, supple yet poised. Minerality for days. Does this white wine smell like cherries? Yup! People may think that Germans are quite stoic and reserved, but I’ve found the ones interested in wine to be quite the opposite and VERY hospitable.
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? I left the service industry to work in wine production just before COVID hit, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the industry since then. What I realized is its ok to sit back and take time for yourself, and focus on what your needs are as a person. In hospitality we work in such a fast-paced environment, constantly working and not allowing for holidays, weekends or to take time off because you are sick – the restaurant demands it! But it’s not true, make time for yourself, do things that you enjoy, and trust that your colleagues have your back, because you know that you’ve got theirs!
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? When it makes sense to do so again, I’m very much looking forward to re-discovering neighbourhoods like Commercial Dr, DTES, Chinatown or the Fraserhood. Stopping in here for a taco, there for some pasta and a glass of wine, and, “Hey, this new place just opened!” for cocktails. Lately, I’ve been drinking through a lot of the wines I’ve had cellaring. My partner and I have been coming up with creative dishes to pair with them. Recently we did a Cantonese Hot Pot with a high-altitude Spanish Garnacha from 4Monos in Madrid, and he made an amazing seafood chowder with 2012 Meyer Family Micro Cuvee Chardonnay - so good!
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? There is a new generation of winemakers in BC that are starting to put down roots. They are slowly starting to figure out the terroir, what grows well here and create some pretty interesting wines. We are blessed with a unique climate, low disease pressure and decent access to water resources that most wine regions would be jealous of…even if land prices and production costs here are not as enviable. While I love the wine and hospitality community here in Vancouver I feel pulled towards the Okanagan and the desire to produce my own wines. I’d love to become a part of our burgeoning wine industry out there and in turn help to inspire others.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? I’ve been on a Pinot Noir kick for the past ten years or so - and it’s not gonna stop any time soon. While most people would like to work with some of the great producers in Burgundy I’m a big fan of new world Pinot and I want to delve deeper into it. If I went back to New Zealand it would be with the legendary Helen Masters at Ata Rangi in Martinborough. Otherwise, it would probably be with either the iconic Ted Lemon at Littorai in Sonoma County, California or Nick Farr at By Farr in Bannockburn, Australia.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Be humble and don’t get discouraged. When you first start learning about wine it’s easy to get carried away with your newfound knowledge and assume that you know more than you actually do. Just about everyone you meet in this industry can probably teach you something you didn’t know, so stay open and listen. Wine is a VERY broad field with a lot of soft rules, exceptions, interpretations and opinions. It takes constant tasting and dedicated study. Keep at it, learn from others, go to tastings, get other people to choose wines for you and get involved in the wine community – we’re a fun bunch!
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? There is a great little wine merchant in Portland that purchases wine for a secondary market. What is great about this is you can find astonishing back vintages of Burgundies, Bordeaux’s and Brunello’s with decent provenance- best part is I don’t have to try to cellar them for 10 years in my little condo! Unfortunately, in BC it is illegal to purchase and resell from a private cellar, so finding older wines is difficult.
Guilty pleasure wine? I try not to make others feel guilty about their wine choices and so neither should I! But I suppose I do have a soft spot for cheap Riesling… Mertes Landlust is a great organic Riesling from the Mosel and it’s only $15.00 in the BCL!! In the summer you’ll find me guzzling Monte del Fra’s Chiaretto out of an opaque water bottle down on Kits beach.
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Dão in Portugal, there is a lot of history there with some amazing mountainous landscapes. It has been on my list for a while, but I just haven’t had the chance to visit yet. Some really exciting winemakers both from older and newer generations are recapturing the quality of the past. They are showcasing some of the amazing local grapes other than Touriga Nacional and Encruzado.
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? I usually have a bottle of Soalheiro’s Alvarinho or Nat Cool’s Baga by Niepoort around. As for snacks I always have a selection of cheese from Les Amis de Fromage and some cured meats from Oyama in the fridge.
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? It would definitely be Dirk Niepoort, he is someone that respects tradition, but understands how to push the boundaries and be innovative. He is a pioneer for still wine in the Douro being one the first to champion it when everyone else said he was crazy and should just focus on Port. He has mentored some of the best winemakers in Portugal like Luis Seabra and Carlos Raposo. His influence in the North of Portugal has transcended into different regions like Bairrada and Dão, where he has found the balance of making tradition modern. Niepoort’s wines are elegant, focused, always relevant, and delicious whether it is a Port or still wine.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? A night off is usually spent at home preparing a nice meal in good company with a lineup of wines to enjoy. I always enjoyed cooking at home but with the current state of things I have definitely embraced it more. I spend a lot more time curating my at home menu and trying different dishes. When I do go out, I like to jump around to different places, usually walking down Main Street on sunny day and stopping at a few spots for a drink or quick bite. If I am downtown My go to place is L’Abattoir I always prefer a seat at the bar and their hospitality is always on point.
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? The amazing people you meet for sure, whether it be guest, winemakers, or other wine professionals, I’ve been given the opportunity to meet some great people over a glass of wine. Lots of memorable moments have been made traveling to different regions and meeting the people that work so hard for us to enjoy a bottle of some amazing juice.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? Pierre Peters in Champagne, I really enjoy Blanc de Blancs Sparkling wines and his are some of the best. I would really like to see the challenging process of making great Champagne from the vineyard all the way to the bottle.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Enjoy the learning process it is long and never ending, and don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people that know more than you. I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with people that you can learn from and will challenge you.
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? Be grateful for what you have and keep building towards what you want. I think the one thing that has been consistent for me this year is the need to continue to challenge myself and not let the current times get in the way of that.
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? More casual drink and snack culture for sure. It is something they’ve mastered in Europe especially in the more Mediterranean cultures. A nice beverage and small plate in the late afternoon on a nice patio is definitely something we can all have more of.
Guilty pleasure wine? I don’t know if I feel guilty about it but, I love a good bottle of bubbles. I think BC has some really well made Sparkling that doesn’t get enough credit. I always, have a bottle of either Blue Mountain, Bella, or Lighting Rock ready to go for any day of the week.
Next wine region on your radar to visit? The Loire Valley - It has always been a dream of mine to ride my bicycle along the river with a picnic basket in hand. I am also very keen to check out Austria – they have been stewards of sustainable viticulture for a long time. Spending so much of my recent time with a Kiwi in the Okanagan (David Paterson) means that New Zealand is now high on the list too … Again, how on Earth do I pick just one?!
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? The wine is usually a rotation between the Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (always in the fridge for a chill), the Collestefano Verdicchio di Matelica (that salty, waxy, citrusy freshness gets me every time), or the Catherine & Pierre Breton Trinch! Cabernet Franc from Bourgueil (the Bretons consider Magnums to be a normal size bottle and a 750ml to be a half-size, just sayin). I also have a new-found curiosity for Sherry – currently, there is a bottle of the Bodegas Baron Micaela Manzanilla in my fridge. You can’t have Sherry without cheese so I easily cave in the cheese department. Right now, the cheese drawer is stocked up with some Parmigiano-Reggioano and Comte. You normally find a bag of potato chips in my cupboard – usually Old Dutch Original - just in case a bottle of bubble is in the fridge!
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Mimi Casteel from Hope Well Vineyards in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She is an advocate of regenerative agriculture and stresses the importance of our connection with nature. She thinks that the current state of agriculture is contributing excessively to climate change. At Hope Well, Mimi is committed to biodiversity and the protection of root systems in order to not disturb the mycorrhizae (symbiotic relationships between fungi and plants that provide nutrition and communication to one another and the soil). By planting varied crops, and by actually encouraging wild plant and animal life, she believes that we can restore soil hydration and reduce the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. This can help restore the land to its natural balance while creating a large-scale solution to climate change. Now that is a conversation I want to be a part of! I think she is one of the most bad-ass wine women who is actually putting ideas into action. If all winemakers can put the overall environmental impact at the forefront of their decision-making, it will ensure the next generation will have the healthy land they need to continue producing wine.
Guilty pleasure wine? Riesling. Sweet or dry; sour, creamy, savoury, or spritzy – whatever the style, they are always fresh and delicious. I embrace Riesling from all corners of the globe. No guilt, purely pleasure.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? If I am keen for a night out, there are so many fun places and pals to visit – I’m definitely grabbing a glass of vino at Chambar, Burdock & Co, or Juice Bar. If dinner is in the cards, I’m making a reservation at Savio Volpe. If late-night drinks are in order, I’ve been known to pop into the Keefer Bar, but you will always find me at the Bayside Lounge for last call. My ultimate night however is a BBQ on the beach. I am a big fan of Mother Nature and all things outdoors. I have the great pleasure of living in the West End and I can’t get enough of it. I’m bringing the Weber down to Sunset Beach for jerk chicken and veggie skewers. I’m drinking Loire Valley Chenin and Lambrusco by the litre. Come one, come all! The spectacular sunsets bring a whole new meaning to dinner and a show!
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? The people, the travel, the farming. Every wine has a story to tell: who made it, what makes it different from other wines, why it tastes the way it does, and why it is the right wine for that moment. A commitment to being in sync with Mother Nature is essential and it requires a lot of hard-working people to make a wine come to life. Wine is alive! It is constantly changing. You can drink a wine from the exact same plot of land year and year, and you will never drink the same wine twice. It is truly fascinating.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? Pattes Loup in Chablis or G.D. Vajra in Barolo. Or Niepoort in Portugal. Or Brittan Vineyards in Oregon. Or Duncan Savage in South Africa. Or Bindi in Australia. Ahh how do I pick just one?! There are so many incredible wine growing regions I would love to work in. I had the great opportunity to work at Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna for the last 6 months. I got to spend 3 months in the vineyard and 3 months in the cellar, experiencing first-hand what it actually entails to transform a plant into a bottle of wine. I think every Somm needs to work harvest at least once in their lifetime. The winemaker David Paterson is truly a legend; through his passion, commitment, and curiosity, I learnt more about wine than I ever learnt from a textbook over many years of study.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Do it!! It’s so much fun! We need more people like you! One of my biggest turn-offs in this industry (like many other industries) is ego. It’s impossible to know everything about wine, so don’t get caught up in who knows more or who drank what. Forget the ego; this industry is so much more than that. We need to start thinking about wine as a universal beverage as opposed to a luxury product. Wine is about agriculture; it’s about culture; it’s about breaking bread and facilitating happiness. The more you learn about wine, the more you will realize how much more there is to know about wine. The study of wine is the study of the world – it is social, historical, political, and environmental. Every day, I learn something new about topography, geography, climate change, and sustainability. Not only is it intellectually stimulating, but it is so much fun! The best part about learning is sharing it with others. Giving people knowledge creates an opportunity to connect people together. We welcome you!
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? Quit watching the news so much. Embrace the little things. Remember to take time for reflection and perspective. And continue to support local! GO BC wine GO!!
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? Wine bars and street food. I also think we lack affordable access to wine. I praise the importers like Pete Marshall at Sur Lie and Matt Sherlock at Sedimentary that work so hard to bring interesting wines to our market then get so heavily taxed before we have the opportunity to enjoy drinking them. We are grateful for you guys! There are so many incredible wines that just don’t make it to our market. We want to support these wineries!
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? I always have vermouth in my fridge! It doesn't degrade quickly, is very satisfying in small amounts (crucial in an industry where our primary beverage contains poison; alcohol), and is increasingly locally produced and delicious. A splash in your dinner never goes amiss, either. Right now it's Esquimalt Rosso, which is beautiful and produced right here in BC. As for snacks, anyone who knows me will tell you that I eat a horrifying quantity of Kettle brand salt and vinegar chips. I ate a whole bag before a Chablis seminar once and absolutely torched my palate. I will have veneers at 35 and I'm at peace with that.
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? I would love to have dinner with Judith Beck. She makes wines of incredible elegance with clearly perceptible terroir. With her experience at Errazuriz and Cos d’Estournel, and now her beautiful biodynamic vineyards in Burgenland, she deftly holds space for tradition while balancing the push for modernization. She has an incredibly focused perspective and it shows in her wines. Plus, they’re so, so good with food - a must to sit down for dinner!
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? I think it’s telling that the degree the brutality of these times on the wine and hospitality sectors has become almost anachronistic to discuss. I strongly feel that we should be processing this experience and doing what we can to talk through all this madness. These are truly and deeply challenging times. On that note, one of the things that has brought some vibrancy to the industry this year has been the cathartic outpouring of grief, anger, and solidarity that has come out of the disturbingly unsurprising revelations in the NYT regarding the CMS, GuildSomm, and the wine world more broadly; these also follow up similar events last year. The ensuing conversations (thank you, Ashtin Berry, among many others!) around this have also been incredibly refreshing. We all stand to benefit from those amongst us who have been silenced speaking out loudly, and we should see those who claim to hold a monopoly on hospitality and credibility held accountable for their horrific decisions. The rapid change in pace, depth, and quality of this conversation among those that matter has brought me some hope.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? My ideal night off is a long, slow dinner at a table overfilled with friends. Apéritifs, bubbles, something delicious to drink paired with some slowly-simmering dinner shared family style. Hopefully someone ends up laying on the rug from eating too much. Nothing better.
Your biggest inspiration in working in wine? My biggest inspiration in wine are the Eureka moments we create tableside for guests, stemming from those same moments we experience. Wines people have never dreamed of, from places they haven't heard of, or sometimes something familiar enjoyed in a novel way; watching that childlike feeling of joy shine is incredible to pass on.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? I would love to work with Krista Scruggs at Zafa in Vermont - if she would have me. Any earnest wine lover will tell you wine is about sharing beauty and exchanging experiences. It's about the people, though much gets made of the glitter, glamour, and unicorn wines. Scruggs is a visionary and a powerhouse, a farmer and vigneronne of the next generation. We need that kind of work in this industry. In the words of Anton Ego; I’m craving some perspective. Wine is all too often missing her point of view.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? First of all, hi friend!!!! If you're a bit of a nerd, you like people, and you are happy on your feet, you're in great company. Try not to be intimidated by the rigamarole and competition vibes of the wine world. Factoids and flash cards are a dismal way to take in oenological beauty. Soil types should be interesting and exciting, they should explain something; when they become a dismaying and exhausting dental drill to the side of the head, best step away from the horrid little sheets lest you ruin your fun. There are so many incredible people working in wine, especially in BC. Meet them. Work at your own pace, don't compare yourself to others (they’re probably comparing themselves to you anyway), and focus on what you taste and smell in your everyday life. Try wines and foods, and focus on why they don’t work together as much as why they do. One of the big joys of wine is that it's sensual. Let it be.
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? Casual patio eating and drinking. We’re slowly seeing that change, but constant pushes by restaurants and the general public have paled in the face of the sanitized, tower-and-podium Vancouverism espoused by our Planning office. I hope to see their perspective shift in the coming months and years; could be a silver lining to this waking Covid nightmare.
Guilty pleasure wine? I don’t at all believe in guilty pleasures! I think we can leave the concept behind. That being said, I’m frequently guilty about the amount of money I spend on champagne; it’s not cheap, it is very delicious, and age just suits it so nicely. A bottle of immaculately aged vintage champagne will go all the way. On the other end of things, I tend to shy away from running my mouth with the somm crowd about the volumes of gloriously inexpensive magnums of Freixenet ($27!!) that I love to drink with friends. One man’s trash, I suppose…
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Once travel is a thing again (going places! seeing people! imagine!) I need to go to the Loire. Long overdue. Glou-glou paired against a backdrop of magnificent Châteaux; legendary. Gotta rent a little Volkswagen beetle and shoot upriver at an alarming pace, maybe with a bottle of wine in the cup holder for later (unopened, don’t @ me!).
Next wine region on your radar to visit? Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. When I was a wine rep in Brazil I was introduced to Josko Gravner Radikon. The really old style of winemaking that was revived and more modern producers like Marco Feluga and Schiopetto. So much to learn from these guys and not far away from other amazing producers across the border in Slovenia like Simicic and Marko Fon.
Bottle and snack always in your fridge/pantry? Sherry and Jamon Serrano!!! Can’t go wrong!
Guilty pleasure wine? Brazilian sparkling wine. So many people don’t know how good sparkling wine from Brazil can be. We actually have a DO for Traditional method. So I’m not really guilty about.
What does your ideal night off in Vancouver look like? When I have the opportunity to visit many places, Vancouver have a great diversity. I love trying new beers/brewery, at least 2 places for cocktails, a glass of wine and some snacks in one of the hot restaurants in town, main course in another one. After dinner, wines at any of the wine bars catching up with my wine reps based in Vancouver and finishing with a late night burger before going back home. (I don’t go to Vancouver so often but when I go I love to explore and visit many of my idols Somms)
What is your biggest inspiration in working in wine? We are always learning and involving. The fact that wine is not only about the wine itself but history, geography, geology, farming, business and so on. It’s never boring.
If you could work at a winery for a year, which would it be? After having been at Martins Lane this summer it’s impossible to not pick that place to work. The ambience is relaxing, perfectly designed and with a lot of winemaking equipment. I love their wines, the wine- maker Shane and the energy of Matt who runs the tasting at Martins lane.
Best piece of advice for someone looking to get into wine? Be loyal to your partner but not to one wine. Even if you find the wine that you love you should explore the other wines in the market. Read a lot. I’m reading Jancis Robinson’s wine course book. It’s an introductory to wine and I'm still learning so many things.
What have you found on your travels that you wish there was more of in Vancouver? South America street food like choripan, Brazilian street churrasco, empanadas, Etc.
If you could have dinner with any winemaker, who would it be? Rajat Parr, I love his wines. He is an amazing formal Somm with lots of experience and a supper funny guy. I’m sure I would learn lots and have a good time.
Biggest epiphany during these trying times? So nice to see everyone holding hands to go through theses times. I’m taking a lot of time to study and stay with family, trying to keep my mind busy and ready for a new beginning. I’m sure we will come back stronger and more united, it’s just a matter of time.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.