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British Columbians love to drink wine, and the wine they love to drink the best is their own. Only a few short decades ago, B.C. had only a handful of wineries producing mediocre plonk; now it has nearly 150 of them, in regions ranging from the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys in the Interior to Vancouver Island, and they produce some terrific, award-winning vino. Unfortunately, most of the best bottles sell out within hours of release, so the best place to taste it is at the restaurants that specialize in wine. Luckily, there are plenty of those.
Here are 10 of the best places to drink wine in Vancouver:
1. Salt Tasting Room: Blood Alley, 604-633-1912
This casual Gastown eatery features cheese, charcuterie, terrific accompaniments and wine director Kurtis Kolt’s lively, ever-changing wine program. The best way to enjoy the dozens of wines, Ports and sherries on offer? Ask the staff to match your order with two-ounce tasters.
2. Bluewater Café + Raw Bar: 1095 Hamilton St., 604-688-8078
This Yaletown restaurant’s stellar wine list always tops the awards, thanks to wine director Andrea Vescovi, who was named 2009’s sommelier of the year by the Playhouse International Wine Festival. Mostly British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest wines, but with a well-chosen selection of Old World wines, too. Also check out Bluewater’s sister restaurants West (2881 Granville Street, 604-738-8938, ) and, in Whistler, Araxi, 4222 Village Square, 1-604-932-4540.
3. Chambar: 562 Beatty Street, 604-879-7119
Just put yourself in sommelier Robert Stelmachuk’s capable hands at this lively Belgian boîte in Crosstown, and he will certainly find something deliciously unexpected to please your palate.
4. Le Gavroche: 1616 Alberni Street, 604-685-3924
Set in an old heritage house downtown, this is often called Vancouver’s most romantic restaurant. That’s certainly true if you’re a wine lover — owner Manny Ferreira has accumulated a remarkable cellar of rare bottles, so just see what you can get him to share.
5. Cru Wine Bar: 1459 West Broadway, 604-677-4111
One of Vancouver’s few dedicated wine bars, Mark Taylor’s elegant little eatery just off South Granville Street offers more than 35 wines by the glass, including some delightful surprises.
6. Raincity Grill: 1193 Denman Street, 604-7331
Possibly the best place to sample B.C. wine is at the restaurant that launched the whole “100 Mile Diet” phenomenon. Harry Kambolis’ popular West Coast restaurant features the best of B.C. food and wine, and one of its best locations, too, perched at Davie and Denman on the edge of English Bay. Also expect great food, wine and views at his other restaurants, Nu (1661 Granville Street, 604-646-4668) and C (2 – 1600 Howe Street, 604-681-1164).
7. Boneta: 1 West Cordova Street, 604-684-1841
Neil Ingram’s wine list is as well-edited as the menu — five reds, five whites, always changing and all available by glass and bottle. But these are always deliciously intriguing wines, and don’t worry — if they don’t suit your palate, there are plenty more choices in the cellar.
8. Yew Restaurant + Bar: Four Seasons Hotel, 791 West Georgia Street, 604-692-4939
It’s not just the length and breadth of the wine list here that makes this such a great place to sip some vino, but the fact that every bottle is also available by the glass, provided you order at least two. That means there are always exciting surprises available for the curious wine lover — just ask if there’s anything special.
9. Cactus Club Restaurants: Various locations
Chain restaurants aren’t generally known for their exciting wine selection. But then most chain restaurants don’t have Canada’s only Iron Chef at the helm. With Rob Feenie directing the cuisine here, the wine list had better stand up to it — and it does. Expect some (well-priced) surprises.
10. Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival: April 19 to 25, 2010, Vancouver Convention Centre
Almost every wine lover in the city comes our for the wine fest — and no wonder, with 1,700 wines from 197 wineries in 14 countries to taste. The must-visit event is the International Tasting, but there are more than 60 to chose from, from galas to brunches to seminars. This year’s theme countries are Argentica and New Zealand, so a delicious time is guaranteed for all.