GIFT GUIDE Wine pros pick their presents

The Georgia Straight - - Gift Guide - By

IKur­tis Kolt

t can be tricky when it comes to giv­ing gifts to the wine en­thu­si­asts in our lives. From sweat­shirts shout­ing “Mama needs some wine” to Golden Girls wine charms (yes, they’re a thing!), wine seems to be one of those cat­e­gories where any re­lated gifts are des­tined for regift­ing, the back of a cup­board, or the re­cy­cling bin.

To as­sem­ble a qual­ity hand­ful of wor­thy items for this gift-guide edi­tion of the Straight, I called up a few winein­dus­try pros to get their takes on what they’d like to find un­der the tree.

Van Doren Chan is res­i­dent som­me­lier and con­sul­tant at That’s Life Gourmet, a na­tional wine-im­port com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in sake and pre­mium bot­tlings from all around Europe. Be­yond that, she is the co-owner of Ugly Dumpling on Com­mer­cial Drive. The newish buzzy eatery has an ever-chang­ing menu fea­tur­ing in­no­va­tive takes on Asian street food, plus a well-con­sid­ered list of sherry, sake, craft beer, and wine, natch.

She likes the idea of a glass san­gria jug with ice-tube in­sert, an ar­ray of which can be found on Ama­zon. Not only do they work well in elim­i­nat­ing worry about melt­ing ice di­lut­ing the fruity con­coc­tion, but in a pinch, the ves­sel can dou­ble as a wine de­canter!

Over in Gas­town, Siôn Ior­w­erth is the guy be­hind Juice Bar at the Birds and the Beets. It was orig­i­nally a weekly Wed­nes­day-evening pop-up wine bar fea­tur­ing nat­u­ral wines and a ro­tat­ing ros­ter of guest chefs of­fer­ing a com­pact menu of snacks. Now it has evolved into a four-day weekly res­i­dency, run­ning Wed­nes­days through Satur­days from 6 p.m. on­ward.

Ior­w­erth went a bit of a stu­dious route, choos­ing Bri­tish wine writer Jamie Goode’s book Flaw­less: Un­der­stand­ing Faults in Wine.

“It’s a com­pre­hen­sive book on the topic and would be in­valu­able to any­one get­ting into wine,” he told me. “It re­ally helps you un­der­stand and put into words what you’re tast­ing but also makes it clear not all flaws are nec­es­sar­ily bad things.”

Kit­si­lano Wine Cel­lar’s gen­eral man­ager and wine buyer, Tay­lor Dou­glas, also opted for read­ing ma­te­rial, rec­om­mend­ing a sub­scrip­tion to the U.k.–based Noble Rot mag­a­zine. Pub­lished three times per year, the cof­fee-ta­ble wor­thy jour­nal fea­tures a mix of wine and food writ­ing. As its web­site states, it “has seen chefs Pierre Koff­mann, Fer­gus Hen­der­son and Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi rub­bing shoul­ders with Keira Knight­ley, Caitlin Mo­ran, Brian Eno and Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola, blur­ring the bound­aries be­tween gas­tron­omy and the cre­ative arts”.

Le­sia Knowl­ton is the port­fo­lio and mar­ket­ing man­ager at Tri­alto, a west­ern Cana­dian wine-im­port­ing com­pany bring­ing us wines from global leg­ends such as Ar­gentina’s Bodega Catena Za­p­ata and Fel­ton Road from New Zealand. “Great food and wine pair­ings of­fer he­do­nis­tic plea­sure for me; there’s noth­ing bet­ter to ex­pe­ri­ence than a cu­rated meal with wine that bal­ances the flavours and pro­file of the dish,” she shares. “When I think of giv­ing a gift to a fel­low wine lover, I think of en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence and en­gag­ing in that ex­act plea­sure: well­pre­pared food and won­der­ful wine cre­at­ing har­mony.”

She pointed out a cou­ple of up­com­ing food-and-wine ex­pe­ri­ences at the Dirty Apron Cook­ing School. B.C. Dine & Vine: Wine and Food Pair­ings From Our Own Back­yard ($170) is hap­pen­ing Jan­uary 27, while Per­fect Pair­ings: World Food and Wine Pair­ing ($170) goes down on Fe­bru­ary 24.

Fi­nally, I looked to­ward the Okana­gan Val­ley for our last rec­om­men­da­tion, this one com­ing from Blue Moun­tain Vine­yard and Cel­lars pro­pri­etor Christie Mavety.

“I re­ally like the idea of gift­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence,” she told me when reached by phone. “Ex­pe­ri­ence Wine Tours do an in­cred­i­ble job guid­ing peo­ple around wine coun­try; they’re very knowl­edge­able and put ex­tra ef­fort into cu­rat­ing a good mix of vis­its for their cus­tomers.”

In­deed, let’s not for­get the Okana­gan Val­ley is open for busi­ness through­out the win­ter! I called up Matt Wentzell, the pro­pri­etor of Ex­pe­ri­ence Wine Tours, who said that Nara­mata tours con­tinue to be pop­u­lar dur­ing the win­ter sea­son, and there’s al­ways ex­cit­ing stuff go­ing on around Kelowna, too.

“We’ll head to Mis­sion Hill Fam­ily Es­tate and do an in-depth tast­ing of some of their re­serve or more pre­mium wines,” he said. “We’ll do blind tast­ings at Sand­hill, lunch at Quails’ Gate, maybe a cou­ple other stops, and even cap things off at Vice & Virtue Brew­ing Co. The best part about tour­ing in the win­ter, though, is we avoid the line­ups syn­ony­mous with sum­mer.”

Head to ex­pe­ri­encewine­tours.ca/ to sort out your op­tions.

And, hey: for any­one who may have yours truly on their Christ­mas list, I’d heartily wel­come any of the above!

FIND­ING BIG COUN­TRY

A doc­u­men­tary by Kath­leen S. Jayme. Rat­ing un­avail­able

dBryant Reeves, a size-large, gin­ger­haired bas­ket­baller called “Big Coun­try” by ev­ery­one dur­ing his col­le­giate rise and me­te­oric stint in the NBA soon af­ter. One can safely say that Gans is one heck­uva “coun­try” town.

To peo­ple in this coun­try, Reeves is fa­mous—to the ex­tent he’s re­mem­bered at all—for play­ing the whole six sea­sons that the Van­cou­ver Griz­zlies team was based here, be­fore it abruptly moved to Mem­phis in 2001. (B-ball fans may be sur­prised to find that the loss-heavy team’s last game was a 95-81 win against the Golden State War­riors.)

Due to back pain and other in­juries, Big Coun­try didn’t even make it into the first sea­son in Ten­nessee. Re­port­edly, he had to be taken off the Mem­phis court on two stretch­ers car­ried by eight team­mates. His ca­reer in sports was over at the age of 28. But what’s he been do­ing since?

“For a seven-foot guy,” one of his col­leagues from that time tells the cam­era here, “he’s done a pretty good job of hid­ing.” For Van­cou­ver film­maker Kath­leen Jayme, find­ing Reeves was a long-time ob­ses­sion, since he came to rep­re­sent her child­hood fas­ci­na­tion with the game as well as her own short time as a se­ri­ous player—in col­lege, she washed out due to lack of height, not tal­ent.

This lively, well-paced film is only 40 min­utes long, so it’s not ru­in­ing too much sus­pense to say she was suc­cess­ful in find­ing him, and in doc­u­ment­ing her jour­ney along the way. The film­maker and her sub­ject are highly lik­able char­ac­ters on-screen, and the movie, which won a ma­jor au­di­ence award at the last VIFF, serves as a kind of dual bi­og­ra­phy. Reeves comes across as a hum­ble man, seem­ingly re­signed to his brief time in the flu­o­res­cent sun. One must won­der, how­ever, why Jayme wasn’t more in­ter­ested in tack­ling some of the ba­sic con­tra­dic­tions on of­fer. For ex­am­ple, how many ex-ath­letes who “re­ally don’t miss the game”, as he claims, have their own pro-size bas­ket­ball gym with a gi­gan­tic R cir­cled at cen­tre court?

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