The Wine Issue
The servers, managers and wine nerds who’ll be uncorking your vino in the coming years have knowledge to spare but little time for pretention.
We’re raising a glass to the best bottles, the hottest sommeliers and the top wine trends in the city right now.
e’re tasting Northern Italian wines today, and with so many indigenous grape varieties, there’s likely to be a lot of humble pie, too.”
The warning is coming from 31-year-old Kristi Linneboe, amanager/sommelier at L’Abattoir, who’s assembled the challenging bottles. Linneboe began serving at chef Angus An’s Maenam restaurant in Kitsilano, and with a clear enthusiasm and solid knack for all things food, beverage and service, she quickly moved up Maenam’s ranks while taking U.K.based Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in her spare time. Her ascent to becoming one of our local industry’s best was quite rapid, but, while she had a good gig, she felt there was more learning and growing to do. In the spring of 2016, she headed to L’Abattoir to work under Lisa Haley (this magazine’s 2017 Sommelier of the Year) while continuing her wine education.
She’s here at L’Abattoir (on a day off, no less) setting up a weekly tasting group she runs. The group is populated by afluctuating dozen to 16 local restaurant and wine trade, many of them also chasing their WSET diplomas or advanced certification by the U.S.-based Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). These aren’t the bold-name sommeliers or wine directors who get all the press in town—some are servers, a few are assistant managers, and some are sommeliers hoping to eventually get to those top gigs. But they’re all wine nerds hell-bent on honing their palates to a fine edge.
The set-up is similar each week, with Linneboe pre-organizing a half dozen-odd wines under a certain varietal or regional category with a local retailer, who will then brown-bag the wines, labelling them numerically. In other words, though she’s at the helm of this group, she does the tasting just as blind as her colleagues do. Tasting wines blind, particularly among one’s professional peers, is a good way to keep the palate sharp and become a better taster. It can also be tremendously humbling.
As she sets up glassware and pours wine for the group, her fellow morning imbibers arrive. Most of them are more bright-eyed and bushytailed than one would expect industry players would be early on aMonday morning. They take their seats with smatterings of chatter, each one in front of six filled glasses. An egg timer is set for 30 minutes, allowing five minutes to
assess each wine, and, aside from the noises of swirling, sipping and spitting, there is suddenly a half hour of absolute silence. All are writing or typing extensive notes, and I’m at once taken aback and impressed by the lack of chatter, expressiveness or even glances toward one another. They are all In. The. Zone.
One of the faithful is Peter Van de Reep, 31, who acts as both bar manager and wine director for both Campagnolo and Campagnolo Upstairs on Main Street. While he is now CMS certied, he was self-taught when he joined this group, something that happened while getting adegree in geology and honing skills in the coee trade. Being selftaught made him lack condence back in those earlier days when he was beginning to get into wine and the industry in general.
“Really, attending anything where there would be trade Ialways felt too green to engage, but then sommeliers like Bryant Mao [Hawksworth Restaurant] and Jason Yamasaki [Joey Restaurant Group] were so welcoming and encouraging, introducing me not just to other somms and agents but to wines Ihadn’t experienced before.”
The buzzer goes o and the group begins to talk through the wines. One person will rattle o his or her tasting notes, going through the wine’s characteristics, ticking the boxes of appearance, aroma, acidity, sweetness, avour prole and nish. As they speak, the others look at their notes, some nodding in agreement, some looking mildly perplexed. I think I spot occasional eyes darting around, trying to catch glances at others, that seem to imply sharp disagreement. And then, the humble pie is served. This is the moment when the speaker, in a room full of colleagues, takes a stab at the wine and region in question and is sometimes—or often—proven incorrect when the wrapping is pulled o the bottle. In one case today, a 2016 arneis was pitched as a 2015 vermentino. While the dierence could be barely discernible for most palates, there is blushing and shattered condence. When this kind of thing happens, there is no chuckling or eye-rolling by others. It’s seemingly taken in stride by all, and they move to the next one. No drama that I note, but there’d be no benet in being the guy or gal publicly calling someone out for a perceived obvious error.
“Do I beat myself up when I make a wrong call? Yeah, I’m sure we all do in one way or another,” I’m told later by Kelcie Jones, 26, a sommelier at Chambar. “But Ilearn from it because I can see where I went o course. And when someone else nails a wine, it inspires me, and it pushes me further.”
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Amanda Skuse
The Ringleader Kristi Linneboe ran the wine program at Maenam before moving to L’Abattoir, where she works with VanMag’s reigning Sommelier of the Year, Lisa Haley (see page 32). Linneboe is the chief organizer of these tastings. The Wine Architect...
The Retailer Jiaying (Tifa) Wang is the cellar master at Legacy Liquor Store, specializing in premium wine and sake. While attending culinary school to enhance her kitchen skills, she took a sudden turn down the wine road and hasn’t looked back since.
The Gentleman Peter Van de Reep is the beverage director at Campagnolo on Main and Campagnolo Upstairs. After studying geology at UBC and toiling away in Vancouver’s coee scene, he’s now set his sights on the world of wine and spirits. The Transplant...