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.

Vancouver Magazine - - Contents - by Kur­tis Kolt | pho­to­graphs by Evaan Kheraj

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 certi„ed, he was self-taught when he joined this group, some­thing that hap­pened while get­ting ade­gree in ge­ol­ogy and hon­ing skills in the co‡ee trade. Be­ing self­taught made him lack con„dence 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 pro„le 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 di‡er­ence could be barely dis­cernible for most palates, there is blush­ing and shat­tered con„dence. 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 bene„t 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 co„ee scene, he’s now set his sights on the world of wine and spir­its. The Trans­plant...

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