All Things Vinous in Vancouver
Wine consultant and writer Kurtis Kolt tells W.E. his must-visit spots for wine and food lovers visiting his hometown.
Kurtis Kolt, who received the Sommelier of the Year award from both the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and Vancouver Magazine, is a sought-after freelance wine consultant, competition judge and columnist. Certified by London's Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Kolt also developed the award-winning wine program for Vancouver’s venerable Salt Tasting Room. When he’s not consulting, judging or writing, he’s teaching wine classes at The Waldorf Hotel in East Vancouver (www.eastvanwineacademy.com). W.E. tapped Kolt to tell us the must-visit spots and must-try activities in his hometown of Vancouver.
Two Must-Visit Restaurants:
This gem is located in the heart of Gastown, home to many of the best independent restaurants and shops in the city. French-influenced, West Coast fare is what's on Chef Lee Cooper’s menu, and “starting out with one of Head Barman Shaun Layton's fresh, award-winning cocktails is certainly the civilized way to do things,” Kolt advises. But it’s more than the cuisine and cocktails that attracts Kolt. “It's Sommelier Jake Skakun's innovative wine program that keeps me coming back again and again. It’s always evolving, balancing well-chosen British Columbia wines with unique handcrafted global selections—many of them organic and biodynamic,” says Kolt. Look for “ultracool stuff” from Sicily, the Douro and a good dose of Cru Beaujolais.
Chef Angus An honed his skills while working under renowned chef David Thompson at the Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Nahm in London. Now he’s at Maenam, where he’s introduced the beachside Kitsilano neighborhood to unparalleled contemporary Thai cuisine. Locals and tourists are “flocking there since [its] opening a couple of years ago,” says Kolt. “The classic flavors, an equal balance of sweet, sour, spicy and salty, can be notoriously difficult to pair wine with, but General Manager Brooke Delves has a wine list that lays out plenty of aromatic whites, along with ridiculously quirky reds (Saperavi from Georgia, anyone?) that knock it out of the park every time.”
Two Wine Shops To Visit:
Liberty Wine Merchants has numerous locations around town, all well-staffed with wine devotees eager to chat about all things vinous. “I particularly like that all of their stores offer plenty of alternative wine options—things like Sherry, Tokaji, vermouth and a wealth of half bottles and bubbles,” says Kolt.
Over the past 25 years, owner John Clerides has traveled the globe on a quest to source some of the world's most interesting wines and bring them to Vancouver. Many of the bottles on the shelves are exclusives to the shop. “The fiercely intelligent staff are always keen to help you wade through [the bottles],” says Kolt. It’s a real treasure trove in a city with too many so-so government outlets. Recent specials included grower Champagne Gaston from Chiquet and a well-chosen selection of wines from Greece.
Two Non-Wine Activities To Whet Your Whistle:
With three local mountains (Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour) located approximately 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver by car, it's “incredibly easy to get away from [the city] for summer hiking and cycling, or in the winter for skiing, snowboarding or general snowy hoopla,” says Kolt, an outdoor sports enthusiast.
Visitors will always find a great variety of live music happening around town, from local indie talent to international superstars. “Three small venues form my holy trinity of concertgoing. The historic Commodore Ballroom for larger acts and its Art Deco interior, The Railway Club for excellent local bands and great craft beer, and The Biltmore Cabaret in Mount Pleasant,” says Kolt. “They do such a great job of booking acts that you can just pop in on any night of the week and be guaranteed a great show.”