I rarely write about the drinking establishments here in Vancouver mainly because it is extremely rare to see a good and reasonable wine list. And despite the rare exception of Salt and Uva (which may go downhill now that somm Sebastien has left), there still isn’t anywhere here where you can buy wines driven by ethics and stringent agricultural and vinification practices. Vancouver is all about trends and most restaurants pour uninteresting wines that follow what they think consumers want to drink.
Further, while there are talented Sommeliers in the province, the liquor board makes it almost impossible for a professional to develop a list based on his or her own discoveries, which is often where drinkers can discover value, quality and excitement. Because the liquor board restricts what restaurants can buy, and charges them full retail, the sommelier’s job in this province has been homogenized and simplified.
This brief note is to commend Jake Skakun over at L’Abattoir (and co-author of Cherries and Clay) for starting to develop a list of wines that focuses on true value and on wines made with true attention to ethical practices in growing and vinifying grapes, despite the extremely tough environment created by BC liquor regulation.
When I dropped by I had a wonderful glass of dry Tokaji from Oremus (Vega Sicilia’s Hungarian winery) and a very nice glass of cool climate New Zealand Syrah from Tinpot Hut with plenty of pepper and herbs and great acidity – two types of wines you rarely see by the glass let alone on a bottle list. Both were reasonably priced by Vancouver standards. Add to this that Jake is constantly developing his list (something that is shockingly rare in Vancouver where too many sommeliers build and never change a list and rarely rotate their wines by the glass), and you have the starting components of an excellent wine experience.
I did not try the food on my visit, but I am looking forward to returning and seeing how Jake’s list stacks up with the food. The wines focus on acidity and freshness and I think they will likely show very well with what the kitchen is offering. L’Abattoir is in Gastown in the old Irish Heather location.