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It's a well-priced unicorn bottle safari.
One of the unheralded success stories of the pandemic has been how many BC wineries who were initially devastated when their restaurant orders dried up were able to, wait for it, pivot to more direct to consumer sales, to the extent that quite a few saw profits increase as a thirsty population anxious to chill just a bit more looked inwards to satisfy our vino fix. Even better is the hope that these consumers will continue with their direct relationships with their local wineries after the pandemic wanes, and this, coupled with the gradual re-addition of the restaurant accounts spells really excellent prospects for our wine industry.
The only real downside is that a lot of wines are selling out even faster than before. There’s easily a dozen or so operations that see their bottles snapped up very quickly after release. They tend to have a few things in common: they have low production, they skew to the natural/low-intervention side of things, and they are beloved by the cool kids.
And so the more casual wine drinker is at a bit of disadvantage when trying to get their finger on the pulse of this area. Traditionally you could go to your local restaurant, where a welcoming sommelier would hit you up with a glass of something weird and wonderful to expand your horizons, but obviously that avenue has become severely curtailed in the past 14 months. But there’s a silver lining: often those bottles which would have been poured by the glass have now found their way into those restaurant’s bottle shops or take-out menus and with the discount the restaurants get, frequently these bottles are priced at not much more (or sometimes less) than if you ordered direct from the winery. It’s that rare win-win-win.
Here’s a few bottles that are long sold out from the producers that we’ve spied at a few of a local establishments who would be happy to let you in on the game.
The Bottle Bella Sparkling Gamay Cavada Vineyard
Jay Drysdale’s Naramata gem is a great place to start, because his small production, hand-crafted sparklers are in some ways the prototype of the blink-and-they’re-sold type of winery. Bella’s Cavada Vineyard is one of their more widely available offerings (although that’s relative to their other offerings) for it’s reasonable price point and it’s beautiful clean approach to focussed pink bubbles. That’s probably why their 2019 vintage is long sold out (at $33). But Ophelia, the haute Mexican spot in Olympic Village that had the unique misfortune to open mid-pandemic, has got your back next time you get take out—they have the 2018 (a free year!) Cavada for $35.
The Bottle Lightning Rock Blanc de Noirs
Technically this wine isn’t sold out at the winery just yet, but it may be by the time you read this and if it isn’t, well shame on us for not hoarding this phenomenal sparkler. But this is really a wonderful deal—order takeout from Anh & Chi and this bottle is the exact same price ($35) as it is at the winery, which is a much further (albeit beautiful) drive that you’re not even allowed to do right now. This bottle will make you a believer and will pair like a dream with Anh and Chi’s food.
The Bottle Echo Bay Cabernet Franc
Hundy was also an earlier adopter to having wine as a takeout option, and they likewise have a pretty broad selection from hand’s off winemakers, like this idiosyncratic wine from cult fave Echo Bay. Unlike many other wines on this list, this wine has some traditional elements like extended oak aging and a pretty serious tannic structure that could still use some time or a long decent to soften a bit. But the big red fruit has a great vibrancy and lift to it at the same time. It’s sold out at the winery for $30 but Hundy is here for you with a very modest 30% bump ($42) over the winery price.
The Bottle Pretty much anything you can’t find from the Okanagan
Dachi has really lead the pack with embracing the bottle shop, so much so that they’ve had to do away with their online listings because they’ve been growing their selection (now at over 100 bottles) so quickly. So while we can’t point you at one particular bottle—as they turn over quickly—we can say that you will not be disappointed. This place has become unicorn central for quirky, tough to find bottles.
The Bottle Joue Red
Now this is an amazing to-go bottle shop across the board, but this bottle—the low-intervention stepchild from the Cowichan Valley’s Averill Creek—is the very definition of crushable. Waves of freshness, tartness but with a nice perfume to it and some enjoyable controlled greenness. It’s a wonderful wine, and it’s also the same price ($26 plus tax) as if you bought it at the winery, where although it’s not sold out yet, that 100% would not be the case if this wine was from the Okanagan—it’s time to get over our island Wine snobbery.
The Bottle Neon Eon Ultraviolet
Another big-hearted spot that opened during their pandemic, this Pender and Main locale has a killer little wine list for takeout. Among them is the the throw-out-the-playbook Ultraviolet from Neon Eon and wine that asks the question what is we made a wine by co-fermenting Zweigelt and Riesling? That combo is so off the wall that my guess is that if you simply enter the word “Zweigelt” “Riesling” and “Co-ferment” into Google, that Neon Eon will be the only hit you get. But it’s a gluggable phenom that really has to be experienced…if the only the winery weren’t long sold out. Pizza Coming Soon to the rescue—they offer it for $36 (and it would go great with their “periyaki” chicken.
The Bottle Thorn & Burrow Gewurztraminer/Riesling
Now Gewurztraminer (or Gew as the T&B gang like to call it,) and Riesling both share some geographic connection, but sort of in the same way Brad Pitt and Scott Caan are both stars of Ocean’s 11 (hint, Brad ain’t the Gew in this scenario). Still Ocean’s 11 was fun (12 maybe underrated?) and this wine likewise blends some seriousness (that’s the Riesling and it’s acidity) with hijinks (the Gew with it’s floral and ripe, peppered peach). It’s $40 at Como, which is only a few bucks more than you’d pay in a store (if you could find it) in a much more inviting retail environment.
The Bottle Bella Sparkling Chardonnay King Vineyard
Ok, so we’re back at Bella, but it’s now white, not pinky red and trust us—once you start drinking their wines you’ll know why they get two nods on a 8-bottle list. Also, if you’re not the type of person who feels a rush ordering wine from a place called The Breakfast Table, then we feel sorry for you. And the South Granville stalwart knocks it out of the park with a $30 price tag on this bubble beaut.