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Vij's and Kismet Estate Winery collab for this surprising red blend, Vij's Lantern 2020.
In these dark and rainy days that make up a quintessential Vancouver winter, sometimes there’s nothing better than grabbing a good book, heading for a seat at a favourite restaurant, and tucking into a good meal and a glass or two of a killer red. This was the case for me recently when I sidled up to the bar at Vij’s on Cambie, and the wine I reached for was Vikram Vij and Kismet Estate Winery’s collaboration, a well-balanced, juicy red blend dubbed Vij’s Lantern 2020.
Does Vikram Vij of Vij’s restaurant need any introduction in this town? Likely not around here for readers of Vancouver magazine, from whom he and Meeru Dhalwala have an overflowing trophy shelf of ‘Best Indian’ Restaurant Awards collected over the last couple decades. While many know his reputation and knack for incredible food and gracious hospitality, he’s also remarkably savvy in the wine department; he’s a certified sommelier, too! When discussing the idea of a custom wine for both Vij’s and Surrey’s My Shanti by Vikram Vij with long-time friend, B.C.-based wine industry veteran Ingo Grady of Hermit Wine Co., the duo ended up in conversation with the Dhaliwal family of Kismet Estate Winery. The group played around with various varietal components to create the eventual blend we have now.
Expecting a signature Vij’s wine to be white? Well, there will be one of those down the road. For now though, Vij wanted a wine for those long stretches of darker, rainy nights we have in spades here in Vancouver, when the warmth and coziness of Vij’s hits the spot. Mission accomplished.
So, we have a red—and what I can tell you is it’s a Bordeaux-inspired blend (think Cabernets, Merlot, etc.) with a good addition of Syrah for peppery spice and extra dimension. Normally I’d drill down into the nuts and bolts of the wine, looking for specific percentages of its parts, but when reached by phone, Vij wasn’t having it.
“It’s a curry wine,” he says. “When you make a curry, you’re not getting bogged down with specifics—one teaspoon of this spice, two tablespoons of that one—no, you just add and adjust as you want until it tastes right and it’s balanced. That’s what this wine is. You don’t overthink it.”
Vij’s Lantern 2020 ($11.50/glass, $48/bottle) is opulent and juicy, with gobs of dark berry fruit plus healthy smatterings of cardamom and clove. There are enough tannins to latch onto meatier fare. Good with those legendary lamb popsicles with fenugreek cream curry? Obvs. But, really, when you and yours are around the table at Vij’s, you’re sharing a little bit of everything, and this wine is meant to wash it all down well. From the decadence of the battered and fried eggplant in tomato yogurt curry topped with crispy onions, to the tangy, delightful dish of tamarind chicken, raise a glass to ‘em all!