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Does the tourist magnet in Queen E. Park treat our visitors fairly?
I was at Vancouver magazine’s Power 50 event, and Harry Hertscheg, executive director of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, sidled up beside me and whispered, “Seasons in the Park has a surprisingly good wine list” before disappearing into the crowd. Harry knows a lot about wine but I doubt he’s as cheap as I am, so let’s give his suggestion the once-over.The Spot: Seasons in the Park, the tourist magnet in Queen Elizabeth Park serving up a menu of Pacific Northwest plates.The Theme: If the Eagles had one Canadian member then this list would be like the Eagles’ Greatest Hits—all the wines you know and love with a distinct laidback Cali vibe. View the list here.The First Impression: It’s a big list—132 bottles worth and there’s a definite skewing towards the Golden State with a minor in the Okanagan that runs through it. Italy makes a showing under “Interesting Reds & Whites” but our French friends are less prominent.The Steal: This is tricky because the markup is almost the same across the board—a very reasonable 2.2 to 2.5 times retail. It dips with wines over $100—at $197, the $100 Caymus Cabernet is under two times, as is the $113 Cakebread Cabernet, priced here at $224. This is how it should be, rewarding people for spending more money, but I still tip my hat because most tourist-focused spots dispense with such niceties—and they definitely don’t keep under 2.5-times markups on their bottles. But if you look hard, the steal is there—Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc, a wine that is $27.90 at Marquis but is only $39 here. It’s even sweeter because this wine is a leading contender for most overlooked gem in the Okanagan.Cool-Factor Bottle: Well this isn’t really the place to nerd out on Blaufränkisch if you know what I mean. But let’s see—every somm in YVR loves Fontodi Chianti and there’s a half bottle (even cooler) here for $47. A Lambrusco from Cleto Chiarli is $63. And Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio is very cool…for Pinot Grigio. To be honest, while there’s much to admire about the pricing on the list, it really is a long way from cool. And that’s okay.The Copy Editor: Domaine Drouhin Cote de Beaune is $113, but they mean Joseph Drouhin—Domaine Drouhin is Drouhin’s project in Oregon.The Head-Scratcher: There’s a few here. For starters, I have a soft spot for Rodney Strong, but you don’t need four bottles from him here and you don’t need five bottles from Burrowing Owl. And, team, you have to give vintages when you’re charging over $100 for wine: is the Chateau D’Argadens 2015 or 2010? (It’s actually 2014, I think. Bummer.) If I’m dropping $266 on the Oculus, you need to tell me what year I’m getting. Also, you can’t just say Catena under Malbec—they make literally dozens of different bottles so how’s Jimmy from Ohio supposed to know which one you’re selling? Same with Soter under Pinot Noir and quite a few others. No one ever complains about precision.The Grade: B+. Harry was right: this is a real surprise in a location where you’d expect them to be punitive to newcomers who don’t know any better and already think everything is 25 percent off thanks to the exchange rate. Could they have gotten a little more experimental on the Okanagan wines? Sure, but maybe your introduction should be the Poplar Grove Merlot and not the more esoteric Lock & Worth version. All in all, this list has a big heart and I appreciate that.