How's the locavore-friendly haunt on the vino?
The Theme: All B.C, all the time, baby. Funnily, this is a trend that seems to have fallen a bit by the wayside ever since Jeff van Geest's Aurora pioneered it (with our pal Kurtis Kolt) over a decade ago (and weirdly the wine list at Aurora is still online here.) You can view Forage's list here.
The First Impression: Wow. It starts more like a thin book than a standard wine list. The first page is a tight little infographic showing the all the province's wine regions, right down to Lilooet (yay Fort Berens!) and the Kootenays (yay Baillie-Grohman). It shows how many wineries in each region (Shuswap repping 10) and gives a brief description of the region. I've not seen this before and it's awesome. When we get into the list proper—it's 107 bottles deep by my count—it's divided into 3 main categories: Sea, Soil and Land. It's an adventurous and choice, but I'm not 100% sure I get the concept. It seems to be going from lighter to heavier (there's Pinot Noir under Sea and Soil, but not Land) and I see where they're going, but to be truthful, I sort of want all my Pinot or Gamay in one spot without having to shuttle back and forth between two pages. But there's no arguing with the breadth and depth of the list—it's awe-inspiring.
The Steal: The list offers a pretty consistent 2.2-2.7% mark-up which is very solid. So generally the steals are wines that are long sold out or have been thoughtfully aged for you. Examples of the former include Orofino's great Wild Ferment Riesling which is $70 for a long sold out $29 wine that also has a year of aging on it or $80 for the long sold out gem that is Bella's $40 Gamay Mariani vineyard that's also long sold out (although Stable House Bistro blows this wine out at an insane $69). Examples of aged steals include $80 for a Kettle Valley Malbec from 2012 or $120 for 2003 Oven Rock Red, also from Kettle Valley. Both those bottles are rarer than 2000 Chateau Margaux in terms of actual scarcity.
The Not So Much: Only a few weird ones here. I'm in love with Heidi Noble's Chic Fille Pinot Blanc, but not $100 worth it for a $30.35 wine that's still available on the website. I also always order Stag's Hollow's killer Dolcetto but $65 is getting up there for a $22 bottle of wine. But as far as I can tell nothing crosses the papal line of demarcation that is over 3x retail, so all is good here.
Cool-Factor Bottle: In terms of B.C. bottles that I search for, this list may have the most of any I've come across. There's the Moon Curser Touriga National which is an insane steal at $85 for a $40 bottle, but it's the 2012 vintage. Amazing deal. There's the Stag's Hollow Dolcetto and Albarino. There's the very cool white Pinot Noir from last year's experimental series at Tinhorn Creek and there's a bottle of rarely seen Chardonnay from Henricsson. Oddly there's very few cool-kid natural bottles: there's Mike Schindler's A Sunday in August Pinot Gris, there's the Bella and Little Farm (both now OG cool kid labels) but no Rigour & Whimsy, Neon Eon, Artakama et al. I like the Sunday in August best so they chose well.
The Copy Editor: Spearhead winery is listed as Spierhead Winery, but this is sort of a technicality given that the former is the new spelling and the latter the old (and further confusing given that the winery is on Spiers Rd.) Other than that—all good.
The Head-Scratcher: Not much really. If I had to dig one up I'd say that only five Pinot Noirs is not enough especially when you don't have Foxtrot (for the Burgundian camp) or Quails' Gate Stewart Family Reserve (for the Russian River camp) or Tantalus or Mirabel. They do have Carson Pinot, which is a winner. There's only one selection from the extended Mission Hill family—an actually reasonably priced $300 bottle of 2010 Occulus—but that's it. I appreciate celebrating the little guy, but not having anything from Martin's Lane or CedarCreek or Checkmate seems a little cutting off your nose to spite your face territory.
The Grade: A. In terms of offering a cross section of what this province does in winemaking, there's is no more important list in town (or the world for that matter). It's a one stop shop for immersing oneself in the region and there are a lot of bottles that simply can't be sourced anywhere else. A civic treasure.