Exploring Wildebeest’s Eclectic, 56-Bottle Cellar With Young Somm Justin Everett

Justin-Wildebeest

Portrait by Jonny Norton

by Treve Ring | When your restaurant steers off the paved street for the unforged path, your wine program needs to match pace. Such is the case at Gastown iconoclast Wildebeest, where meat-centric, off-cut farmhouse fare rules the house.

With curiously delicious dishes like fried freshwater smelt with blistered shisito peppers, toasted pine nut and lemon aioli jostling for attention with hand-cut horse tartare alongside cornichons and capers, diced shallots, lemon sabayon and crispy potato chips, an adventuresome, boundary blasting wine list is required to stand up to the flavours and satisfy the pairing.

Fortunately, thankfully, Wildebeest delivers. The list is now in sommelier Justin Everett’s capable hands. Local boutique, small scale favourites stand shoulder to international independents, with a strong swing to the unsung wine producers, many of whom are iconoclasts themselves. Everett, one of the young, studied, passionate/geeky collaborative members of the new generation of Vancouver sommeliers, has recently stepped up into the role of Wine Director after a couple of years at Wildebeest notching his somm belt (as well as time spent on the floor at Kitsilano Wine Cellar and Bao Bei, plus formal education via the WSET Diploma).

I recently chatted Everett up about what he currently has LISTED at Wildebeest…

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How many wines on your list? Currently 56, and 19 of those are available by the glass.

How is your list organized? It is divided into categories for bubble, white, red, and rosé as well as a small category for “orange” wines. After that it is organized by weight, from lightest to heaviest.

What one wine are you most excited about right now on your list? Domaine de l’Idylle 2012 Mondeuse from Savoie, France. The Mondeuse grape has nice structure and weight so it can stand up to red meat, but it also has a surprisingly floral nose that lends it grace and finesse. Also, it only takes one sip for most people to be just as excited about it as I am.

What’s the top selling wine on your list? Our private label Wildebeest 2013 red blend surpasses everything by a long shot. It’s a collaboration we did with J-M Bouchard the Winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards in Oliver. We wanted to emulate the wines of France’s Rhône Valley since they pair so well with chef Wesley Young’s somewhat carnivorous cuisine. It is predominantly Syrah with a touch of Mourvèdre and a splash of Viognier.

What’s the newest arrival to your list? Haywire’s 2013 ‘Free Form’. I like the added texture and weight this wine gains from the extended time on the skins. I also like that it’s something a little more out there that I can still offer to guests by the glass.

The one product you will never list? I have to choose one? Any wine that was conceived in a boardroom.

Money/availability is no option. What one wine would you list? Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir. This wine is made in Prince Edward County in Ontario. I lived there for a while and it’s a really special place that will always have a place in my heart. The wine is also hands-down one of the best Canadian Pinot Noirs being made but it’s not available in BC.

Your fave food/beverage pairing currently in your restaurant? Nightingale’s Garden Tomari Umeshu (plum wine) with our Wildebeest ‘cheesecake’ with strawberry sorbet. This dessert is not overly sweet so it pairs extremely well with the plum wine, which has a sweetness that is perfectly balanced by a nice, tart acidity.

Your insider top food/wine pairing tip? Don’t forget rosé! The sunny weather has got me thinking about rosé, and that’s part of the problem, we so often overlook this category as a seasonal tipple. It is the Rodney Dangerfield of wine – or better yet the Stephanie Tanner; stuck between white and red and always forgotten. But seriously, rosé tackles the most difficult pairings with ease. Smoked octopus and scallops, or horse tartare to name just a couple examples from our menu.

Favourite wine list in Vancouver, other than your own? Farmer’s Apprentice. I would be very excited drink almost anything on this list. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting to eat Dave’s food while you’re at it.

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