Making Sense of One of Kitsilano’s Better Wine Lists

Listed is an ongoing Scout series that attempts to decant the top wine programs in Vancouver by chatting with the talents behind every list. Browse the column archive here.

Kitislano’s AnnaLena – long a fixture on the Scout 25 – has captured Vancouver diners’ attentions since the restaurant launched in 2015. This has a lot to do with Chef Michael Robbins’ take on “Modern Canadian Cuisine”, which has deliciously fused the nation’s melting pot of traditions, flavours and styles with local ingredients since day one. Pairing it with a list of wines has been just one of the challenging responsibilities of General Manager Jeff Parr, who has been more than up to the task.

Born in East Van and raised in the Gulf Islands, Parr got his first taste of the industry as a 14-year-old dishwasher at Bedwell Harbour Resort on Pender Island. Working under his father, the resort’s Sous Chef at the time, Parr was running the pub’s kitchen by 16. After high school, he slipped into the thick of Vancouver’s restaurant scene, toiling in the trenches at Earls and Joe Fortes before getting his Diploma in Hospitality Management and his WSET Level 3 Certification. Following management work at Nita Lake Lodge and Poet’s Cove (plus an overseas stint in Australia), opportunity knocked with AnnaLena.

I recently chatted Parr up about what he has Listed at the restaurant this winter.

How many wines on your list? Currently 66 with 22 available by the glass.

How is your list organized? Bubble / White / Orange / Rose / Red. Within those categories in order of weight / body. (Ed. note: complete list at the time of writing here)

What one wine are you most excited about right now on your list? ‘Nas Del Gegant’ by Celler Escoda-Sanahuja from Catalyuna, Spain. My lady and I got the chance to try this wine for the first time recently on its home turf at ‘Bar Brutal’ in Barcelona and were instantly hooked! Located about a 90 minute drive away, Joan Ramon Escoda is creating some really exceptional Spanish Natural Wines. Bringing some stylistic influences from his time spent in the Loire Valley, Joan creates a very unique expression of Catalan wines. The blend of Cab Franc, Merlot and Garnacha results in a bright, medium-bodied wine that is unique and approachable. [Its] notes of red cherry, blackberry, violets and earth make it a perfect food wine that can adapt and work great with a variety of flavours. We’re big fans.

What’s the top selling wine on your list? Nichol Vineyards’ Old Vines Syrah 2014 from the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan. This current release from Nichol is – in my opinion – one of their best yet, and our guests seem to agree!

What’s the newest arrival to your list? Le Piane, Maggiorina from Boca in Piedmont. A very cool wine from an area that doesn’t get as much attention as its more famous neighbours. Maggiorina is a blend of mostly Nebbiolo and Croatina. Boca was once the heart of wine production in northern Piedmont but was almost entirely abandoned by the early 50’s. Named after the style in which the vines are planted, it is a very approachable, lighter-bodied wine with accents of red fruit, spice and a great expression of the volcanic soils with some of the vines aging 80 – 100 years old!

The one product you will never list? Anything that I am not truly passionate about sharing with our guests.

Money / availability is no option. What one wine would you list? Any early releases of Roagna Barbaresco.

Your fave food/beverage pairing currently in your restaurant? Roasted ginger soy pork belly, savory oats, carrot puree, baby turnip with the Celler Escoda-Sanahuja, ‘Nas del Gegant’. The bright fruit character and acid are a great complement to the rich pork belly, and the earthy notes take the carrot and turnips to another level.

Favourite wine list in Vancouver, other than your own? Burdock & Co.

Your top food/wine pairing tip? We love using Lambrusco on our tasting menus. It’s a great way to introduce the wine to our guests for the first time. It has so many different applications it can work with. Bright acid and, of course, bubbles go great with fried foods such as fried chicken. It’s more traditionally paired up with Bologense style pastas, or even chocolate works great! One of our favourites is the Medici Ermete, ‘Concerto Reggiano’, Lambrusco and our chocolate-covered fried chicken skins. At the end of the day, experiment; take risks — learn from what works and what does not. Use that to keep growing and exploring. Sometimes the pairings that you least expect end up being the best!

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