Picking Grapes is a Scout series that asks wine professionals to map out their complex relationships with British Columbian wines by citing the ignition point of their interest and some of their favourite wineries.
You already know Simon Fallick as the co-owner of Hero’s Welcome and The American; but what you may not be aware of is that he’s also partially responsible for the killer wine selection at Grab & Go (The American’s off-sales side-business), as well as one of the people behind the Open Ferment natural wine pop up series (and soon-to-be wine fair) – making him a natural choice to field our Picking Grapes questions…
What was the BC wine that you first fell in love with? Do you remember where you were? What were the circumstances?
Lock & Worth – Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon. It was around the time I was getting married and we were talking about what kind of wine we wanted to have at the dinner. We were at our friend Todd Prucyk’s house, and I remember him pulling out a bottle and being so excited about it. Todd has such incredible knowledge of wine and really has a gift for talking about it in a way that is very approachable and exciting. I think my love and appreciation for wine really started that night.
Which local winery are you most looking forward to visiting, and why?
A Sunday in August. I kind of cheated here since it doesn’t fully exist yet, but the owner Mike and his partner just acquired land over on Salt Spring Island with the aim to start a vineyard and orchard. I think Mike has really nailed things in terms of creating approachable and fun wines that are presented in such a beautiful and colourful way. I’m really excited to see what they put together in the next few years.
Supporting small, BC businesses has become especially important these days. We know it’s difficult to narrow it down, but if you had to choose just three local wineries that you think are especially deserving of our attention, who would you choose?
I feel like Ursa Major’s 2021 was pretty much unmatched in terms of quality and creativity in their offerings.
We really love working with the folks at Plot Wines, and I think their wines are very fresh and unique.
Have the last two years reshaped your approach to buying and/or serving, and enjoying wine in any way? If so, how?
When the pandemic hit and we had to pivot The American to takeout and delivery only, it created an opportunity for us to build and establish our wine selection. Those first few months helped to grow my understanding and appreciation of wine, and gave us a chance to connect with our community to find out what people were into and what they were excited about. In a lot of ways, it affirmed a lot of what I had previously thought about wine, which is that people really want to get into it, but don’t know where to start. The food that Doug and the team at DL Burgers makes pairs so perfectly with the wines we sell, and because the environment is so casual, it really helps to create an experience where we get to connect with people about wine and food in a meaningful way.
That experience played a big part in what we started to bring in and how we talked about wine. The mindset was very much focused on organic and natural wines, but we wanted to present them in a way so that no matter who walked through the door, they could feel like the experience was approachable and fun. I tried to imbed that ethos into what we’ve been doing with Open Ferment. We’re hopeful that at some point this year we can host a big wine market event (similar to what you would find in Europe) that’s rooted in creating an atmosphere that’s very fun and inviting, regardless of your level of knowledge.
What sort of changes, if any, do you think that the local wine industry – from wine lovers and servers, to the producers and distributors – might see in the future?
It feels like wine culture is really starting to change and the push towards natural and organic wines isn’t going to slow down any time soon. Last year I did a pop-up wine event with Derek Duncan (Pacific Rhythm) at The Ellis Building called Open Ferment, and it was awesome to see so many people who were just starting to get into wine and were excited to discover new producers and try different varietals. I think this is reflected in the number of places that have opened locally in the last year with a focus on natural wine. Just in our neighbourhood, there’s Pizza Coming Soon, Bar Gobo and Thank You Pizza that all have an excellent selection and great staff who can talk about wine in a way that’s very welcoming and fun.
Unfortunately, on the other side of the coin, I think the supply chain issues we are seeing around the world are going to catch up to the industry this year. Pete Marshall from Surlie has been doing a great job of explaining this on his Instagram page over the past few months. International shipping logistics concerns and the damage that’s been caused by the Okanagan fires, combined with the intense heat, will have a significant impact on product quality, pricing and availability in the coming years.
What is the one versatile BC wine you recommend for pairing this season?
Synchromesh – 2018 Cachola Cab Franc. We have always tried to steer our wine selection towards approachability and crowd-pleasers, and I feel like this wine personifies both those qualities. You can put it in any social situation or next to any meal and it’s going to come through for you.
If you could work in just one local winery for just one harvest, which would it be and why?
Echo Bay. We got to check out the winery a few summers ago and had such a great experience. Rigour & Whimsy and Else Wines are also produced there. We got to spend some time with Else’s winemaker, Kelsey, and try some of her wines, and I honestly can’t say enough good things about them. In my opinion, the wines she makes can be put next to some of the best stuff coming out of Europe. Spending a harvest at a place that beautiful and with people who are making wines that are that interesting and exciting to drink would be an incredible experience.
Can you recommend one local, emblematic-of-BC red wine for someone who didn’t even know that wine was made here? Why did you choose it?
Nichol Vineyard’s Syrah. I put Syrah from the Okanagan right up there with some of the best in the world, and as far as I’m concerned Nichol is the best place to start. Both old and young vine offerings are awesome.
What about a white?
Scout Vineyard’s Riesling. Scout wines are all so crisp and fresh, but I think the Riesling – particularly their most recent release – really is a standout.
And finally, a rose?
Averill Creek’s Joue Rose. There’s something about this wine that is so unique and a really great expression of the creativity in the BC wine scene.