The Hotel Grand Pacific is the first hotel in Victoria to offer the Vancouver-based FreshTAP system for serving high quality wines by the glass. FreshTAP got its start in Vancouver after the founders, Mike Macquisten and Steve Thorp, travelled the USA researching the benefits of wine-on-tap. They liked what they saw and opened for business in 2011. Today, FreshTAP packages wines for over 45 wineries, most of them in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Wine-on-tap has been growing rapidly in Vancouver as bars and restaurants catch on to its economic and environmental benefits. Now, it has come across the strait and is starting to take off in Victoria.
It’s a lot like draft beer, except that instead of beer, wine is put into the19.5 litre stainless steel kegs (the equivalent of 26 bottles of wine). At the restaurant or bar, draught lines are installed to transfer the wine from the kegs to the taps. Depending on the system, restaurants can offer one, two, or as many wines as they want by installing more lines and taps as needed. When a customer orders a glass of the wine, the bartender or sommelier simply goes to the tap and pours the glass. It’s an efficient system that offers quality and choice. The wine is kept fresh by an inert gas that prevents spoilage and eliminates oxidation. Often when an opened bottle of wine sits around for a few days, it can go off and both customers and businesses lose. Who hasn’t ordered a glass of wine only to be disappointed and the wine has to be sent back? With this system, everyone is ensured consistent quality and just-opened freshness. It allows establishments to carry a choice of wines by the glass without the risk of losing valuable product to spoilage. This helps improve the quality of the dining experience.
Add to this the eco benefits— there is a significant reduction in the environmental impact when compared to bottled wine. A full cask weighs 30% less than the equivalent amount of wine in bottles, thus reducing the amount of fuel used to transport the wine. There are also less glass bottles, corks and labels. When the keg is empty it is returned to FreshTAP for cleaning and is refilled. This results in lower costs for businesses that are then passed along to the consumer in lower wine prices.
At the Hotel Grand Pacific, five wines are currently being offered on tap: Clos du Soleil Pinot Blanc, Stag’s Hollow Semillon, Calliope Riesling, Cedar Creek Merlot and Blasted Church Big Bang Theory (all from either the Okanagan or Similkameen). Each of the wines can be ordered by the glass for $8 – $10. This allows guests to match wines to each course of their dinner. Half litres are also available. Food & Beverage Manager Anna Ion, who has her Sommelier Diploma from the International Sommelier Guild, oversees the hotel’s wine program.
It’s impossible to talk about the wine program without mentioning the stellar cooking of restaurant chef Daryl Pope. As the season transitions from summer to fall, look for new dishes to appear on the Mark Restaurant’s menu. I sat at the bar, along with other local media, to preview a few of the new Mark dishes paired with wines from the tap. I sampled a salad of salt-roasted beets with chevre, Asian greens, beet syrup and lemon vinaigrette; and a dish of pan fried scallops and five spice peas with parsnip puree and miso beurre blanc. Both were excellent. The Calliope Riesling pairing with the scallops was a perfect match. For the main course, venison loin was rubbed with raspberry and accompanied by a curry spiced demi-glace and navy bean cassoulet. The soft and juicy profile of Blasted Church’s Big Bang Theory red paired well with the full-favoured dish. There was no pairing for the dessert, but I couldn’t resist trying pastry chef Whitney Lee’s chili chocolate pear mouse with house-made toasted basil marshmallow, ginger tuille and chili pear compote. Delightful.
Hotel Grand Pacific & Mark Restaurant
463 Belleville Street
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