This episode of Bottled Up! features the incomparable Shawn Jones. A beloved and highly respected industry veteran, she is also a tremendously bright personality who can adeptly win over your heart before she even greets you at the door. Previously having solidified her experience in Vancouver hotspots such as Coast, Hawksworth, and Chambar, Shawn was most recently GM of Main Street’s sweetheart restaurant, Nomad, before it sold and closed its doors for good in October. All along the way, she licked her lips in the wine industry, consistently buffering her education and skillset, which she credits for making her so capable of advancing into roles such as General Manager. And her journey continues, as she was immediately recruited to become part of the killer ensemble heading the new and highly anticipated restaurant, Old Bird, slated to open in 2020. All hail Shawn Jones!
Laura: Hi Shawn! Tell me about what’s going on in your world these days?
Shawn: Things are wild in my world right now! I’m in the process of opening a new restaurant called “Old Bird” on Main Street with owner, Sophia Lin, and chef, Deseree Lo. It is a brand new concept in Vancouver, and despite how much opening a restaurant can make your head spin, it is ultimately so rewarding. And the food is so delicious—elevated Shanghai and Taiwanese street food with an edgy attitude.
L: Yum! You’ve worked in some other incredible (and delicious) restaurants in Vancouver, including Hawksworth, Chambar, and most recently, the recently closed Nomad. How did each of these places contribute to your experience in wine specifically?
S: Wine has always guided my career from very early on. Once arriving at Hawksworth I really started to get an idea of what wine could really be. Chambar showed me how wine can be approachable and elevated all at the same time. Nomad gave me the allowance to play around and use my creativity to design a list that spoke to the direct vision that was “Nomad.”
L: What (or who) was the spark that set you on the path of learning about wine?
S: Eric Griffith, owner of Alta Bistro, started my path. I loved wine and hospitality but was working in a burger restaurant; I had no idea how to further myself. All he said was “WSET” and that started it all—I completed my WSET 2 & 3 over the next two years, and they have always played a role in opening doors and furthering my career.
L: Nomad’s wine list was exclusively B.C. wines, which is rad. What is it like putting together a list with only local vino?
S: I have a huge love for B.C. wines. There are some challenges due to the fact that B.C. is creating some awesome gems and people don’t always want to believe it just yet, but it is easier than ever to win people over. Plus it is so much fun to sift through the producers and find the wines that best suit your menu and neighbourhood.
L: I also know you recently won a BCHF sommelier scholarship, and enrolled in the Canadian Wine Scholar course. Can you give us some insight into what that course is like? Who would you recommend it to?
S: The CWS was awesome!! Unfortunately, our resources in sourcing wine from the East Coast is limited here in B.C. Due to the fact that I’m working all the time, a vacation to the East Coast has also never been an option. It was important to me to learn about wine in Canada as a whole, not just what we produce here in B.C. I would recommend this course to anyone who loves B.C. wine and wants to learn more, especially since wine is so vast; there is so much to learn and it endlessly evolving.
L: Did you have a mentor in the world of wine?
S: I still remember the first time I heard Terry Threlfall talk to me about wine at Hawksworth. It was a winding story about vineyards and vines and producers. I remember leaving the conversation and thinking to myself, “stories like that cannot be made up!” Living and learning and sharing your stories with others is what creates the moments in peoples’ lives that last forever—I wanted to have those stories to share for myself.
L: You are now in the role of GM for the highly anticipated Old Bird, which is focused on Taiwanese and Shanghai street food. What can we expect to see in terms of a wine list?
S: Hands down you can expect a wine list that speaks to Deseree Lo’s food. It will include a lot of bright aromatic wines, dry and off-dry, with some light, crisp reds. It will obviously be all B.C. as well!
L: Exciting, another 100% B.C. wine list! What is it you love most about BC wine?
S: B.C. wine to me is that young girl who just got her braces off. Beautiful and the world doesn’t even know it yet! She is still just discovering herself, what she does best and what she stands for. I love having the chance to show just how beautiful B.C. wine is, inside and out. My favourite aspect is to change someone’s perception of B.C. even when we don’t even know what “B.C.” is. Plus, I love going local. It’s all just new, fun, and so exciting to stand behind!
L: Do you have a go-to wine?
S: Chardonnay 100%. Drop me in Cali, drop me in Burgundy, put a great glass of chardonnay in front of me and I’m yours forever.
L: When it’s not wine, what might we find in your cup?
S: Beer. I love a cocktail here and there, but I love a thirst quenching beer. Pass me a Strangefellows ‘Talisman’ or Parkside ‘Humans’ IPA any day!!
L: What is the most memorable wine you’ve tried?
S: My most memorable wine was definitely the Gaja Sugarille Brunello di Montalcino I had in 2015 at a tiny restaurant in Carmel by the Sea. I cannot remember the vintage but I remember the moment: being so excited, and watching the server be so nervous opening it…all of it resonated so much as to the reason why I’m in this industry. Working in this industry is as much fun as enjoying it!
L: How about your guilty wine pleasure?
S: So I could eat pasta any day and everyday (ask anyone about my Bolognese) so I love me an Italian wine. Give me any chance to pair this blessing and call it a match made in my heaven.
L: I love that your guilty wine pleasure is simply gorging on pasta and Italian wine! Thanks for your time Shawn. Sounds like it’s time for a glass of Chardonnay now!
Dog or cat? Dog
Negroni or Boulevardier? Negroni
Most overhyped wine trend? Coravins…just finish the damn bottle
Most despised wine term? Wine diamonds
Most underappreciated grape? CHARDONNAY
What grape would your mom be? CHARDONNAY
Go-to hangover cure? CHARDONNAY
High school prom song? Independent Women – Destiny’s Child
Flute or coupe? I don’t care.
WSET or CMS? Whatever works for you!
@ Vitis Magazine