In the Before Times, you might recall rubbing elbows with wine insiders and sampling outrageously good by-the-glass pours at Apéro wine socials around Vancouver. Since then, founder Maude Renaud-Brisson (a former Nightingale and Chambar somm) has created a pandemic silver lining by turning her clubby gatherings into an intimate wine-subscription program.
Her Apéro Chez Vous Wine Packs (aperomode.com/apero-chez-vous) are delivered monthly for $149 for four pro-curated wines, including one from B.C. (Tantalus, Bella, Synchromesh, Nichol and Le Vieux Pin, as recent examples), and behind-the-scenes stories about producers. Wines are available through New District in Vancouver for repeat purchase.
Renaud-Brisson is just one of the wine-preneurs bringing the restaurant and sommelier experience to your home through wine subscriptions. Different than winery- or membership-based clubs, these feature highly curated boxes of hard-to-find releases, along with everything from tasting notes to recipe pairings to videos to enhance your sipping experience.
Wine Vikings is the B.C. subscription for brave wine adventurers (winevikings.com). The idea for it had “literally been on the side of my desk for two years,” says Dax Droski of Parade Agency, the group behind the Deighton Cup, Punchbowl and other boozy events. “Last March we just shut down. I thought, I’m going to find a passion project and get it going.”
What might have been a side project for a few pals is now a renegade quarterly wine box ($220 for six bottles, at least one from B.C.) of otherwise unavailable sips, curated by a rotating cast of Resident Vikings (translation: some of Vancouver’s top restaurant and wine pros). For instance, the summer box will be picked by Bar Corso’s Michelle Kanis. Wine tasting notes and write-ups, plus an exclusive video link to a guided tasting, round out the box. It’s as close to a restaurant somm experience as some of us have gotten in the past year.
“I wanted to create a wine club I wanted to join, and make wine a little bit more approachable. And we wanted to be loud with our brand,” Droski says of his quirky had-one-too-many Viking mascot and packaging. “It’s for the next generation of wine drinkers.” Watch for a wine-school program (three-bottle packs of grape varietals from global regions, with video instruction), Best of B.C. annual boxes, a cellar club for deep wine dives and more.
Droski partnered with the Joseph Richards Group on logistics for Wine Vikings for a good reason: JRG already had expertise through its LIQR.ca e-commerce platform and a wine club (liqr.ca/wineclub) of its own. That was enough to entice wine wunderkind Rob Carras to work there. “The experience with wine clubs I’d had in the past was that they were not what I thought they could be. I thought the opportunity was to make it like Dollar Shave Club or any monthly subscription service—why not do that with wine?” From his time working in wine retail, Carras knew we all fall into the trap of buying our same favourite bottles time after time. “We want to give people cool new wine, in a cool box, to try every month.”
Currently, the LIQR.ca Wine Club delivers from West Vancouver to Chilliwack. (The group even hired some of its furloughed hospitality workers as drivers.) Since last August, delighted subscribers have been unboxing on social media and sipping along with tasting notes and even recipe and food pairings from JRG chefs.
At just $50 for three bottles, the monthly Explorer box is an unbeatable deal—along with a B.C. wine, recent boxes have included quality Argentina, Chile and Spain bottlings, often tasting along a theme. Next-level The Collector subscriptions ($100 for three bottles) always include one wine rated at or above 92 points (“to build trust and credibility,” Carras says), plus international hidden gems and uber-cool B.C. bottlings like a recent Lightning Rock Chardonnay.
Of the B.C. wine subscription boomlet, Carras says the time was right. “It’s just the way everything is going right now. Meal prep is delivered to your door. Amazon and groceries and whoever else are always delivering to your house. Why not wine?” We can’t name a single reason.
Tap Restaurant in South Surrvey has a club to satisfy thirsts and hungers. Top somm Alistair Veen curates the Lasagne Club, providing tasting notes that come with six bottles of wine (three red, three white) and a delicious pan of lasagne for $250 a month (or $275 for two pans of lasagne). lasagneclub.ca
Okanagan-based natural-wine whiz Laura Milnes (silkandcoupe.com) created Crushable Club, monthly boxes of the “sexiest boutique wine from the hottest Canadian cellar wizards you should have known about two years ago.” Sign up and you’ll get monthly offers with no obligation to buy. crushable.club
Cool Toronto company Acid League ships monthly boxes ($60 to $70) of three non-alcoholic “wine proxies,” complex blends of juices, teas, spices bitters and ferments that don’t imitate de-alcoholized wine. Instead they strive to pair with food by providing some of the texture, acidity, tannins and spice of wine. acidleague.com
@ Vitis Magazine