When you think of visiting a winery, you probably picture the Napa Valley or the Naramata Bench: sun-drenched rolling hills of grapevines dotted with barns and houses as far as the eye can see.
But there’s a winery right here in Downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver Urban Winery manufactures, packages, imports and distributes wine for multiple wineries.
When I first walked into VUW at 55 Dunlevy in Railtown, I immediately fell in love with the space. High ceilings, huge space, old, exposed wooden beams, a fireplace, beautiful architectural details, massive leather couches and amazing light from high-up windows make the space warm and welcoming.
There are three businesses that work in sync at VUW: the first is FreshTAPs, which is a system of kegging and delivering wine to restaurants and bars. The second is the tasting room itself, where you can sample wines and nibble, and the space is available for rentals. Finally, there is a little store where you can purchase wine and wine-related goodies.
The concept of kegging wine is a new one in Canada, although it’s a growing trend in the States. The winery grows the grapes, and then crushes them and takes them through the entire fermentation process. When the wine is ready to be bottled, instead of bottling it off into 750 ml bottles, they put it instead, into a 225 litre barrel and send it down to VUW. The wine is then quality-tested to make sure it’s still okay and then it gets put into smaller 19.5 stainless steel casks. These casks are then transported to participating FreshTAP restaurants, bars or hotels.
For restaurants, FreshTAPs are a great idea. Often if they are selling wines by the glass, after opening a bottle, if they don’t sell off all the wine within a couple of days, they have to throw the remainder away, as the wine oxidizes or goes “off.” In the stainless steel keg, the wine is of the freshest, highest quality from beginning to end.
For consumers, this is also a great idea. With drinking and driving laws being so strict, many people, while they like to have a glass of wine or two with dinner, will limit it to just one glass or so if they are driving. There are many wines that are only available by the bottle. One that I love is the Joie Rose, but if you go to a restaurant that has FreshTAPs, you’ll find it there by the glass.
As well, if a restaurant wants to offer tastings, they don’t have to risk opening a new bottle and then dumping the bulk of the bottle if it doesn’t sell, or if the client doesn’t like that wine enough to order a glass or a bottle.
For the wineries, FreshTAPs are also a big “yes.” “The big advantage for us as a winery,” says Michael Dinn, who owns Joie Vineyards, “is that we know that the wine is going to be 100% fresh every time it is served. There is nothing more frustrating than taking the care and time to produce a beautiful wine only to have it go stale in an open bottle and then presented to the public as being representative of what we do. With the FreshTAP system we are guaranteed that our wines will be served to guests in the manner that they were intended.”
Environmentally-speaking, VUW and FreshTAPs are also making a difference. Each keg fits 26 bottles, and the kegs are simply cleaned and refilled. While glass bottles are recycled, they are often sent to China, so their carbon footprint is still quite large.
Vancouver Urban Winery has 36 different varieties of wine on tap, including tons of varieties from the Okanagan, like Joie, Road 13, Blasted Church, Hester Creek, Lake Breeze, Rollingdale, Laughing Stock, and Tinhorn Creek. They also have their own label, Roaring 20’s.
Tastings run from $12-15 for a flight of 5 wines and they change monthly.
Vancouver Urban Winery
Address: 55 Dunlevy Street
Hours: Sunday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Rebecca Coleman is a blogger, teacher and social media marketing strategist. She runs a recipe blog, Cooking by Laptop, and loves to experiment in the kitchen. She blogs at Vancity Buzz about restrictive diets. Connect with Rebecca on Twitter @rebeccacoleman.