Meet the wine lover: Doug Stephen of Vancouver's DownLow Chicken Shack

Jul 15 2021, 4:00 pm

Earlier this year we introduced you to a new expertly curated wine club called Wine Vikings.

This subscription service offers members six hand-selected hidden gem wines each quarter. Bottles arrive with a link to a video hosted by the local Wine Viking (aka Vancouver industry pro who chose those bottles) to guide you through their picks.

Next up? A fantastic group of bottles curated by Doug Stephen, co-owner of DL Chicken Shack and Downlow Burgers.

For each box, we’re introducing you to the Wine Vikings behind the bottles, so check out this Q&A with Doug and get a taste of what’s in store if you’re subscribed.

If not, get on it!

Tell us a bit about your journey as a wine lover

A lot of people may not know that I was originally a Front of House Restaurant Operator and I actually got my start in management as a wine purchaser for Oliver Bonacini in Toronto in 2004. As I got more heavily into the wine industry I fell in love with the wines, but the overarching attitude actually pushed me out for a few years. The latest generations of sommeliers and winemakers have brought me back as the world focuses less on the pomp and precociousness and more on the simple joy of enjoying wine with great food and better friends.

What are the qualities to look for when purchasing a wine?

For me, it’s all about value and pair-ability. I’m constantly looking for wines that others may not have heard of, or that aren’t from regions that are super well known. You know that restaurant down the block that no one but the locals has heard of that’s always busy? I want to find that wine.

What’s the most exquisite pairing of food and wine in your opinion?

Ughhh this is so hard, all the classics hit just right to me. If you’re going to put me in a corner and insist I pick, it would have to be top-tier Sauternes with very stinky cheese.

You’re eating the Original Sando from DL Chicken at home, what’s the ideal wine you’d enjoy with this dish?

Rosé Bubbles, I love how bubbles go with fried chicken. That little push a rosé bubble has just put it over the edge for me.


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What is an affordable, underrated wine you can find in most liquor stores?

Montsant – Celler des Capcanes Mas Donis Old Vines – a great wine from the Priorat region of Spain that drinks like a wine twice its value. So, so good.

Any off-the-beaten-track restaurants with exceptional wine programs in Vancouver?

I’m not going to lie, this one is a bit bias, but Simon Fallick, owner of The American has been working incredibly hard over the last year and a half to curate a small yet incredible selection of bottles at The American Grab n Go counter that can also be enjoyed inside. Focusing on low intervention with a great split of local and international, I find myself grabbing bottles from him on a weekly basis.

My other faves would have to be Pizza Coming Soon where Dylan has a constant rotation selection of fun quaffable juice and Dachi where Miki and Steven have put together a rad selection that runs the gambit of styles and taste.

How did you go about choosing your wines for Wine Vikings?

What an interesting question, working from a list of great wines made narrowing down the selections a little harder, but for me, I wanted to help expose people to wines and regions they may not have heard of before. Who needs help discovering an Australian Shiraz, or a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon…I wanted to talk about these really cool off-the-beaten-path wines, the wines you only hear about because a friend of a friend went to the vineyard backpacking in 2003.

Which bottle from your Wine Vikings box are you most excited about?

The Garof Grumello Valtellina Superiore, I just love the region of Valtellina. Everyone wants to talk about Barolo and Barbaresco, but the Nebbiolo grown on the steep hillsides of Valtellina can stand up on their own. Such a great little region that deserves more love. If you love Barolo or Barbaresco, I strongly recommend you take a look at Valtellina.

To learn more, be sure to check out Wine Vikings’ website.

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