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I step inside Vancouver Urban Winery, one of the city’s most striking wine bars (think exposed fir beams, 24-foot ceilings and intricate mouldings) and take a whiff. Nothing. The fermented, yeasty waft that permeates most wineries is curiously absent. And yet, the glass of chardonnay I order from the winery’s bar is fresh from the barrel – an experience that seems out of place in Gastown, a few hours’ drive from British Columbia’s most prized grapes.

I’ve got the winery’s kegging operation, FreshTAP (housed in the same building), to thank for this taste of wine country. Founders Mike Macquisten and Steve Thorp introduced wine on tap to the city in 2012 after checking out the scene in San Francisco, where kegging has been in practice since 2010.

Crack open a bottle of wine and it immediately starts to spoil. Within a day, oxidation transforms delicate flavours into a less pleasant tang, and by week’s end, whatever’s left is fit for the drain. Kegged wines are stored in pressurized steel drums that keep oxygen out – and flavours in – until the liquid is in your glass.

“Wine on tap is smarter, fresher and friendlier,” Macquisten tells me as we walk between rows of three-foot-high kegs, which are each able to hold the equivalent of 26 bottles. Every month, Macquisten and Thorp fill between 500 and 800 kegs with vintages from award-winning Okanagan winemakers like Painted Rock (their Red Icon blend retails for about $55 a bottle), Laughing Stock Vineyards and Meyer Family Vineyards. You’d literally have to spend days in the Okanagan to cover their selection.

Not only do the owners keg for Vancouver Urban Winery, FreshTAP is also filling wine lists across the city. Tap and Barrel, a sprawling beer and wine bar in the Olympic Village, has 14 FreshTAP kegs on the premises, featuring local wines like the exclusive Hand Drawn Red, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc and syrah, and Hand Drawn White – pinot gris, riesling and gewürztraminer – both of which sommelier David Stansfield created in consultation with Backyard Vineyards (they also have a selection of international bottled labels for the doubters). The kegs live in a tiny room adjacent to the parking lot below the restaurant; the wine flows in glycol-encased tubes through the walls and up to the first- and second-floor bars. A new location in Coal Harbour boasts a 30-seat tasting room with even pricier and more exclusive vintages.

Meanwhile, at Pidgin, one of the city’s most buzz-worthy new restaurants, the process is evolving to include locally produced sake on tap (the rice is even grown in B.C.). And as more local spots hop on the keg-wine bandwagon, proprietor Brandon Grossutti is already looking into what he can keg next. Soon, diners might see gin and whisky flowing from Pidgin’s taps. The genie, it would appear, has come out of the bottle.

Wine on Tap

Top Spots for Sipping Wine on Tap

Vancouver Urban Winery: A regularly changing selection of 32 wines on tap, paired with wine-friendly snacks such as cheese, olives and charcuterie.

Tap and Barrel: 14 wines on tap, and one of the city’s best patio scenes.

Pidgin: Wines and sakes on tap are served in vintage pop bottles with the tops cut off – a great visual pairing for the restaurant’s unpretentious yet elegant cuisine.

The Parlour: An innovative new pizza joint in Yaletown with a tight list of keg wines (the Yaletown, a cheeseless pie with seared albacore, jalapeños and cilantro, pairs beautifully with the Stag’s Hollow Con-Fusion).

Edible Canada Bistro: Already leading the sustainable charge with its seafood, this Granville Island bistro has 10 wines on tap, available by the glass or in create-your-own flights.



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Comments… or add another

Barry Johnson

Tuesday, September 10th 2013 15:57
PIer 73 has just added wine on tap and features Blasted Church Hatfield's Fuse, Big Bang Theory, Road 13, Honest John's and Cedar Creek Chardonay.
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