Vancouver Urban Winery: Cool commercial city spot

Earlier this year during January's Dine Out Vancouver, I spent the evening at Vancouver Urban Winery. It was part of a Swallow Tail Canada Secret Supper Soiree, and what a wonderful venue for a dinner. Now it has officially opened as Vancouver's first commercial urban winery. Vancouver Urban Winery is located in the heart of the historic Railtown District of the city. The expansive space (7,700 sq. ft.) includes a 24-ft. Douglas Fir tasting bar with 36 taps that serve a rotating selection of wine on tap; a retail store; and fully functional winery that packages, imports and distributes wine for numerous brands.

The space in the 1920s high-ceiling building is spectacular. On Thursday and Friday evenings (phone ahead for other times), guests may order artisanal food and wine pairings -- selections are announced via social media on the Wednesday before. Wines on tap are $10 for five one-ounce pours, while food and wine pairings are $17-$25 for five wines paired with five bites.

The retail shop features Beta5 chocolates, Urban Bean coffee, Sea to Sky salts and spices, Fey and Hobbs antipasto and drunken olives, Okanagan Vinegar Brewery products and bottles of Vancouver Urban Winery's own label, Roaring Twenties Wine Co.

So what about the winery? It's located in the heart of Vancouver Urban Winery and is known as FreshTAP, Vancouver Urban Winery's subsidiary company that packages wine for wineries entering the emerging wine-on-tap market. This is the first operation of its kind in Canada. Finished wine is sent to FreshTAP and transferred from casks into 19.5 liter stainless steel kegs, which are kept under a blanket of nitrogen. Wine kegs are then distributed to the partnering venues where they they are fit into their tap systems. It's very similar to beer on tap. According to Vancouver Urban Winery, this method removes the oxidization and "guarantees that consumers can ensure their glass of wine tastes exactly how the winemaker intended ... from the first to the last glass." Among the 26 wineries that FreshTAP is working with are Blasted Church, Nichol Vineyards, Joie Vineyards, Laughing Stock and Hester Creek. 

From an environmental standpoint, the wine on tap concept eliminates the need for so many bottles to be produced (one keg = 26 bottles), along with the labels, corks/caps and shipment of cases. So far, Vancouver Urban Winery has filled 1,210 kegs, which eliminated 31,460 bottles from production. That savings is passed along to the wineries and results in the potential for restaurants and consumers to benefit in the savings, too. FreshTAP wines are marked with an icon on restaurant menus where available.

Vancouver Urban Winery, 55 Dunlevy Street, 604.566.9463 (WINE). Open Monday-Friday, 11 AM - 9 PM and Saturday, 11 AM - 2 PM. Walk-in traffic is welcome and special catered and private events are available.

Photos of Swallow Tail Canada diners at Vancouver Urban Winery by Sue Frause

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