“What’s In Your Cellar?” With Vikram Vij

SHARP & Mark Anthony Wines

Vancouver restaurateur and chef Vikram Vij needs no introduction. Even so, the fact that this best-selling author and TV personality is also a certified sommelier may have escaped the attention of his many fans. But Vij’s knowledge goes beyond how to pair wine with dishes. He considers good wine as essential an ingredient in life as food; it’s “the cilantro in his chili.” Here, we ask him about his cellar.

How many bottles of wine do you have in your cellar?

Maybe only 40 or 50 bottles. I don’t believe that wine should be hoarded; I think it should be shared. Being Indian, we always love sharing things with family and friends.

When did you become interested in wine?

When I moved from India as a 19-year-old, it was all beer and gin & tonics, but when I went to Austria, where you have a glass of bubbly before you start dinner and then a glass of Riesling and so on, that got me really interested creatively.

Is it still hard to convince people it’s okay to pair wine with Indian food?

When I first opened the restaurant, people would come in and ask for Kingfisher beer and butter chicken, but, after 29 years of sheer hard work and holding people’s hands, a lot of them now know that, yes, a bottle of Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Riesling is great with your chicken tikka masala. But it took confidence, which is why I became a certified sommelier.

Mark Anthony wine bottles on a granite counter

Do you have any advice for go-to pairings?

Do what your palate desires, live without boundaries, and be the free bird you want to be. Who is to say you cannot have a Penfolds Bin 600 with your oysters? Who is to say you must have a Sauternes with foie gras? If you feel like having an Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon with foie gras, who is to say you cannot have it?

Everybody loves that Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon. Why?

It grows in Paso Robles, a region of beautiful vineyards and deep-rooted forests in California, so I don’t know what could go wrong. It’s a beautiful easy-drinking wine that you can have with my goat meat curry, my lamb popsicles, steak with peppercorn sauce, or French onion soup. It’s delicious and it showcases the terroir of Paso Robles — that leathery ranch-style — so beautifully.

You also mentioned Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Riesling. Is that another one of your favourites?

To me, Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Riesling is one of the finest examples of a Riesling coming from British Columbia. It’s beautiful and it’s in the upper echelons of wine, perfect for celebrating with friends, family, and great food.

And Penfolds wines? Do they have a special place in your cellar?

They did a fantastic job with the Penfolds Bin 600, a half Shiraz and half Cab blend that’s a great wine for a really special meal — the kind of wine you open maybe once every two months — whereas the Penfolds Bin 389 is an approachable wine you can afford every day, enjoying the beautiful juicy, jammy profile without feeling the pinch. Go for whichever one, so long as you take a sip of your wine, which should be tasty, and then you take a bite of your food, which should also be tasty. The rest is all made in heaven.