Steve Adams, manager and wine guy at The Bicycle Thief restaurant in Halifax talks about matching wine and seafood, the growth of Nova Scotia wines and tips on how to choose a great bottle from a restaurant list.
What’s on your wine list?
We currently have 144 wines on our list, and it’s always changing. We offer 40 wines by the glass, from Brunello to some new wines from Friuli, Italy, that are exclusive to us. Our menu is Italian with a comfort food edge, so our primary focus is on great Italian wines, with ever-changing selections from around the world.
What trends do you see these days for Nova Scotia wines on restaurant lists?
We feature Nova Scotia wines, such as the Annapolis Valley’s Benjamin Bridge Nova 7, Sparkling Brut Reserve, Blanc de Noirs and Borealis. The Benjamin Bridge Blanc de Noir is a sparkling wine with layers and layers of flavour, made using the classic champagne method and rivaling the top French champagnes.
While we don’t have the same growing conditions as Italy or France, our climate and soil conditions also allow for fantastic production of icewines. Now with all of the private stores we have more availability for a wider range of different products, so we’ve been seeing wines we never had access to before – and customers are trying new things.
What are the most popular wines on your list?
Primarily our biggest sellers are Italian reds and whites; because our list and wines by the glass change so often, there are always new wines that become very popular. We want our customers to love the wine so we pick wines that are definitely “big bang” for their buck.
What are two of your favourite wine and food pairings in the restaurant?
We serve our local oysters iced on the half shell with a homemade hot cocktail sauce or baked with garlic breadcrumbs served with horseradish sour cream. Either way, champagne, such as Taittinger, is a natural partner. The effervescence and acidity of the champagne with the saltiness of the oysters is a lovely marriage of flavour.
The robust Italian red wine, Zenato Amarone, goes perfectly with our local rabbit that we braise in another Italian red wine, a Ripasso Valpolicella: it’s a long and slow braise with garlic, fresh herbs and seared polenta.
How do you match seafood and wine?
My best tip is that champagne goes with everything! We also feature a great French chardonnay, Pouilly-Fuisse, in our Enomatic Wine Preservation system, a state-of-the-art unit that uses argon gas to keep open bottles of premium wines tasting fresh and at their peak for up to a month. Sauvignon Blancs, with their crisp acidity also enhance the delicate flavours of fresh shellfish and seafood dishes.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
The never-ending wine tastings. Also, we had two international winemakers in the restaurant recently who both commented that our wine list was one of the best they’ve seen.
What are the most memorable wines you’ve ever tasted?
Our recent tasting of the 2008 Antinori wines, with Tignanello and Solaia, was pretty fantastic. Both of these are Super Tuscans, ultra-premium Italian red wines: the Solaia has a nose of black cherries, red fruit and licorice. It’s full bodied, well balanced and delicious. The Tignanello is a deep and intense ruby red, very fruit forward with black fruits dominating and smooth on the palate.
Which wine region are you visiting next?
I am heading to Napa and Sonoma this September, and very much looking forward to visiting the Caymus & Joseph Phelps Wineries. Both of these wineries are top producers in California. We currently have 20 wines from California on our list.
It’s a long flight, hopefully I have enough points to travel business class.
What tips would you offer diners for choosing wines from a restaurant list?
My best advice is to drink what you love. If you’re looking to try something new, ask the staff. In restaurants like ours, we do extensive wine training and our staff give great recommendations.
The Bicycle Thief
1475 Lower Water St, Bishop’s Landing
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3Z2
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