An outstanding wine list — combined with knowledgeable servers — has resulted in a significant distinction for The Beach Club Resort in Parksville.
The Pacific Prime Restaurant and Lounge has made the 2015 Wine Spectator's Wine List Award. Food and beverage director Ian Lane agreed that making the list is the equivalent of receiving an Oscar.
"This is a very big deal. There are only about 600 wine spectator award winners in the entire world and the large majority of those are in the U.S. We are the only one on the Island north of Victoria. There are three in Victoria and a couple in Vancouver but that's about it for the province," he pointed out.
The Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Program has been honouring the world's best wine programs since 1981.
Award winners generally offer selections with superior breadth and depth from some of the world’s classic wine-producing regions.
They have also passed a rigorous inspection that evaluates the overall quality of their wine program, cellars, service, ambience and cuisine.
Lane said earning the distinction took a huge team effort and it is not just about having a great wine list.
“That is part of it but it is also the service side. We have a team of real professionals who do a great job and enjoy doing a great job.”
He said their talented chef Rick Davidson plays a huge role as well, making sure the wine pairings work with the food as well as their special wine dinners.
He said the application process was lengthy and many requirements needed to be met.
“To win the award you have to submit what your training programs are… do you have the proper type of storage? How do you maintain the integrity of your wine… all those sorts of things.”
Resort manager Arthur Wong said obtaining the award is a huge honour and is part of the way they look at business in the long term.
“Part of that strategy is investing in your team to continue that long term growth. We have started to create some stability here at The Beach Club. Ian is our longest serving food and beverage manager and we are starting to see a lot of tenure here. Dave Paul has been here over six years. At the end of the day, it comes down to the team to execute my ideas,” said Wong.
Lane said they applied for the award in January, but the work leading up to it started when he began working at the resort a year and half ago.
“Arthur put that goal in my lap from the moment I started. We worked for a full year to get ourselves ready. We were looking for a waiter with good wine knowledge and we were able to get Michel Pambrun, who is beyond that. He is a fully certified sommelier.”
Pambrun, who started at the restaurant in January, is a member of The Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) which is affiliated with the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI), headquartered in Paris. He has the highest level of wine education on the team and when he arrived he helped tweak the current wine list.
“Dave, Ian and I sat down and our goal was to win Wine Spectator award of excellence,” said Pambrun. “The wine list was very B.C. focused. When I started we had 88 wines and 80 of those were B.C. wines. We reassessed everything and filled in the holes that we needed to. On the international, front we brought in 24 wines in from France, Germany, Spain, and South Africa.
Lane said prior to his arrival, Paul had a great wine foundation in place at the restaurant and in fact it is because of some of Paul’s connections they are able to obtain some special vintages.
“Dave has helped us hugely in obtaining exclusive wines. Tightrope is a winery, for example, that is very hard to find in the stores. Due to Dave’s connections, we always have a good selection of Tightrope wines in house,” said Lane.
He said their wine list is half B.C. and half international and going forward they will keep that balance.
“Now we offer great vintages. It is not necessarily the best wine but hopefully the best value.” He said they will have to resubmit every year to maintain their new status.
“That is why we have ongoing wine programs. We do monthly wine training with all of the staff and we do a winery of the month. One month it is a Canadian winery, one month is international. We are going to be doing wine dinners in the fall with our wineries of the month. In the winter we did our $4.99 wine Wednesday promo as well,” he said.
He emphasized that their overall goal, besides being a great place for food and wine and service, is to be that place outside of Victoria on Vancouver Island where you can go for the complete package.
“You can come for dinner and have a great cocktail and a great glass of wine. If you don’t know what you want, our people are trained enough to help you with that,” said Lane.
Pambrun said this is the first restaurant he has been with that has achieved the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and he is thrilled to be part of the team.
“I finished my wine sommelier diploma in Winnipeg and moved here a year ago to be closer to the wine industry. They already had a strong foundation, so working here I knew was going to be a great fit. This is what we were aiming for but it has exceeded our expectations. We want to be known as the place on the Island to come and have a great glass of wine, served by knowledgeable people and friendly staff,” said Pambrun.
Paul, who has been at the restaurant the longest and was this year’s recipient of the Parksville and District Business Award for outstanding customer service, said he is pleased with this new accolade.
“It is great to be able to hand them (customers) the wine list and we can guarantee there will be something on it they will love. We have enough selection by the glass and people can take home whatever they don’t finish in the bottle. We have something for everyone and people are pleased with our wine list.”