Interview with Wine Sommelier David Stansfield

David Stansfield

David Stansfield

A couple of weeks ago David Stansfield gave a talk at my Food Talks Vol 10 event about Wine, it struck me as how knowledgeable David was. Hence it was high time I interviewed him, we first sat down at Cuchillo in Railtown to enjoy some appetizers which David paired with his favourite wine, I had a glass of water. We then hopped into a cab and headed over to Tap & Barrel in Coal Harbour, to enjoy some more dishes and wines.

David Stansfield is an independent sommelier – wine nerd for hire – currently working as the in-house Sommelier for the Vancouver Urban Winery and as an ambassador of wine-on-tap for FreshTAP, the country’s leading packager of premium wines in kegs. He also works as the corporate Sommelier for the Daniel Hospitality Group and consults for local restaurants Bestie and Cuchillo.

In his 15 year career in wine, David has worked as a cellar hand, tour guide, and Director of Sales for Summerhill Pyramid Winery; launched an online wine distribution service for BC wines; ran the wine programs of two award-winning Gastown restaurants; lectured as a guest instructor with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust through the Art Institute of Vancouver; gave presentations on behalf of the BC Wine Institute; gained accreditation as a French Wine Scholar; created and hosted the Sunday School series of wine classes at Vancouver Urban Winery; and spoken to anyone who will listen about the joys of drinking good wine.

Albacore Tuna Ceviche

Albacore Tuna Ceviche

Albacore Tuna Ceviche

Paired with Unworth Vineyards – Allegro blend of Pinot Gris, Petit Milo and Blanc Noir 2012 (from Mill Bay, Cowichan Valley).

What drew you to wine?

I moved to the Okanagan when I was 14 years old and lived in Kelowna. I went to high school with Ezra Cipes (now CEO of Summerhill Wines). At 17, Ezra and I went to have a drink at Steven Cipes house (Ezra’s father and owner of Summerhill Wines), we grabbed a bottle of wine, pulled the cork and downed ¾ of the bottle. Steven Cipes walked in and looked at us kids drinking who were underage. I was pretty drunk and catty, Steven offered me a job and he was serious. I ended up taking the job and worked in the cellar at Summerhill, once I turned 19 I was promoted to the Tour Guide of the winery. At 24 I became Director of Sales of Summerhill Winery. I then became a Sommelier while I was working at Summerhill.

What goes into creating a wine list for a restaurant?

1)      1st is the theme of the restaurant

2)      I write wine programs

For example at Cuchillo – the food is Neuvo Latino (flavours of latin America and Spain but made with local ingredients. The wines are BC, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina.

3)      I do the list at Cuchillo with Chef/Owner Stu Irving and we talk about his dishes, ingredients and flavours.

Vs Tap & Barrel

1)      It is all BC wine focussed with local food

2)      I have to love the wine

3)      Every wine has a job to do – each wine has to be distinct from the other wine ( I like small wine lists)

What inspires you when you are curating a wine list?

I try to write wine lists that I would be excited to encounter as a customer. I drink heavily at the restaurants I work for, I want their wines to be ones that I want to drink time and time again.

Then the subsidiary inspiration. I like to introduce people to new wines and regions that people haven’t heard of. Telling the story, I am a local boy and I want to promote whats good in BC.

What was your training like to become a Sommelier?

My formal training, I went through the WSET program, I also did the French Wine Scholar Program at WSET level 4. Then 17 years on the job (cellar, vineyard, retails, sales and restaurant).

Tell our readers where you have worked in the past 10 years?

  • Summerhill Pyramid Winery
  • Wine Barrel VqA store in Victoria
  • Cobre Restaurant
  • Dictionary of Canadianisms at UBC
  • Self employed Wine Consultant

Who are your clients currently?

  • Daniel Group
  • Vancouver Urban Winery
  • Cuchillo Restaurant
  • Bestie Restaurant
  • Chicha Restaurant
  • Private tastings for private clients

Who are your mentors?

Michael Bigatini

Lamb Albondigas Tacos & Corn Bread

Lamb Albondigas Tacos & Corn Bread Aioli

Lamb Albondigas Tacos

And Corn Bread Aioli with guahillo chili butter

Paired with Nichol 9 Mile Red 2011 – a blemd of Saint Laurent and Pinot Noir (from Naramata)

Tell us about Cuchillo, what type of wines did you showcase on their wine list?

  • 8 BC wines on tap by the glass
  • Selection of 25-30 Central and South America, Spanish and Portugese by the bottle
  • Wine style-focus on terroir and preferably lesser known and more exciting wines of the terroir (place).

Tell us about Tap & Barrel, what type of wines did you showcase on their wine list?

  • BC Wine on tap
  • Then represent as many different sub regions of BC that I can. Ie (5 different regions of Okanagan), then all the valleys (Fraser, Cowichan etc)
  • I want the wine to be indicative of the area.
Steelhead Salmon Tacos and Local Wild Mushroom Pizza

Steelhead Salmon Tacos and Local Wild Mushroom Pizza

Steelhead Salmon Tacos

Paired with the Poplar Grove Vionier 2012 (exclusive to Tap & Barrel Coal Harbour)


Local Wild Mushroom Pizza

Paired with Meyer Family Vineyards single barrel Pinot Noir (exclusive to Tap & Barrel Coal Harbour)

What wine are you drinking currently?

  • De Martino (Chile) Organic – Cinsault – made in ancient clay pots called Viejas Tinajas
  • Cru Beaujoulais Gamay from South Burgundy

If you weren’t a Sommelier what would you be doing?

I would be working to become a professor in literature or a street mime.

What does a wine that tastes like dirt mean exactly?

Made from the terroir (place) of the vineyard. Small lot, specialty of place.

What are the top 3 types of wine (your favourites) would we find in your home Wine collection?

1)      Lots of sparkling wines

2)      Cold rose

3)      Beer

Take us on a tour of Vancouver’s wine bars and restaurants with good wine lists that aren’t you’re clients. What are your favorites?

1)      Lisa Cook at Joey Wine Room

2)      Kurtis Kolt’s wine list at Bao Bei

3)      Brooke at Wildebeest

4)      Natural wines at Burdock & Co

5)      A pint with Nigel at the Alibi Room

What do you look for on a Wine List when you dine out in a Restaurant?

Something I have never seen before.

Tell me about Sunday School that you recently hosted at the Vancouver Urban Winery

A series of irreverent wine seminars that I host with Lisa Cook. It’s a wine school where the emphasis is on the wine but not on the school. Starting in January we will be doing them monthly.

By: Richard Wolak

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