Words: Henry Yuen
As a wine columnist, there are often what I call “perks” that comes with the territory. The opportunity to face-to-face conversations with industry experts is definitely one of them. To gain insights into their professions and share their passions and business outlooks is a learning engagement not easy to come by. The recent one on one interview with Robert Stelmachuk, Wine Director of the soon to be opened Mott 32 Vancouver at Trump Tower proved to be such a conversation.
Robert looks after the wine programs of Mott 32 and two other world class food & beverage establishments in the same building: The Champagne Lounge and Drai’s Club. Previously the General Manager and Wine Director of Cibo Restaurant and UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, Robert graduated from the International Sommelier Guild and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. He also holds advanced accreditation with the Court of Master Sommeliers and was once the Director of Wine Education for the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver. His strong credentials and 25+ years of experience in the wine industry make him the perfect candidate to lead an international brand.
According to Robert, the wine list of Mott 32 Vancouver will focus on the complement of the “overall acidity, sauces, creaminess and texture” of the viand. He firmly believes a diverse wine list is fundamental while at the same time it should be an easy-reader. In such a classy and unique Chinese restaurant with superior western style service, a splendid wine by the glass program is a must but appropriate wine flights to give diners the opportunity to craft their own wine pairing exercise is also eminent.
Robert is in favour of listing by countries with a wide enough scope to satisfy different palates. His philosophy is to source wines that represent the best values at each particular price point. There will be serious representation of BC wines as well as wines selected from wine regions worldwide to elevate the dining pleasure with the “wow” factor.
"The hospitality and luxury aspect of the restaurant will always be a strong hold so will the wine program. The objective of the restaurant is to set apart from others." Robert promises to design a wine list that will strike a balance to suit all palates. Besides the traditional wine program, there will be a list of ciders from France and Spain, as well as a premium sake program. "There is no “judgement” on the guests. Whatever the customer requests, we will attempt to oblige." Robert emphasized.
To go with the different styles and moods, the Champagne Lounge and Drai’s will have distinct beverage programs. Drais’s will offer at least nine signature cocktails for the curious while the Lounge will bubble with champagnes and all things sparkling. The overall beverage lists will cast a wide range to gratify global clientele.
To oversee the wine & beverage programs for the three venues at the Trump Hotel Vancouver is a start from scratch project for Robert. “It’s an exciting challenge since all three venues will have their own signature wine & beverage programs." he stated, "And I am loving every minute of it!" At the moment, he is busy lining up wine merchants and importers to create his treasured wine cellar. A lot of his preferred labels and vintages will have to source directly from the wineries so his vast industry connection comes into play. "No time is too early." he told me, "It does take time to deal with the government liquor distribution branch on all wine purchases." The expected opening date is only three months away but the staff training aspect is already in full swing to ensure consistency and competency in providing first class customer service.
It’s an eye opener for me to take a peek into how a hospitality maestro goes about linking all the dots systematically and comes up with a comprehensive plan for a grand venture which will soon garner global attention even before its grand opening.