Vancouverites are spoiled for choice when it comes to a vibrant drink scene. There is a wonderful assortment of stunning craft beer tasting rooms and unique cocktail bars in this city, not to mention the city's bursting assortment of third wave coffee bars and tea houses. But when Siôn Iorwerth and Sarah Coxon moved to Vancouver from Wales, they noticed a curious market gap: Where do you go to get a glass of natural wine around here? After Iorwerth entrenched himself with local sommeliers, importers and wine shops, the timing was right to take matters into their own hands and open their long imagined pop up, Juice Bar.
The couple were inspired by their experiences through the bar à vin scenes in London and Paris, where there is no shortage of places to drink great natural wine. They wanted to combine this strong sense of European culture with Vancouver's booming craft brewery and tasting room scene, made up of informal spaces delivering extraordinary beverage experiences, filled with passionate consumers looking to share conversation. In their estimation, a wine bar version of this concept was missing from a city whose natural wine often came with large price tags and the necessity for a reservation at a top tier restaurant. Incredible beer is accessible all around the city in these wonderful environments; why not have the same for natural wine?
Juice Bar is a natural wine bar that currently takes place Wednesday nights in The Birds & The Beets, a lovely cafe and bakery in Vancouver's Gastown district (and featured previously on Sprudge). It’s hard to picture a better location for a concept such as this with the intimate atmosphere it creates. By closing off the front section that functions as the coffee bar by day, the large seating area facing Alexander Street allows them to light a few candles, play some great music and set up the informal wine bar along the walkway into the room. By placing the bar amongst the seating, they break down the walls of any possible pretentiousness. Iorwerth wants to make natural wines accessible to the public and to reshape the preconceived notions many have about the wine industry.
“Wine doesn't have to taste like ‘wine,’” he tells me. “Try new things. It doesn't need to be serious.” For young wine drinkers given over to intimidation by the vast and daunting concept of a multiple page wine menu, fear not, as Iorwerth’s hand picked offerings are fantastic representations of wines and terroir and of the personalities of those who make them. If you are looking to have your first taste of natural wine, Juice Bar is providing the perfect atmosphere to do so. It's just what this city needs.
Three different wines are offered each week including a red, a white (or orange) and a sparkling. Juice Bar endeavors to change the list every week to continually offer an exciting array of flavors. Ask nicely (or show a bit of interest), and you can even catch Iorwerth opening a rare bottle or three throughout the evening for those curious to try something truly special. On a recent visit offerings included the ‘Changala Fait Sa Bulle’ by Domaine Jean Ginglinger et Fils from Alsace, a blend of Pinot Blanc and the native Pinot Auxerrois with notes of savory and fresh green apples. Second was Antour de l’Anne’s ‘Wonder Womanne’, which is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache from Languedoc, France. This wine displayed lively bubbles and was extremely aromatic with notes of fresh and tart red fruit—it's also highly Instagrammable, which doesn't hurt. Finally, they served the ‘Puszta Libre!’ from Claus Preisinger in Burgenland, Austria. This blend of Zweigelt and St. Laurent was the vin de soif of the evening, providing chuggable notes of juicy, bright red fruit.
After a successful opening week, the couple wanted to continue the momentum by combining Juice Bar with another pop up to provide fresh pasta as a compliment to the wine. Alex Fladhamer and Greg Sugiyama of Noods first met Iorwerth when they worked together at Vancouver’s Burdock and Co. and got to talking about the lack of spaces in the city providing casual wine and fresh pasta. It didn’t take long for the light bulb to go off and one pop up quickly became two. After weeks of smiling customers, they realized that the only thing better than two pop ups is of course three. So to add a finishing touch to the experience, this past week was the introduction of Chams Sbouai’s Sweet Boy, providing sweet and savory cream puffs.
Natural wine, fresh pasta, and inventive cream puffs. With these three groups working together in one of the most beautiful spaces in the city, whatever was missing from Vancouver before has most certainly found its new home at Juice Bar. I can't wait to see where the project goes next.
Peter de Vooght is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is Peter de Vooght's first feature for Sprudge Wine.
Peter de Vooght is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia.