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Spotlight on Wine Industry Champion: Wesley Hunter

Wesley Hunter, Beverage Operation Manager for RauDZ Creative Concepts
Wesley Hunter, Beverage Operation Manager for RauDZ Creative Concepts
Image Credit: David McIlvride, Spatula Media

Our BC wine industry has an amazing community of local support behind it. Besides the loyal consumers, there are businesses that make it their goal to support local products and wines and they deserve major kudos.

Local restaurants like RauDZ Regional Table are all about the local scene and their beverage operation manager Wesley Hunter is a champion of local wines and in particular, the small lot producers or *Garagiste winemakers, many of which are brand new to the industry. Wesley offers a warm welcome and provides an in depth tasting without pretension. As a result, the wine lists offered at his establishments are loaded with the new, boutique, hard to find amazing wines and he shines a spotlight on them with pride. Spotlight is on you Wes- thank you and cheers!

*Garagiste is referring to the members of Garagiste North: The Small Producers Wine Festival. These are the under 2000 case producers in BC who come together for an annual festival to pour their award-winning, critically acclaimed wines. This year the festival is August 18 at Sperling Vineyards in Kelowna. For tickets and more information:

Q & A with our star wine guy, Wes Hunter:

1. Tell me how you got into the wine industry? Was there a particular moment when you fell in love with wine?

I got into the wine industry when I started my hospitality career 17 years ago. Living on Vancouver Island I was passionate about restaurants, loved bartending and creating cocktail but had a serious lack of knowledge or appreciation when it came to wine. I was encouraged to take some wine education courses and decided to enrol in the WSET program in Vancouver where I met an instructor who really shaped my passion for wine, Bill Stanford.

I can remember the exact moment I fell in love with wine! After one of my WSET classes Bill had a chat with me about really taking the course seriously and how wine can shape my career in the hospitality industry. He had spent the whole class passionately speaking about Riesling, so I decided to go out for a bite to eat and a drink at Bin 941 on Davie. They had the 2005 J.J Prum Spatlese Riesling by the glass and a seared duck breast appetizer so I decided to give it a shot. From that moment I was hooked. I didn't understand how a wine had such an intensity and prickle in my cheeks, how sweetness could be so balanced and how it just made every bite of the duck that much more exciting. It changed the entire atmosphere of my dining experience and I knew this was going to be my career moving forward.

2. What is your philosophy on building a wine program?

Never build a wine list based solely on your own personal likes or dislikes. Always be open to new regions, grape varietals and producers as the world of wine is far too large to have tunnel vision. Involve your team, listen to their feedback and always go in with the mindset of change for the better. Showcase diversity and offer a range of price points for your guests while always ensuring that no matter what, the quality and value stays high.

3. What is your favourite type of wine and why?

I am a sucker for a wine with a strong backbone of acidity especially in my reds. Pinot Noir has always been my passion grape but a bigger bodied red such as Syrah that has a good sense of acidity is truly something special. A wine with finesse and elegance while delivering a high level of intensity and power to me, shows the best of a vineyard and winemaker. A wine you can close your eyes and picture the warm days ripening the grapes and the cool nights keeping everything in balance and allowing the acidity to remain, that’s the wine for me.

Wes Hunter was on site supporting RauDZ culinary crew  (l-r Chefs Tina Tang & Chris Braun) providing delicious sustenance at the Garagiste North Wine Festival last year
Wes Hunter was on site supporting RauDZ culinary crew (l-r Chefs Tina Tang & Chris Braun) providing delicious sustenance at the Garagiste North Wine Festival last year

4. You are a great supporter of the Garagiste winemaker. What do you like about supporting the small producers?

To me, wine is something so much more than just a beverage. When I get to meet a small producer, I’m not just going into a tasting room I’m being invited into their home. They are the ones pouring the wine for me to sample and telling me their story. When I place an order, they are driving up the next day to drop a case and are truly thankful for any opportunity given to showcase their wine. It means a lot to me to get to know these producers and their passion and it makes my job very easy when they are also producing some of the most interesting and high-quality wines in the valley.

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