Calgary·FOOD AND THE CITY

Vin Room's newest location coming to YYC airport

With an anticipated opening sometime in the fall of this year, Phoebe Fung will bring more of the small comforts of wine and tapas to weary travellers in Calgary.

New restaurant will pour more than 80 varieties by the glass, world's largest selection at an airport

'This building was all boarded up, and I thought, I should open a wine bar here,' says Phoebe Fung. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

The old, two storey Mission Cycle building on 4th housed a bicycle shop for 79 years before Phoebe Fung walked past it, a year into her sabbatical.

After 15 years in the oil and gas industry she took a year off, travelled and took some wine courses before spotting the potential in what's now the original Vin Room, a wine and tapas bar offering exceptional food, one of the city's best rooftop patios and more than 100 wines you can order by the glass  — the largest selection in Canada.

"I was literally just walking past," Phoebe said over a glass of pinot gris in the upper lounge of her original establishment.

"This building was all boarded up, and I thought, I should open a wine bar here."

Vin Room specializes in seasonal tapas, from spinach gomae to lobster nachos. (Vin Room)

A wine gap in the market

They opened in 2008 — not the best year to start a new business in Calgary — but Phoebe believed in its potential.

"Even the banks were like, what are you thinking?'," she said.

"I told them I had all this project experience, and they were like, 'But you have no restaurant experience!'"

Having been a fan of great wine, Fung noticed a gap in the market. She took some wine courses in order to build her own cellar.

"I made it to level three out of five, then dropped out because I didn't know how to spit," she said. "My notes were getting harder and harder to read."

The success of the original Vin Room led to the opening of Vin Room West and a boutique wine shop close to Fung's home in Aspen Landing in 2012.

In 2013, the flood ravaged her Mission location, but local trades pulled off a full renovation in just 39 days.

Vin Room's wine menu boasts more than 100 varieties you can order by the glass, offering the largest selection in Canada. (@livevivace/Twitter)

Vin Room coming to YYC Airport

Phoebe's latest project has been in the works since 2012 — a Vin Room in the new international terminal at the Calgary International Airport.

From the time they submitted the proposal to be included in the new airport to the time they broke ground was over three years.

"I could have had three kids in that time," Fung joked.

With 15.5 million passengers coming through each year, Calgary has officially the third largest airport in Canada, having just surpassed Montreal.

At two million square feet, the new terminal is the length of 34 NFL football fields. (It's hard not to think of what this might mean for anyone who finds themselves running to catch their plane.) 

"It looks like Heathrow," Fung said, "with floor to ceiling windows, wood panel ceilings and marble floors."

Vin Room's rooftop patio is one of the city's best, not least because of the vast selection of wines you can enjoy while basking in the sun there. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

'A glutton for punishment'

Vin Room will be one of the few independent restaurants in a Canadian airport, in part because the process can be so daunting. 

Fung submitted an 80-page proposal to be part of the new terminal.

"You have to be a glutton for punishment to do it," she said. "If you're an independent business, it's very time consuming, and you don't know if you're going to be successful."

The third Vin Room was designed with small comforts in mind, catering to tired travellers.

"Like wines by the glass. That's comfort for me," Fung said.

"We're going to have 80 wines by the glass, and beer and cocktails, but the largest selection of wines by the glass at an airport restaurant in the world." The runner-up, as far as she knows, is Cru Wine Bar in Denver, which offers 40. 

The menu will be tapas-style, well suited to travellers who don't want a big meal before getting on the plane.

The space is equipped with plugins, USB ports and wifi. In fact, in the 2,000 square-foot, 75-seat room required 40,000 feet of cable to accommodate it all.

The menu at the coming airport Vin Room will be tapas style, well suited to travellers who don’t want a big meal before getting on the plane. (Vin Room)

More than 1,000 people involved

With an anticipated opening sometime in the fall of this year, they're rushing to finish construction by the end of May.

"The big deal for me was to work with local companies," Fung said — the subject of local trades tends to be a recurring conversation topic.

"By the time we're done, we'll have had over 90 companies that will have touched our project. Over 1,000 people will have participated in this build."

In the end, all this attention to detail is about how to best experience what's in your glass. When asked what started Fung on this path she shrugs, always with a smile.

"I just like to drink wine."

Don't let its name fool you. The Vin Room has far more than just wine on its menu, including this Morello cherry and St. Andrew cheesecake. (Vin Room)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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