Private Wine Store Series: The Strath Ale, Wine and Spirit Merchants

left: Wines in the cooler.right: Beers wrapped in paper at The Strath. Photos by Deanna Ladret


The Strathcona Hotel really does have a little something for everyone, doesn’t it? From the super-stocked games room and restaurant, dancing, and rooftop volleyball court, to the sub-street level dance club/music venue and the legendary peanut-strewn bar slung with old bras and trick bugs. Apparently there’s room in there for a hotel too, which I have yet to see with my own eyes, but I certainly believe exists. With all there is to do at the site, it’s easy to get sidetracked and completely forget what I will firmly defend to be one of its finest features, The Strath Ale, Wine and Spirit Merchants store.


General Manager Colin Southcombe.

Yes, hidden within the maze of this self-dubbed “Entertainment Centre!” lies a treasure trove of interesting wines, beers and spirits that are selected and categorized with the zeal possessed by only the most passionate and meticulous of drink nerds. General manager and wine buyer Colin Southcombe isn’t offended by the term ‘nerd’, in fact he was the first to admit his team’s obsession with seeking out the most exclusive, unique and value-friendly products to stock The Strath’s shelves. The 4,000 square foot store features a comprehensive global wine selection grouped by region (with the exception of the $15 Bottle Rack), plus an assortment of spirits and 430 different kinds of beer (!)


While Southcombe oversees store operations and the wine portfolio, he has enlisted staff ale specialist Lon Sheehan and whisky specialist Richard White to assist with the other main categories. The Strath is a prominent sponsor of the annual Victoria Whisky Festival and is currently the exclusive local retailer for the members-only Scotch Malt Whiskey Society. They also boast Vancouver Island’s largest selection of Belgian beer and single walt whisky.


Uno Mas Tequila from Jalisco, Mexico.

But perhaps the best thing of all about The Strath is their Wines of the Month Club. Members can sign up in store and pay a $50 monthly subscription to receive two different bottles of wine per month (one white and one red, or two reds) that are new to the store and have been selected, tasted, and reviewed by Southcombe and his staff tasting panel. The notes are then written up with food pairing suggestions and additional information about the region and terroir and delivered to the subscribers’ home or office.


With all the talent and passion flying around The Strath comes the kind of informed and enthusiastic service we can all appreciate in our local liquor store. Southcombe is proud that his store is sought after not only as a place to shop, but also as a place to work. Staff members are always encouraged to attend industry events around the city, take wine courses, and participate in all the tastings with liquor reps to know the products they sell.  That’s a job I could definitely raise a glass to!


Colin Southcombe’s Top 3 Summer Sipper Picks:


Wine: Torrontes. It’s the white to Malbec’s red.

Beer: Phillip’s Blue Buck.

Spirit: A Margerita made from Uno Mas tequila.


Address: 919 Douglas Street

Phone: (250) 370-9463

Hours: 10:00am-11:00pm 365 days/year


Twitter: @TheStrath


Parking: 10 minute Hotel Zone out front; meter parking on street

Delivery: Yes, on cases within downtown (and with notice)

# Staff: 10

Manager: Colin Southcombe

Wine Buyer/Consultant: Colin Southcombe, Lon Sheehan (Ale), Richard White (Whisky)

# SKUS: 3,000+

Store Focus/Specialties: Specialty wines, beers, spirits; value wines from around the world

Staff Training: All staff must have previous experience in a wine/liquor store; many have professional designation or membership (CAMRA, WSET); mentoring with senior staff

Membership: Wines of the Month Club

Newsletter: see Wine Club

Tastings: Every Friday at 3pm. Open to the public.


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