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For years now chefs and sommeliers in Toronto and have been working hard to create places and experiences on par with the greatest restaurants and wine programs in the world. It’s been a tough, mostly unnoticed, slog, but things are finally looking up. It seems like Toronto is finally having a gastronomical moment. These are 7 fun wine bars to try in Toronto!
Here are 7 great wine bars to check out in Toronto.
Whether you know a ton about wine or are timidly interested in tasting something delicious, you should be able to find a place to fit the bill on this list.
Anyone who pays attention to Toronto’s restaurant scene will know the name Jen Agg. Bursting into the scene in 2008 with her groundbreaking charcuterie place, The Black Hoof, Agg has gone on to open numerous other successful spots, including Grey Gardens.
Unassumingly tucked away in the city’s bohemian Kensington Market neighbourhood, Grey Gardens focuses on off-the-beaten-track natural wine. With a menu subdivided with headings like “elegant, layered, complex” and “spicy, savoury, herbaceous”, this is the kind of place to go if you’re feeling adventurous and looking to try something new.
Recommendation – Try one of the two orange wines they offer by the glass, or splurge on a bottle of Pearl Morrissette, both genuine rarities.
If tapas are more your thing then Salt is the place to go. Specializing in wines and food from the Iberian peninsula, Salt offers cozy communal tables and a menu emphasizing seasonal and local foods. Think Canadian-made Spanish and Portugese style charcuterie, paired with a gem from their well-stocked cellar.
Recommendation – Get to know Portugal’s green wine (Vinho Verde) with a bottle of Muros Antigos Escolha ’17 or choose the Alento Reserva ’12 if you’re in the mood for a full-bodied splurge.
Located on Toronto’s trendy Ossington strip is the new-ish Paris Paris. What this double-talk joint lacks in (highly curated, delicious-looking) menu options it more than makes up for with an extensive wine list, including skin contact and oxidative wines, a few sakes, and two full pages of red wines by the bottle. Trend hunters and cool kids will want to make sure to hit up this gem.
Recommendation – Try the Turner Pageot ‘Le Blanc’ (a skin contact white made with marsanne and roussane) and make sure to check their last chance bottle list if you’re an ‘if I’d only known!’ kind of person like me.
Chez Nous is a unique spot for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it’s on Toronto’s oft-forgotten East End. Second, it focuses exclusively on Ontario wine (hence the name). Third, it’s one of the few places I know of that serve wines in a 375mL half carafe format.
The menu offers the standard sections (sparkling, white, red) and also includes healthy sections for orange/skin contact and rosé wine and, for the non-wine drinkers dragged here by their friends, a great craft beer section too. While the menu is miniscule, you can bring outside food in to complement your drinking.
Recommendation – The pinot gris from Organized Crime is sure to please any Alsace wine aficionado, or try the natural cabernet franc from Tawse if you still need convincing that this grape should take its rightful place as a flagship variety for the Niagara region.
Toronto cut its culinary teeth on the Great Italian Restaurant, and Bar Buca is a cherished descendant of that heritage. The little sister of two Buca restaurant locations, Bar Buca offers small plates (seriously, they’re hard to avoid in this city) and a loving focus on Italian food and wine.
Cocktails favour amaro and limoncello, but let’s be honest, we’re here for the vino. The medium-sized wine list offers some deep cuts, including a wide variety of regions and grapes as well as some organic and biodynamic wines to boot.
Recommendation – A glass of the Verdicchio Collestefano (a lesser-seen grape in Toronto) or a bottle of the Montebernardi Chianti Classico (organic and biodynamic!).
Grand Cru Deli
Located in central downtown, Grand Cru Deli is a wine bar that serves “elevated deli fare” in hope of “making the world of wine accessible, one glass at a time”. Deli foods are made in daily in house and the wine list spans
It’s connected to its upstairs neighbour, Somm Factory, a training forum run by Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner – but don’t expect it to be all snobbery and arrogance. The space is cozy, the staff are friendly, even if you can’t tell your cabernet sauvignon from you sauvignon blanc.
Recommendation – The Domaine de la Noe muscadet Sevre et Maine and Cave de Tain ‘King of the North’ syrah are affordable options at $10 and $13 respectively, or you could roll the dice by having a SURPRISE sparkling, white, rosé, or red.
As the name suggests, this place is known for excellently curated and highly delicious cheeses. To match, their wines focus on responsible winemaking and transparency in production, with many low intervention or “natural” wines.
Their wine list is quite small compared to the other spots on this list, but everything on it is a find. Spanning mostly Europe and Ontario, the menu educates you as you go, offering grape and region as well as a short tasting note to help you make your (very tough) decision.
Recommendation – The Domaine Baud crémant de Jura is sure to entice any palate, and the Dominio de Punctum Lobetia’s “rich and chewy” tasting note make me want to check it out immediately.