With restaurant wine sales now permanent in Ontario, here are five wine shops in Toronto that are worth checking out.
Beleaguered restaurant owners and wine enthusiasts, rejoice! The Ontario government has tiptoed into the 21st century by allowing wine sales for take-out in Ontario restaurants forever more.
Since the outbreak of Covid, and the subsequent shuttering of indoor dining, intrepid restauranteurs have leaned on wine and spirit sales to (barely) stay afloat.
Along with take-out and delivery options, many business owners have pivoted to a wine shop model to keep the lights on. Wine bars, in particular, have created inspiring and compelling shopping experiences for wine enthusiasts. Selections are interesting and niche, offering bottles tough to find elsewhere and often with highly competitive pricing.
If you’re looking to go on a vinous adventure, here are my picks for five Toronto wine shops worth visiting. But hey, if I missed something great, let me know – I’m always happy to add it to the list. We’re in this together!
325 Roncesvalles Ave
More of an Italian grocer than a wine store, this is where I shop for quality, pre-made meals when I’m in a hurry, or sourcing quality ingredients like fine pastas, olive oils and balsamic vinegar. When the west-end shop opened a few years ago, they had offered a hot counter with casual seating. And that also allowed them to also stock and sell and small selection of wine for patrons to enjoy with their dine-in meal. Well, the seating’s gone for now, but the hot counter and the wine are still there so you can pick up your whole dinner in one go.
798 Queen St W
Can’t get to wine country during the lockdown? No problem, head to the east end where Chez Nous owner Laura Carr has got you covered with cool stuff from local wineries not usually found at the LCBO. In fact, all drinks, including craft beer and spirits, are from local producers. Local love for the wine win!
130 Ossington Ave
I absolutely love this Parisian-inspired butchery shop/wine bar. Even before Covid hit, CdB charmingly captured the French art of a casual glass of wine and a snack. High tops (wine barrels, actually) snuggly crowded the small space where the peckish would sit elbow-to-elbow munching on steak tartar with a glass of red. All that was missing was the clouds of cigarette smoke. Now, of course, things have pivoted, but the bohemian French flare still exists by way of a firmly French bottle shop. Grab a slab of beef and a bottle of Burgundy on your way home and try to maximize the joie de vivre of lockdown.
373 Queen St W
With a wine shop that’s open seven days a week, 12 hours a day, your wine emergencies are covered. Peter Pan has been around since I moved Toronto (more than 20 years ago – I was just a wee tot) but was refurbished and reinvented within the last few years. And now they’ve reinvented again with a well-stocked bottle shop with cool and thought-provoking wines (Jura, Pet-Nat and a host of Ontario amongst others) plus mercantile for all your pairing needs.
304 Richmond St W
Housed within the Grand Cru Deli on Richmond, Sips opened right after the pandemic broke out. Run by my friend, sommelier Heather McDougall, and Grand Cru proprietor, Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner, Sips has a well curated collection of exciting global wines. Heather once worked in one of the best wine stores in Calgary and brings that eye for interesting and remarkable bottles to Sips, while also keeping a tight focus on keeping mark ups as low as possible.