The top 10 wine lists in Toronto
The top 10 wine lists in Toronto don't have to be all about massive cellars and 50 year old vintages. Although the city has its fair share of internationally acclaimed restaurant lists with 1000+ bottle selections, over the last few years a new crop of wine bars have offered an alternative way to go about satisfying one's lust for the most noble drink there is.
Shorter lists with more esoteric offerings are now a regular part of the landscape, while a focus on local wine is starting to develop that actually stands a chance of securing a following. It's a good time to be a wine drinker in Toronto, and in honour of that, here are my picks for the top 10 wine lists in Toronto.
UPDATE: This post has been update as of June 1, 2016 to reflect new restaurants and those which have shuttered since the original publication date.
You might not expect a restaurant in an Etobicoke strip mall to be the country's premier destination for wine, but what's that book/cover saying again? At any given time, Via Allegro will have between 5000-5500 selections of wine, with world class selections of Italian and Rhone reds, amongst others.
A French wine lover's dream, Le Select's ample cellar — there's about 1000 labels on offer — is heavy on vintages from Bordeaux, the Rhone, and Burgundy. Look for attainable (and superb) bottles from the Languedoc or save up for something with 30 years on it — the mark-up on the dusty stuff is surprisingly good.
It must suck to be a chef with an ego at Opus. All everyone ever does is talk about how fantastic the wine list is. This is a place for the deep-pocketed. Petrus verticals? Check. Ditto for Grange, Tignanello, Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Dominus, and a host of others. Got a special occasion coming up? Go all out with a magnum of 1961 Petrus. It'll only run you 45K. Too much? There's always a 1990 RomanÃ©e Conti (25K).
Let's be honest, lots of other candidates could have taken this spot (like any one of those linked below), but Barberian's gets the call for its old school charm, which is matched with a wine list that puts heavy focus on those most steak-friendly of wines, big California cabs, Bordeaux and the wines of the Rhone Valley.
Also of note:
Midfield Wine Bar and Tavern
Although the list at Midfield typically hovers at about 15 bottles or so, it'd be hard to find a better curated selection anywhere in the city. Wines are sourced from lesser known producers and varietals, with often fantastic results.
Carrying on in the tradition established by Anton Potvin at the Niagara St. Cafe (the former occupant of the space in which Edulis now operates), the wine list here is a bit all over the place, with the emphasis put on value, quality and intrigue rather than a particular country or region. Everything on the list is worth trying, including those at the lower end of the price range.
Also of note:
The wine list at Globe kind of has it all. There's ample by-the-glass options and a few genuine show-stoppers on the reserve list, but where it really sets itself apart is with its local offerings, which number in the hundreds. Better yet? Most of the list (i.e. everything but the reserve bottles) is half off every Sunday. Sold.
Archive Wine Bar
Archive may not match a place like Globe in terms of selection, but it's rare to see a wine bar focus so heavily on local grapes. Here you'll find top notch but not widely available wines from producers like Hidden Bench, Norman Hardie, and 13th Street.
Also of note:
The mark-ups at Le Paradis make you cringe when you see the same bottles at other restaurants for twice the price. And while you'll always do better taking advantage of a cheap corkage deal at restaurants that offer that sort of thing (stay tuned for a list of those places), this is pretty much as good as it gets as far as general lists go. Stick with the stuff from the Languedoc; it's by far the best value.
Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our wine-soaked adventures.
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