The top 10 new restaurants for wine in Toronto
Toronto has a new crop of restaurants with excellent wine lists. If there's a trend to take note of in this city as pertains to wine - one that started a few years ago at places like Midfield Wine Bar - it's the desire to get a bit weird with selections by showcasing grapes and producers that most people have never heard of. In other words, interestingness has taken over for juiciness. It was about time.
Here are my picks for the top new restaurants for wine in Toronto.
A restaurant driven by the concept of an elaborate tasting menu demands a diverse and extensive wine list. Sommelier Christopher Sealy has this covered, and doesn't shy away from unconventional, weird, and rare vintages. It's worth a seat at the bar to sample the by-the-glass options.
Lauren Hall has assembled an impressive Italian-driven list, which gives a nod to accessibility but doesn't shy away from intriguing producers (e.g. Castello di Verduno). If you've got coin, order the 2007 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino ($205). Heaven in a glass.
Cactus Club Cafe
You'd expect a place with original Basquiats and a $20,000 chandelier to have a fat wine list designed to impress Bay Street power brokers, but in fact this is asurprisingly affordable selection of intriguing bottles from the Old World and close to home (Norman Hardie is a fixture).
I'm not sure there's anyone better equipped to assemble a wine list designed to match the creative combinations of French and global cuisine at Concession Road than sommelier Peter Boyd, who's assembled an intriguing and diverse set of of vintages to highlight Masayuki Tamaru's variously delicate and playful dishes.
The wine list at Bar Raval isn't long, but it's smartly chosen to go along with the tapas-based menu. It leans heavily on Spain (which makes sense) and central Italy, though there are exceptions. One caveat: by-the-glass options are minimal, so plan on splitting a bottle.
One of the most gorgeous new restaurants in Toronto has a wine list to match. It's unsurprisingly Italian in focus, but the range is excellent and the by-the-glass offerings are adequate to allow diners to explore a bit while soaking up the atmosphere.
Sommelier Christopher Madej has assembled a list that shows off the amazing wine produced in the south of France, but doesn't chain the offerings solely to this region. You will have to stay mostly in this country, though (the list is almost entirely French). But since when is that a bad thing?
Mercatto may have a corporate-y vibe, but you can't complain about the mini restaurant chain's wine program. The latest iteration of the restaurant is a cavernous but warm room near the ACC with a wine list that should please season ticket holders. A small selection of well-chosen local offerings stand alongside a sprawling list of Italian vintages.
The longstanding Carens location in Yorkville closed early this year, but the brand lives on at its new Rosedale spot (formerly Le Petit Castor), which keeps the menu focused on French bistro classics and still boasts a sweeping wine list that focuses on France but not at the expense of offerings from other regions.
Boxcar Social (Riverside)
Tucked just off of Queen Street East, the second Boxcar Social location is something a of a hidden gem when it comes to wine. Although the list here is relatively small, the majority of vintages are available by the glass, the servers know what they're talking about, and the selections highlight intriguing New World producers.
What did I miss? Add your favourite new spots to drink wine in the comments.
Photo of Alo by Jesse Milns.
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