community wines

Drinking wine in Toronto just got more fun than it has ever been before

Matt Stein and Blake Pearson are making wine more affordable, accessible and fun.

In 2020, the two friends launched Community Wines, a service providing access to natural wines at an affordable price. 

Natural wines are "raw" or low-intervention wines that require the least amount of processing. In Toronto, natural wines can sometimes cost as much as $180 a bottle.

"Our whole idea was how do we make it accessible for people to try," said Stein. "It truly started with us both liking wine and during a time when the natural wine movement started to pop off, [we realized] there was no one place that was accessible to get wine."

Soon, they began sourcing wines, taking orders and doing pick ups and drop offs. At times, they'd bike to the customer's location delivering wines that sell between $30-$50.

They were part of a movement during lockdowns in Toronto that saw many new options for affordable natural wine, from Grape Crush to Tommy's.

But Community Wines were different as the two friends had an alternative way of providing natural wines beyond just selling them. They started to throw parties.

In July 2021, Community Wines hosted their first of many parties, kicking things off at East Room, a co-working space in Riverside. Local DJs such as Milch, Invisible City, Ciel and Stein himself spun.

"The idea was just to get our friends to DJ boogie and house music and also bring the wines as a part of it," Stein told blogTO. 

They began hosting more events, from the G2 loft in the Stockyards District to Bathurst Local. In 2022, things really took off for the two friends. "We were at Bather [one day] and noticed this parking lot," said Pearson. "Who would think to throw a party here?"

That's what they did. In May 2022, they hosted their first of two back lot parties alongside Toronto-based beachwear brand Bather. With a capacity limit of 500, a line began to pile up spanning around the lot itself. 

"Exactly at 4 p.m. we had people lined up coming in because people were scared they wouldn't get in," said Stein. "There were around 300 people in line, which is crazy...we're so happy about but it honestly spread like wildfire"

If you find yourself at a Community Wines event, especially in the summer, the open outdoor 'house-party' nature of it brings a sense of nostalgia. In many ways, these parties give the city something they haven't seen in a while; DIY block parties. 

Even indoors, the Community Wines events provide a space to meet new people and share new experiences through music and wine. 

In recent months, Community Wines has hosted events at Standard Time, in Niagara at a friend's family campsite and at 915 Dupont.

wine party toronto

Community Wines provides a space that is not only inclusive but provides a space to explore wine, especially for newcomers. 

Wines are sourced from natural wine companies such as Else, Libertine Wines, Val di Sole Wines and Fattoria AL FIORE to name a few.  All are sold at either cost or at a small markup.

Inviting people to a space to not only try experimental wines but to meet new people is what Community Wines is all about.

"It's such a relief for a lot of people who for the first time in years get to be around people dancing, drinking," said Stein.

Stein emphasizes that Community Wines is for everyone, and said that as much as you want to control the vibes, you can't be an inclusive space if you're always curating who's allowed to come in and who can't.

For the both of them, it's not about making money but instead making a space to be comfortable to explore wines affordably, especially for those who are exploring wine for the first time.

"We were even intimidated at first drinking wine, because we're young," said Pearson. "It's typically a pretty bougie highbrow industry…making it accessible and affordable [is important] so people can explore."

Lead photo by

Bryce Reyes

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