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Save Water, Drink Wine at Toronto's Favored Wine Bars



A meal without wine is called breakfast (or so the joke goes). But wine is a drink that many don't joke about. With the care and attention it takes to cultivate the grapes and create a memorable experience, these Toronto wine bars pay tribute to the nectar of the gods. Whether you are an oenophile or someone looking to shake off a bad day, these are the places to park. With mood lighting and careful pours, the air seems perfumed by cork and everyone seems a little happier. Or maybe that's just us after a glass or seven.

Although wine is meant to be the star of the show, Toronto is a city for food lovers and the food pairings available at our wine bar choices are sublime. Midfield Wine Bar has short ribs to wash down with your bold red. Sapori has beautiful cheese boards to go along with superb wines that cut through the richness of full-fat dairy with aplomb. Some of their cheese boards take up more than one table, so best to bring both your friends and your stretchy pants.

If wine isn't the answer, we don't know what the question is. Let's drink our antioxidants in their preferred form: one sip at a time.


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CIBO Wine Bar


CIBO Wine Bar is as much a restaurant as a wine bar, but we will let it slide. It also works hard to bring the entertainment factor, living on the vibrant King Street West and being run by the Liberty Entertainment Group. It seems to be working, as, during the Toronto International Film Festival, CIBO becomes a hot spot for celebrities. The impressive glass-walled wine cellar will certainly rev your thirst and wine is treated with the utmost respect. Don't expect to get any bonus ounces by generous bartenders: pours are perfect to the ounce. There is a long list of wines by the glass and bottle, and even if you just order a glass it will be served at the optimal temperature. Appetizers, pizzas and pasta are made fresh in house and are incredibly tasty.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: Exposed brick, wood beams, celebrities, and oh, yeah, wine. Did we mention the wine?

Courtney's expert tip: This is a pretty popular spot with the after-work crowd, so if you can swing it, get there a little early, say before 5 pm. Happy hour just became very happy.

Read more about CIBO Wine Bar →


9
Downtown
Bar Buca


Bar Buca is the kind of place that understands that you may need a little upper with your downer. Equally interested in the coffee scene as much as wine and cocktails, it is a casual place to grab a snack and shoot the breeze. Italy's aperitivo tradition is held in place daily from 4 pm to 7 pm, in an industrial chic Toronto kind of way. This means you get a free snack with each drink, which we are surprised works in North American culture. We would say assaggini are like "tapas" but that has lately become synonymous with pretension and this is great, approachable food. Just 38 seats which are often filled with foodies and conversation. Try one of the 17 by-the-glass wine options.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: A snack bar with coffee and pastries, followed by wine and small bites? Yes, please.

Courtney's expert tip: There are no reservations here because it is all about casual snacks. Get off work a little early.

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Given its location inside First Canadian Place (Canada's tallest skyscraper) in Toronto's financial district, one would expect Reds to be an exclusive dining spot for those with expense accounts. But while the bistro and wine bar's clientele skew toward high-powered business people in designer suits, the food is approachable in both style and price. Appetizers include a butcher board with charcuterie, pickled vegetables and fresh bread. For mains, none of which top the $40 mark, choose from a classic steak with truffled frites, crispy roasted chicken or a simple Mediterranean lamb shank. It's clear that all menu items, as well as the selection of cheeses from Canada and around the world, are meant to pair well with wines from the 350-bottle cellar, or the more than 24 wines offered by the glass. Stop by Monday through Friday starting at 4 p.m. for select bottles at special prices.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: Well situated in the financial district, Reds is a great place to let off a little steam by trying one of 350 possible bottles.

Courtney's expert tip: Don't be shy, the in-house sommelier is on hand to offer advice on how to best satisfy your palate.

Read more about Reds Wine Tavern →


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7
Downtown
Archive


With lightly stained wood decor and affordable pours, Archive is the kind of bar that doesn't need to be a special occasion only. It is devoid of snobbery yet dedicated to delightful pours and has a giant wine list to tickle any grape lover's fancy. There is a focus on local Ontario offerings but there are a nice amount of international offerings. Glasses can run for under $10 but the good stuff can climb to over $20 per glass. Small plates help to quash any rumblings of hunger and keep you drinking longer. Indulge in meats and cheeses, or get bread coated in delicious toppings like gorgonzola and speck. We gobbled up the prosciutto wrapped dates with manchego like they were going out of style.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: An amazing knowledgeable staff showcases local varieties, yet this is a wine bar where you feel like you can kick back in jeans.

Courtney's expert tip: If your knowledge of wine is about as basic as red or white, ask the bartender to give you a taste before you commit to a glass. You don't want to get monogamous too soon.

Read more about Archive →


Local Kitchen & Wine Bar
Photo courtesy of Local Kitchen


2009 was a memorable year for restaurant openings in Toronto, and Local Kitchen and Wine Bar was among the notable debuts. Childhood friends Fabio Bondi and Michael Sangregorio teamed up to open the space. It's tiny and decorated in an unpretentious style, resembling a hole-in-the-wall you might find while wandering around Florence. But don't judge a book by its cover, because chef Bondi's food packs this place on a nightly basis. The small menu of locally sourced ingredients features a selection of cheeses and meats, including the fresh house-made mozzarella, served warm with tomatoes and basil. Three or four pasta dishes and two protein-based mains are served each day. The former might be smoked potato gnocchi with rapini and taleggio cheese, while locally sourced fish and beef are paired with vegetables in season. Wine is lovely and corkage is free on Monday nights.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: A solid wine selection and impeccable food that can stand up to the boldest red.

Courtney's expert tip: Local and Italian wines are the main varieties on offer, with a delightful booklet which describes the wine's region and story. Bottles are better priced than glasses.

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Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern


Midfield Wine Bar fits the first (and most important) characteristic of a wine bar: it is a great place to drink wine. With a rustic coziness and wines that slant on shelves behind the bar, you want to stay a while. Imprisoned wine sits behind bars asking to be freed and offering a nostalgic edge when paired with curly corded telephones. There is bistro fare which arrives on wooden boards and can be as light as charcuterie or as heavy as braised short ribs. Tuscan reds and small European producers make the wine list as interesting as it is drinkable. Glasses range from $9 to $14 and bottles from $35 to $55. Absolutely everything is available by the glass.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: Laid back and minimalist on the outside and well stocked and passionate at the heart.

Courtney's expert tip: Look on the website for wine classes taught by sommelier Christopher Sealy. Why not learn more about your favorite beverage?

Read more about Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern →


Grey Gardens


Although Kensington is one of the places in Toronto to see and be seen, it is not exactly the place you would expect to go for a spectacular glass of wine. Grey Gardens is willing to challenge whatever preconceived notions you may have about the neighborhood, asking you to, "pop in for a quick glass of wine, realize you are hungry and order whatever you want from our dinner menu." This language flies against the pompous expectation one might expect of the oenophile. Order from a wide variety of red, white, rose, oranges (the new rose) and sparkling. Dishes include snacks of scallops or chili potatoes or a heaping pile of house-made fettuccini.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: A posh looking restaurant in an eclectic neighborhood, with unique wines to wash down the experience.

Courtney's expert tip: This is a popular place, so best not to drop in. Make a reservation well in advance.

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Chez Nous


If you live in Canada, you know that our country can make some pretty competitive wine. If you don't live in Canada, that sounds like an oxymoron: doesn't wine need constant sunshine and a corner of Europe to thrive? If you want to get in on the Canadian wine scene, Chez Nous is the place to do it. A little gem of a wine bar, you can try a whole bunch of Ontario greatness in one place. Owner Laura Carr has been to most of the vineyards and can tell you what she recommends for your particular palate. Snacks are simple: meat and cheese plates and olives (which is really all you want when the highlight is wine).

Recommended for Wine Bars because: Beautiful, unpretentious and local. The wine scene is changing and Chez Nous is ready to be the cozy wine bar of your dreams.

Courtney's expert tip: It's a small place, so if you have a group, call in advance to see if there is space.

Read more about Chez Nous →


Brothers Food and Wine


If you exit the TTC at Bay subway station, you are either part of the fancy rat race, with a crisp suit to match, or you are part of the fancy shopping set, with a pair of expensive shoes to match. Life looks a little different on Bay Street, and Brothers is right above the subway station to move you into the part of the day that involves good wine and lovely people. Trusted producers are on their list and matched with mains which change daily to move in line with local produce. Sommelier Courtney Stebbings will point you in the direction of the right decision if you are easily flummoxed by pairing. Expect a cozy and unique experience, with the rumblings of the subway felt underneath your seat.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: From the amazing sourdough bread to the thoughtful wine list, this is a place where you can turn your brain off and your stomach on.

Courtney's expert tip: Reservations can be made up to one month in advance.

Read more about Brothers Food and Wine →


Sapori


Natural, biodynamic wines are the forefront of the experience at Sapori, but it is also about the food (is it never not about the food?). Sweet and sour chicken wings come highly recommended, as do the cheese and charcuterie boards which can take up more than an entire table. The boards don't run cheap ($75) but they are not meant to be eaten by just one person. This is Chef Ryan Sciara's vision of a modern wine bar, with muted bricks and many by-the-glass options. Glasses are poured using the Coravin system which allows them to pour a glass without opening the bottle.

Recommended for Wine Bars because: You may arrive for the wine, but it is also worth checking out the incredible food at Sapori.

Courtney's expert tip: All wine bottles are a third off every Wednesday.

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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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