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Toronto Wine Bar List?

Did a quick search (chowhound, gooogle, ...) . Maybe I am too lazy or just simply too stupid.

But I was unable to come up with a concrete list of toronto Wine Bars.

I am considering a very narrow definition here. My goal is to drop by and consume up to 2 wines by the glass per person (4 wines total for a couple). Maybe on a weekend afternoon, maybe before I go out for some serious food at a great restaurant, maybe I just need to get away from work some wednesday?

I don't want food, care little about decor. Just want a large selection of good quality by the glass wines. As a low bar, anything with less than 16 wines is not a wine bar - this is a very arbitrary random number - I welcome your suggestions along with a count / variety of the wines on tap!

My (very) short list contains:
Crush (it was closed for a private function last time I tried!)
J.K. (where ever he currently is)
Reds (are they still open? Bare was closed last time I tried, restaurant was "out" of champagne by the glass!)
Mirabelle (new comer, could use a little polish? but promising)
Lolita's Lust (supprised me! it was actually good!)
....

So I am currently very disappointed in my knowledge of local wine bars as the above list is way too short for a city the size of toronto.

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  1. Caren's, north side of Cumberland just east of Avenue.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hungry_pangolin

      Was in Carens today.
      It's just okay to less than barely adequate.
      Being in yorkville, i was prepared for it to be a little pricy, but $14 for a small flute of rose cremant was just wrong.
      They do have a large list of wines by the glass, but my impression was that i could purchase most of the list from the lcbo. Very little fringe varietials and nothing that seemed extraordinary. Underwhelmed by the selection.
      The physical wine / cheese menu presented to me was shabby. It had seen way too many clients and the cigarette burn holes in it did not impress me at all.
      The staff was very in-attentive (2 staff, 3 patrons, don't think they were rushed!) so i have no idea how knowledgeable they were.
      They seemed very inflexible - a potential client interested in catering asked for a copy of the menu to take away but were refused & deferred to caren who was not there. I later spotted a pile of fresh single sheet copies of the menu at the door. I would have simply taken one of those.
      In general i do not consider this worth a second try. I claim the location provides way too many customers who just don't have a clue?

      1. re: dancingTimmy

        Hmmm...yes had a similar experience at Caren's this past weekend.

        Went in for lunch, and our server quickly informed us that they had a very limited menu due to "staffing problems"-just soup, sandwiches, and salads on offer. Was also unimpressed with the extremely tattered menus (seems we got the same one, as mine also appeared to have a large cigarette burn!) Service was indeed slow, and it was quite obvious to me that they are experiencing some staffing woes.

        As far as by the glass pricing, I agree that some of their selection by the glass is a little pricey, but to be honest nothing completely out of range with other wine bar establishments listed on this (and other) threads.

        In terms of getting a by the glass selection that isn't your standard LCBO offer, very few places in TO have unusual selections. The one that stands out in my mind is JKWB (although I'm no fan of the food).

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Hmmm... not my experience in past, which was quite pleasant, but it has been a few months since I've visited. I hope that this is a temporary blip, but for time being I'll refrain from recommending it.

          1. re: hungry_pangolin

            Our first time there was truly fantastic - our waitress offered flawless service and we were quite happy with the food. I've experienced very few meals where I can say that.

            The second time however was uneven. They once again had a 'limited' menu and our waitress was simply not present 3/4 of the long (+40 mins) wait time for the mains.

            Will return probably to give it a another shot...

    2. http://www.cafetaste.ca

      this is a funky little wine and cheese bar in parkdale

      1. - Senhor Antonio - Chiado's next-door wine bar... with Portugese tapas menu.
        - Kultura does not bill themselves as a wine bar, but they have a long selection of wines available by the glass - including four sparkling and three rose - and they have a small plate menu.
        - Tappo (in the Distillery District) also bills itself as a wine bar.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit

          Tappo is barely half a decent restaurant...let alone a wine bar! lol...I think that most restaurant owners who tag their places as a 'Wine Bar' truly have no idea what that even entails! To be classified as a 'Wine Bar' I think that the following minimum criteria should be considered...

          a) Actually have an employee on staff that knows something about wine!
          b) Actually have more than 4 whites and 4 reds available by the glass
          c) Offer interesting wines that actually compliment the food that you are serving!
          d) Have your wine program constantly evolving and ever changing
          e) Offer wine education to your staff so that they have something to say that actually makes sense!
          f) Offer a special menu where the chef has actually taken into consideration that unique wines will be served with those dishes
          g) Offer a comfortable environment (i.e. an actual bar stocked with wine) to create the 'Wine Bar' feel
          h) Do not offer LCBO General List Wines...how embaressing!

          I can go on 'till I get to the end of the alphabet...but I'll save that for next week kids!

          All this being said...JK Wine Bar, Crush, Senhor Antonio and Reds fit the bill bang on. I hope to see more interesting food and wine experiences in this city offered by true restaurant people who get it!

          1. re: The Macallan 18

            I've never been to Tappo - so I'm by no means lobbying for or defending it... your "wine bar criteria" are perfectly reasonable, and it's too bad to hear that Tappo's wine list is a disappoint.

            Actually, I but took at look at the space for the first time yesterday while touring about the Distillery. The room is gorgeous, but we were skeptical about the (pricey) menu and wondered how CH'ers had been reviewing this place.

            PS - can you say a little more about your experience with the food '18?

        2. There's Fat Cat Wine Bar at 331 Roncesvalles. I think Coca's full name is Coca Tapas & Wine Bar. There's also Cafe Taste on Queen West, although NOW gave it a bad review....

          3 Replies
          1. re: MaryZ

            I think that the online review of Cafe Taste was put together before they could serve alcohol?

            Anyway, I would second Cafe Taste... by far the best wine list on Queen once one gets into Parkdale.

            Well selected and priced by Jeremy... and he knows his stuff too!

            1. re: MaryZ

              Yeah -- that NOW review was BS, there doesn't seem to be much point in reviewing a wine bar before they can serve wine.

              So I second the Cafe Taste recommendation -- the casual atmosphere is comfy and the wine list is well thought-out and well priced.

              (for the record, I live down the street and probably have a neighbourhood bias).

              1. re: nya

                Had a chance to hit Cafe Taste a few sundays ago. It gets a "just okay" rating. My impression is that the owners are fairly new and still learning about wine, but they seemed to have the right attitude. They had a good selection of Ontario wines, but then really did not give the rest of the world much coverage (nothing Italian or Australian).
                The menu was interesting and good, but you need to remember it is a cafe so food choices are relatively limited.
                Atmosphere is definitely casual.

            2. Trevor Kitchen and Wine Bar is excellent. The bar menu is outstanding.

              http://www.trevorkitchenandbar.com/

              1 Reply
              1. re: acd123

                Any info on the wine list?
                The real question is about wine bars, not restaurants that serve wine.
                The Macallan 18 post above really drives home the point of a wine bar versus a restaraunt that serves wine.

              2. Here are a couple more in the east end you might consider -- Comrade (Queen and Broadview area) - wine, cocktails and good value cheese and charcuterie plates in a long narrow room (formerly a turn of the century hotel), with original tin ceilings and comfortable/elegant setting). Also Barrio close by (Queen and Logan), again not strictly wine but a comfortable cocktails/tapas kind of place.

                6 Replies
                1. re: soko

                  Yes, I agree DT, but it's pretty hard for me to be impartial on here...

                  If one was down in Parkdale I would recommend Cafe Taste as it is the closest that one would find to a bona-fide (i.e. passion-driven) Wine Bar in those parts

                  There are many great restaurants in this city with amazing kinetic LIVING wine-by-the-glass lists ringmastered by some of the very best Sommeliers or driven and wine-savvy Proprieters in the city :

                  Gamelle (Jean Pierre), Niagara Street Cafe (Anton Potvin), La Palette (Shamez Almani), Batifole (Jean-Jacques Texier), Crush (Eric Gennaro)...

                  These are people who understand a by-the-glass wine program.

                  ...but I have to say that most spots that call themselves Wine Bars in this fair city are anything but...

                  The spots I mentioned don't necessarily get all the press... but when it comes to wine-by-the-glass these locations give all the other more written-of places a good, hard kick in the balls.

                  Saying that... Carlo does a damn fine job on the by-the-glass at Splendido... and it's always worth taking a seat at the bar there for a "trust me" glass from a man who obviously knows what he is doing.

                  Oh, and for the record... I am Jamie D from Jamie K.

                  For those that didn't already know.

                  1. re: Non Doctor

                    La Palette == beer, not wine
                    I was sent there last summer by a friend who raved about it. As a "winey" (whiney?) and not a "beery" i was very disappointed with the wine list, but overwhelmed by the beer list. So I had several beers.
                    It has great food & a great beer list. It is not a wine bar....

                    1. re: dancingTimmy

                      I think that Shamez at La Palette selects some amazing French regional wines that cannot be found anywhere else in the city.

                      And yes... I concur... the beer list is pretty damn good too.

                    2. re: Non Doctor

                      As an aside, the sommelier from Gamelle served me a corked wine. He poured the wine directly into my glass (after I watched him open it without trying it first). When I told him it was off, he said "No that's the style of the wine". He then returned 5 minutes later to let me know that indeed the wine was corked.

                      His ass was saved...

                    3. re: soko

                      A quick search indicates that Comrade does not open until 5:00 pm - what to do for my afternoon tipple?
                      Another quick search reveals that Barrio is also not open until 5:00 pm.
                      So I cancel both as serious wine bar contenders!
                      Any other ideas?

                    4. How about Cava at Yonge/St. Clair? I'm really suprised that nobody has suggested it yet.

                      It definitely meets all of your criteria...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: bogie

                        My experience at Mirabelle was similar to Splendid Wine Snob's at Gamelle. The wine was definitely corked, complete with burning sensation. The sommelier maintained that the wine was "chewy"! When will Toronto demand fabulous wine bars?

                        1. re: bobotie

                          I believe Montrachet's point is that a properly trained sommelier should:

                          a) be able to identify a corked wine
                          b) do (a) before serving it

                          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                            Yes, you are right there.

                            Traditionally/Historically the Sommelier would nose the wine before the customer and in doing so prevent said customer from ever having to experience a faulted wine. This still happens in many higher end establishments.

                            However, in the modern restaurant situation it is more common practice for the Sommelier to give a "taste" of the chosen wine to the customer for his/her approval.

                      2. Niagara Street Cafe has a well maintained wine list and some decent food to match.. although it's more of a restaurant than a 'wine bar'.