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Apr 9, 2008 03:45 PM

ISO Wine Bar with no attitude

Does anyone have a favorite wine bar or restaurant with a great wine selection where I won't feel out of place wearing jeans? A comfy, hole-in-the-wall sort of vibe?

Good food wouldn't hurt either...


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  1. Cafe Taste in the proud heart of Parkdale!

    They don't have a big kitchen, but I can highly recommend their cheese selection.

    The focus is on wine and beverages and value for the dollar. The owner makes a real effort to source distinctive wine, especially our underated local product. Most of it is available by the glass and if you purchase any premium product, the markup is significantly lower than that of most establishments.

    1. I think Cafe Taste in Parkdale fits that bill. The menu is pretty simple - all I've had are the cheese plate/fondue type items, which they do a pretty nice job with. Definitely jeans-friendly, and the wine list is pretty heavy on the Ontario wines but has some other nice choices mixed in. It's the sort of place that makes me kind of wish I lived in the neighborhood, because I'd really love to be able to pop in for a glass of wine on my way home from work. In fact, "comfy, hole-in-the-wall sort of vibe" is pretty much exactly how I would sum it up. :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Wahooty

        I'll third Cafe Taste.

        Jeremy the owner is a simply splendid fellow... and extremely passionate about what he does.

        I happen to live right around the corne and so it is perfect.

        Don't miss the cheese platter!

        If you happen to stop by I'll be the guy with the ginger hair...

        1. re: Non Doctor

          I'll add another recommendation for Cafe Taste to the pile. It was the first place that came to mind when I saw your post.

      2. Yay Cafe Taste! Anywhere else, however?

        1. I wouldn't call Crush Wine Bar a "hole-in-the-wall sort of vibe", but you certainly would not feel uncomfortable wearing jeans there. Although sweatshirts and sneakers might be a different story...

          They are currently undergoing renovations, and so are closed until mid-April. They are set to reopen I believe around April 18th or so.

          Excellent wine, excellent staff, great food. Actually technically the first wine bar to open in Toronto if I'm not mistaken (before JKWB?)

          3 Replies
          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

            Go West to Cafe Taste!

            Go East to Comrade!

            1. re: dlw88

              I wouldn't call Comrade a wine bar by any stretch. Their wine list is downright horrible.

              If you want to have a couple cocktails or beers, then it's okay.

            2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

              I recently went to Crush after the reopening. Excellent. The menu has taken on an upscale Danubian feel, with major influences from points south (esp. Spain), and north (e.g. British isles). Very unique, and I can't really think of anything similar in the city. The wine selection is unique as always, and now features wine flights focused on obscure (to me) Spanish offerings. Service was outstanding. Well worth a re-visit.

            3. If you'd like to try local wines, Volo is casual with an extensive Ontario VQA wine list along with selections of Ontario/Quebec cheeses and Ontario brewed beers. The owner wears jeans and enjoys sharing his knowledge of local wines and beers.

              587 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

              11 Replies
              1. re: JamieK

                Thanks everyone for all of the suggestions. I will definitely try Cafe Taste (I also love cheese) and I like Crush.

                As to Volo, I found their website and I see that they have a rather comprehensive beer selection. That said, I can't find a menu for food or a wine list. Am I missing something?

                Thanks again!

                1. re: morrigan

                  The website seems to be going through a transition right now but it was never that great in terms of providing lots of information. You used to be able to click on the little wine glass or slice of cheese, etc. to get a menu (and there wasn't a little spaceship or whatever that is).

                  But I know Ralph and he's enthusiastic and sincere about supporting local wineries, brewers, cheesemakers, etc. And he's always doing research, travelling to find and taste new good things. Volo has been lauded for the fact that more than 75% of its wine list consists of VQA Ontario wines -

                  I've also been to a few of the cheese seminars he holds on the last Sunday of the month, always enjoyable and informative and laidback. You taste a variety cheeses in turn with one kind of wine and one kind of beer to see how the flavours differ and figure out for yourself which works best with which. Highly recommended.

                  1. re: JamieK

                    I'll chime in for Volo as well - I've only been for beer, but in terms of the vibe you're looking for, I think it fits right in. I keep meaning to go back and do the wine and cheese bit, but only seem to think of the place when I'm in a beer mood...

                    1. re: Wahooty

                      I have to say that although Crush is big, I was pleasantly surprised how laid-back the servers were and you could totally go there in jeans. Always an interesting selection...

                      1. re: jcanncuk

                        I really like mirabelle at yonge and eglinton.

                        really great food and a great wine selection.

                        i also love any place where you can get 3 oz glasses

                      2. re: Wahooty

                        Well, we tried Volo.

                        I admit that the vibe was perfect and the beer list was great, but the wine was awful. Admittedly, it *was* available in tasting-sized pours and as a flight of three, but there were only four reds, four whites and one rose. Considering that one of each of the reds and white was kind of a novelty item (Sullyzwicker(?) red and Wildass White...which is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Gewurtz., and Semillon), that's a bit limited. It's all Ontario on the by-the-glass list, but that still didn't save it.

                        My husband had the Sauvignon Blanc, my friend tried the rose, and I had the tasting flight with the SB, the Wildass white, and the rose (our fourth had Leffe Brun). The Wildass was, well...appropriately named. Given the seemingly random blend, I don't know what it was supposed to be like, but it smelled musty and tasted "yuck" so it was replaced. The replacement, a Pinot Noir was better...but not by far. All of the wines we tasted resembled the home brew version of what they were meant to be. Ie. the Pinot was like a home brew Pinot kit...if such a thing exists.

                        This mightn't be the fault of Volo itself, and the cheese/salumi boards were quite nice...but we were looking forward to wine. I switched to beer (Leffe) after the flight, as did the other wine-drinkers. Not good.

                        That said, I will definitely be back for pizza and beer.

                        I think we will try Cafe Taste next...I love Caren's and I have heard good things about Fat Cat.

                        Any others that should be on the list?

                        1. re: morrigan

                          With respect, I find that a lot of Ontario-made wines taste like Home Brew. I know I'm going to be taken to town for that statement. I am a huge fan of Ontario Rieslings, though.

                          1. re: bluedog

                            Well, I haven't given up...I think we will try Cafe Taste next, which also has an Ontario-heavy wine list. I want to like local wines...I really do. And I'm told that there a few really stellar wineries. I hust haven't found them in restaurants yet.

                            1. re: morrigan

                              I generally find that Ontario wines are great if you stick either to small low yield producers and/or varietals which grow well in cool climates: think of Niagara as the Alsace, the Rhine or Pfalz and go with what works well in those regions. IMHO. Big cabs, merlots, shiraz (i.e. warm climate varietals) are not great, and this is often hidden by oaking the bejesus out of them. Again, IMHO.

                              1. re: bluedog

                                I wholeheartedly agree with bluedog. When I feel like drinking local, I generally go with riesling or baco noir - they seem to take well to the Ontario climate. I really wish some of the Ontario wineries would stop trying to do everything and just focus on the things that they can do very well.

                                1. re: Wahooty

                                  Cave Spring just released a lovely Bordeaux blend "La Penna" that is done passimento style. Unlike Magnotta's Enotrium, the wine does not take on the raisinated quality of an Amarone; in fact, the fruit is quite bright and the oak is well integrated.

                                  While I agree that Ontario's climate is better suited to cool climate varietals, some wine makers, think Stratus, Tawse, and Henry of Pelham, are making great wine with traditional Bordeaux varietals.