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Best wines around town? Favorite Canadian wines?

I'm more of a red wine drinker myself, but I'm open to any suggestions.

It's been very difficult to find wine deals in the city. There is already a HUGE markup for Alberta imported wines, and that coupled with a paucity of decent wine selections without indecent menu markups in restaurants around town, I might just resort to buying wine online. But I wanted to give it a chance first --

-Where are wine stores with the best deals on bottles in the city?
-Where are restaurants with great wine selections at reasonable prices?
-What are some brands/years/vineyards of fantastic Canadian wines?

Help! I'm a wine lover lost in Calgary.

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  1. My partner is a huge oenophile and extols the wine offerings in Calgary constantly. His favourites include Highlander, Zyn and Metrovino. He's an Opimian member- www.opim.ca, check it out.

    1 Reply
    1. re: John Manzo

      I don't believe there is much reason for a wine lover to be lost in Calgary! The selection is really surprisingly good, I agree.
      "Best wines", as the query was titled, are not necessarily the cheapest wines, needless to say.
      it is only an opinion, of course, and a generality, but I have found Canadian wines to be overpriced for the quality, so if I was looking for bargain wines, Canadian wines would not be my starting point.

    2. I'm not sure how you'd go about buying wine on-line. There are a lot of restrictions on that here in Canada. Not to mention I don't think I want a case of wine being delivered to my house in minus 20 weather. Calgary has an amazing selection of wines to choose from if you know where to look and what you are looking for. You didn't mention where you are located or what you like. For the best deals I usually go to Superstore, although their selection is not the greatest. Willow Park (main store) has the best selection around and prices are pretty reasonable. As much as I like Kensington Wine Market, J Webb, Metrovino, and some of the other boutique shops, I can't abide by their prices, and they pretty much refuse to carry anything under $18-20. Sometimes (OK, most times) I just want a cheap bottle of Lindemans chardonnay or a $10 Spanish red. I refuse to shop in a store that won't cater to that very basic need.

      Lots of really good Canadian wines are on the shelves these days, and they are getting better all the time. I don't know of any that I would consider a great bargain now, but you can certainly find some fantastic wines in the $25-50 range.

      I'll reserve my comments on restaurant wine markups for another time. ;-)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sneaky

        Thanks for the suggestions! And ooh, I am a bit interested in some Sneaky markup insights...

        1. re: summersupper

          No insights here. I'm just not a fan of 300-400% markups on anything, especially when there is no value added other than popping a cork. Fortunately some restos let you bring your own and charge a modest corkage fee.

      2. Well Calgary is an expensive city all around, wine being no exception!

        I find that Coop, particularly the Heritage and Midtown locations, have wine specials every week. Another good find is Liquor Depot. They put out a flyer you can view online (I don't think it's each week tho) and have some really great prices. I keep checking back for the flyer and then go and buy 6 bottles.

        As mentioned by JohnM above, I too am also an Opimium member (an online wine club) and they have some SUPER deals. Right now I'm getting nice wine from Chile and Argentina for $8-11/bottle. You do have to buy a case (some times that's 6 or some times 12), which sucks, but I share with a friend and we buy wine from them monthly. I have a lot of wine delivered during all times of the year, and it's all been fine - no problems at all. Hylander liquor store (near North Hill mall on 16th ave) will offer Opim members a discount on any liquor (not just wine) purchased from them, just show your membership card.

        As for what restaurant offer good prices. I really can't say. I just can't bring myself to pay $40 for a bottle of wine that I know is $18 at the liquor store! Look for some other threads on here for corkage fee deals at restos. I know I saw some, usually during the week to bring in business.

        I drink a lot of different wines, for Canadian, I tend to go for the Okanagan BC wines as they seem more plentiful here, than Ontario wines. I don't have a favorite though.

        My overall advise is to keep watching for specials and stock up!

        1. Shop the sales. This makes a subscription to The Herald worthwhile as pretty much any sale is in the Herald.
          As mentioned Superstore has good prices but limited sku's. Sometimes it's bizzare, fer instance Veuve was $40 in December.
          If you can fins an Ontario Baco Noir, try it, especially if it is Henry of Pelham.
          Again, if you can find one, try a Prince Edward County (growing region) pinot noir, try it.
          Also Ontario chards and reislings when you want to stray from red.
          Usually you will get what you pay for re Ontario wines.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Scary Bill

            As a note, Veuve is again $40 this weekend at Superstore. Crazy price! You'll have to hurry to beat me there :)

            1. re: nutellaluvr

              Bought some yesterday. It is a crazy price. Back home in Ontariariari-o it is $65. Gotta like the competition here. Just wish you could return empties to the store instead on lining up at a medieval bottle depot.

              1. re: Scary Bill

                Oh so true, Scary Bill (on both counts). In Holland you take your empties back to the grocery store and you get a credit to use against your bill. Sooo convenient and completely lacking in the scumminess. Oh I wish...

          2. I almost hate to mention it, but Costco has a liquor store attached to its store in the north. You don't need a membership card to shop it. They carry some very good wines from California and France at steep discounts from any other retailer. Think $10 off a bottle that would sell for $25 or $20 from a normally $50 wine, elsewhere.

            4th Street Liquor (1809 4 Street SW) probably has the best prices in the core and some very pleasing, if mid-range, wines. Willow Park occasionally does below cost sales, especially on Remembrance Day, but your mileage will very with regards to quality. Inglewood Wine on 9th Street SE has some nice finds for reasonable amounts and steeply discounts for volume orders online (inglewoodwine.com). So does Zyn.ca. Bin 905, Richmond Hill Wine, and MetroVino all have very good selections for standard (not outrageous) mark-ups.

            Stay away from Liquor Depots and Barns. Huge markups.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Leibowitz

              Costco opened a liquor store at Deerfoot Meadows recently, and agreed, pricing is good and there are some nice bottles of wine.

              Also for you vodka fans they sell a 1750ml bottle which I have been told is made by the Grey Goose people, 5 times distilled, etc.

            2. Really surprised by everybody mentioning restaurant wine markups. Yes, some places are better and worse than others, but honestly when a restaurant charges $20 for a plate of pasta, how much do you think it actually cost them?

              To have a varied and well stocked selection, restaurants need to pay for storage space, deliveries, etc. Plus they have the up front costs of building the cellar.

              Restaurat food, non-alcoholic beverages, and alcoholic beverages all cost more than they do at home: part of the experience of going out!

              8 Replies
              1. re: egon61

                "To have a varied and well stocked selection, restaurants need to pay for storage space, deliveries, etc. Plus they have the up front costs of building the cellar."

                So does a liquor store.

                Food is unique to each restaurant, and there is time and skill involved in the preparation, so it's worth paying extra. But when you can get exactly the same bottle of wine elsewhere for a fraction of the price, sometimes it's a little shocking.

                1. re: 23skidoo

                  23 skidoo, i 100% agree with you. The markup on wine at a restaurant is not only totally ridiculous, but also completely unfair. Due to this, I hardly ever order wine with a meal, unless it is a really special occasion. As you say, with food it is different.

                  1. re: kati3

                    agreed on Costco, great deals on all booze, better than Superstore. If you see something you like buy multiples, it may not be back again next week!

                    try looking for 'bin end' sales at wine stores. they will try and get rid of last couple bottles at discounts

                    ask about case discounts/cash discounts, I have seen up to 10% off at wine stores, usually higher if you are looking for case of one wine, mixed cases usually less

                    the wine society is a good resource for less expensive wine, but but there are yearly membership fees, you have to buy blind and in bulk (at least a case) and there are minimum orders/year

                    corkage is a great thing, rarely advertised, but most restaurants will do it. the etiquette is to not bring a wine that they have on their list.

                    unfortunately the cheap-o online sites are only for the states, you cannot bring in your own wine here in Canada.

                    Buying BC wines in BC is cheaper than in Alberta by about 20%, do a road trip to the Okanagan and stock up!

                    Favorite BC wines (Reds)
                    Orofino (red bridge)
                    Laughing Stock
                    Road 13 (Syrah especially)
                    Tinhorn creek (not bad Merlot/relatively cheap)
                    la frenz

                    1. re: cleopatra999

                      I too agree on Costco, although I wouldn't leave Superstore out in the cold. Both have had interesting bottles at ridiculously good prices. Hubby and I returned from Napa last summer ready to be disappointed that we couldn't get some of the specific labels we had tried in the tasting rooms here in Cowtown, but what do you know! Superstore had Seghesio's Home Ranch Zin and Costco had the Sonoma Zin, so I was tickled that I could refresh my recollections of these labels. And, the prices were everyso slightly less than stateside (before their 8.75% tax). For less known labels however, I head down to J Webb. Lovely store and remarkable staff.

                      1. re: nutellaluvr

                        Less than California? I must say, I'm quite shocked and shall check this out. Seghesio is a fine label, too. For the record, though, it's not tough to find in Calgary. Phone around a bit. Although, if it is actually cheaper at Superstore, why would you bother?

                  2. re: 23skidoo

                    Why pick on wine? Restaurants also charge $2.50 for iced tea that probably only costs 25 cents, $5 for a highball with 75 cents worth of vodka and soda. I always order wine with dinner, it's just not the same without it, and if I'm trying to save $$ I cook and eat in. I agree some restaurants have much higher markups on wine than others but some restaurants have pricier rent, they have to pay for it somehow.

                    1. re: 23skidoo

                      Ahhh....you're pointing out that "food is unique to the restaurant" and takes "time and skill" so you feel it's appropriate to pay more than the cost of the raw ingredients.

                      With wines, good restaurants will spend the time to carefully select special bottles, create a list that matches their food really nicely and enhances the meal, and ideally introduces the customers to new and different wines with the help of knowledgeable staff.

                      That's why I consider it OK to charge 2x or 3x the price of the actual bottle in some situations.

                      The following wines should be banned from all restaurant lists:
                      Yellow Tail
                      Lindeman's
                      Wolf Blass
                      Fetzer
                      Gallo
                      and quite a few others that restaurants mindlesly push on unsuspecting or uncaring customers.

                      I agree, if you're taking a bottle of Yellow Tail that I see in every single liquor store for as little as $13 and selling it for $39, you don't deserve it.

                      1. re: egon61

                        Yellow Tail.. LOL. I have to just cringe when someone brings that to my house as a hostess gift and says 'save this for a special ocasion". haha. Then I know it's time to serve them the "Bitch" brand wine that they will think is great!

                  3. 2004 Osoyoos Larose Le Grande Vin Okanagan Valley British Columbia
                    Drinking beautifully now, this wine has evolved elegantly. Notes of earth, game and fresh tan give way to raspberry fruit and spicy woodnotes. Integrated tannins – lengthy finish of leather, licorice and musky herbs. This wine has a lot of finesse.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: hypomyces

                      If you like dessert wines, try Jost Maple Wine.

                      1. re: Office Broccoli

                        I'd go with any Niagara Vidal Icewines.

                        1. re: Scary Bill

                          Sorry, thought the link was added. Never would have tried to pass it off as my own. Forgot the quotation marks as well...ooops

                        2. re: hypomyces

                          Osoyoos Larose Le Grande Vin. Drank a 2006 last weekend. Not bad, although at that price ( I bought in Kelowna a year ago) it should be at least above average. I'll try the next bottle in about a year.

                        3. Metrovino is my favorite wine shop in Calgary, the staff are incredibly helpful. The staff always take the time to explain the wines to you and are never snobby.

                          1. My favourites

                            Coop for Pirramimma Petit Verdot or Shiraz - way cheaper than most places ($25.00)
                            Kensignton Wine Market for Eikendal Classique $32.00
                            Costco for Stump Jump (red and white) $13.00
                            Superstore Oyster Bay Sauv ($14.00)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: clouie

                              Costco often has Clos de la Siete (Argentina), The Holy Trinity (Australia), Liberty School Cab Sav, various Chat du Pape, Nipizzano (Italy), not helpful with Canadian wines, but good choice of international.

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                Superstore has Liberty School on sale for $13.99, and Olympia usually sells it for $16.00.

                            2. Costco, Opimian and the occasional Superstore bargain are my choices. Costco sometimes carries the CDN wines Occulus and Osoyoos Larose. I usually avoid CDN wines but was pleasantly surprised by the BC wine Stag's Hollow Heritage Block 1 (Cabernet - Merlot) blend. Maybe Highlander or Willow Park for this one.

                              1. I'm a huge fan of the 2008 Quail's Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve. Runs about $35-40 so save it for a special occaision.

                                http://www.quailsgate.com/our-wines/s...

                                1. In the latest issue of Toronto Life (sorry folks, I know it's not very Calgarian of me, I somehow ended up with a four year subscription when I moved out here, just kept paying the bills they sent I guess) there is an article on Chardonnay, so I thought I'd put a link here. Better than the article I discovered a wine search tool that allows a pretty thorough search for lots of wines, Canadian included. Here's the link, it is one click down.

                                  http://www.torontolife.com/wine-and-f...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Scary Bill

                                    I'm mostly shocked that Toronto Life is still in business. :o)

                                  2. My favourite inexpensive Canadian white is Gewurztraminer Jazz Series, Sonoran Estate in Summerland. http://www.sonoranestate.com/wines.asp
                                    Less than $20.00!

                                    1. Surprised no mention of the Wine Cellar on 8th Ave. I've had nothing but good experiences there. The service is excellent and the selection is large. I've bought nicer bottles there, but also been in having the staff help me find great bottles for cheaper as well, and it's never felt pretentious in the process. I fully recommend a trip.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: NumberFive

                                        I was an industry acquaintance of the original manager (no names) of the Cellar. He used to answer the phone, without a hint of irony, mind you, as "The Palette Himself." I kid you not. Beautiful store, though.

                                        1. re: Leibowitz

                                          Ha, little ego I guess!

                                          Well, my experience from anybody that's ever helped me has been of zero pretentiousness when looking for even a very affordable bottle of wine. And like I mentioned, the prices are really reasonable.

                                          1. re: Leibowitz

                                            "'The Palate' himself"... OK, now I get it! Very good!

                                              1. re: altavino

                                                Oh, and just for the record, I have no idea whether or not this is still the case.

                                          2. Though I've been told to go to Costco and the Superstore, whenever I'm in Calgary I go to Kensington Wine Market first, then J Webb, Metrovino, Richmond Hill and sometimes CSN. KWM is generally my go-to because they'll hold for me when I do get back to Calgary for pickups and so forth.

                                            "Best" Canadian wines depends on what you like. I have a personal preference for BC over Ontario. Since you are in Calgary, you should make the trip to the Okanagan (maybe not right now) with an empty vehicle.

                                            To visit (in no particular order):

                                            Tantalus
                                            Burrowing Owl
                                            Quail's Gate
                                            Kettle Valley (this is a need to visit since they won't ship outside BC)
                                            St Hubertus
                                            Blue Mountain
                                            Laughing Stock
                                            Black Hills
                                            Grey Monk

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: wattacetti

                                              Fully agreed. And while visiting those, give yourself the time to enjoy even just a cheese plate at one of wineries with a restaurant. I still remember vividly sitting on the patio at Grey Monk enjoying a dinner one even, with the lake and vineyard directly in front of us. Absolutely beautiful.

                                              For what it's worth, if you're a fan of a dry Riesling, the wines that come from the Niagra region are excellent. It's what they do best.

                                              1. re: NumberFive

                                                Agreed NumberFive. I have family in Oakville and when I have had enough I usually rent a car and head westward to the Niagara Bench and NOTL. Have enjoyed the rieslings from 30 Bench, Willow Heights, Vineland Estates, Henry of Pelham & co.

                                                The Tantalus listed by Wattacetti is very good for the Okanagan

                                              2. re: wattacetti

                                                The Blue Mountain Winery location is spectacular

                                                1. re: wattacetti

                                                  Thanks for all these suggestions, guys! Super helpful.

                                                  I did end up taking a lovely summer trip to the Okanagan, and you're right -- what a brilliant idea. So many fantastic wines from BC, it baffles me to see so many restaurants mark up hugely on cheap, awful American and Australian wines when there are some fantastically priced Canadian wines to be found with 0 import costs!

                                                  To add to the list of great Canadian vineyards:

                                                  - Cedar Creek makes an AMAZING Ehrenfelser, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling. I'm not usually one for whites, but these were truly beautiful and worth stocking up on at ~ $20/bottle.

                                                  - 8th Generation makes such an incredible Pinot Meunier Rosé, it's not even funny. It is a masterpiece! http://www.8thgenerationvineyard.com/...
                                                  Around $22/bottle.

                                                  Browsing ads in The Herald is a great idea, and I will be keeping Superstore in mind this week.

                                                  Also apparently there is a wine store called "100 wines" on Olympic Way and 11th Ave SE (right by the Stampede/Casino). They update a selection of 20 wines for under $20. Perfect!

                                                  1. re: summersupper

                                                    I love 8th Generation Chardonnay. And I don't normally enjoy Chardonnay. It's not Canadian, but I enjoy Eco Frog Rose.

                                                    1. re: summersupper

                                                      Unfortunately 100 wines is no longer in business, like Olives and Zia's. I suspect there just wasn't enough customers in that location.

                                                  2. I'm not a wine connoiseur, but at the moment I'm stocking up on Joie.

                                                    http://www.joie.ca/

                                                    A Noble Blend is a nice, light, fruity (pineapple, strawberry, apricots, pears), white. We were introduced to that at a wedding on Victoria Island and end up buying 4 bottles to bring back. I've also had their rosee

                                                    After researching that winery, I found that I had gone to school with one of the owners of Joie too. Interesting fact. :)

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: taiphun

                                                      taiphun:

                                                      My wholly subjective personal view is that the Noble Blend is the most interesting wine that Joie does and one which vintage after vintage I have enjoyed the most.

                                                      Originally where their rose was totally pinot noir based I really liked it as well, but less so since they have more of a multi-varietal blend in its place.

                                                      One year Joie wines were our "find" of our annual trip to Vancouver Island where we drink almost exclusively BC sourced wines. Unfortunately when I tried to order cases of their pinot rose, the Noble Blend and unoaked chardonnay they refused to ship out of province fearing a rumoured clamp down by the BC Liquor Board and/or Revenue Canada [or whatever they are called now] on extra-provincial shipments of alcohol....every liquor board based "fiefdom" jealously protects its revenue source. I never tried again as I was less impressed by their wines.

                                                      I noted that the local [Edmonton] restaurant L'Azia [associated with Wildflower] features their pinot after the chef in the Olympic Medal Competition used it with his competing plate.

                                                      As others have indicated, the big issue with quality Canadian wines is their price point when compared with what is on offer from other countries. I received my notices that the new vintage of the Black Hills Nota Bene is coming out at approximately $55 per bottle x 12 which is a "chunk of change" to buy on spec.

                                                      1. re: Bob Mac

                                                        Bob

                                                        We have been buying directly from Blue Mountain over the phone for many years and now they have a website where you can purchase their products.

                                                        http://www.bluemountainwinery.com/ind...

                                                        We enjoy their striped "Reserve" label Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris,as well as their Rosé Brut Sparkling Wine

                                                        1. re: felix the hound

                                                          Thanks Felix, so have we.

                                                          I used to take trips down to visit Janet Webb in Calgary because her store was the only one that had Blue Mountain wines on sale....often not the striped label/reserve as they were relatively difficult to get unless you operated a restaurant.

                                                          However, Blue Mountain "took pity" upon me and added me to their "friends of Blue Mountain" list and so, like you, I customarily buy their pinot noir [I did not buy the most recent non-reserve vintage which they emailed about two or three weeks ago] and pinot gris, once in awhile the gamay noir and from time to time their sparkling, regular and rose like you mentioned.

                                                    2. field stone in strathmore is an up and comer ,tasty stuff. http://www.fieldstonefruitwines.com

                                                      1. Not wine, but locally produced booze: There's a place in Kingsland Market selling locally made mead from Fallen Timber Meadery. It's dry, not super sweet like most meads. The cinnamon flavour is tasty.
                                                        http://www.fallentimbermeadery.ca/