Ontario is renowned for its award-winning wines. But you don’t have to travel to wine bars in the Niagara peninsula to sample homegrown Riesling and the distinctly Canadian ice wine. Here are three hip spots in Toronto’s entertainment district where you can uncork Ontario’s finest vintages:
CRUSH Wine Bar + Kitchen
Sunlight slants across the dark wood floor as you pull up a black high-topped chair at CRUSH Wine Bar + Kitchen. Soft jazz adds to the relaxed, contemporary vibe of this popular wine bar on trendy King Street West. You study the tasting flights chalked across the huge blackboard above the bar. What better way to kick off your evening than with Canadian bubbles? Your first sip of Hinterland’s Whitecap sparkling wine is a light, refreshing tribute to the apple orchards of Prince Edward County. With more than 50 wines available by the glass, it’s no surprise CRUSH starts to fill with an after-work crowd looking to unwind. Their laughter and chatter sets a lively tone as you savour the last drops of your aperitif.
Cibo Wine Bar
Across the street, you spot a burnt orange vintage Vespa outside Cibo Wine Bar. It hints at the authentic Italian cuisine and wine inside. As you enter, you pass lighted glass skulls set in the nooks of Jenga-like wood-block walls. However, it’s the glass-enclosed wall of wine bottles directly ahead that really catches your eye. So much wine, so little time! As you’re led to a butcher-block wood table, you admire the wine bar’s rustic stone archways and exposed bricks. After studying the extensive list, you settle on a tasty Cabernet-and-Merlot blend from Niagara’s Cave Spring winery. It’s the perfect complement to your thick, creamy risotto with big chunks of porcini mushrooms. As you lean back and watch the stylish young crowd, you decide this is definitely la dolce vita!
TOCA Restaurant, Ritz-Carlton Hotel
For dessert, you head to TOCA Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. TOCA is not a wine bar per se, but you’d never know it from their seemingly endless selection of fine vintages from around the world. Here, you also discover one of only two cheese caves in Canada. Inside the glass enclosure, wooden shelves are lined with wax coated rounds, all aging in a cool, humid environment. Wine and cheese? Yum! You inhale the oaky scent of a 1997 barrel aged Vidal ice wine from Inniskillin. Its sweet, concentrated flavor is richly complex, and it pairs beautifully with a slice of salty Picobello. It’s the perfect finish to an evening tour of Ontario’s best wine bars and food!