Look, we love a good bottle of wine, but waiting in line at the LCBO... Not so much. Thankfully, Toronto has way more options for oenophiles these days, from restaurants-turned-bottle-shop pop-ups to wine deliveries right to your front door to adding a bottle to your takeout order.
This has been a revolutionary year for wine and now you don't even have to leave the city to get that full winery experience. Downtown Winery on Ossington, just north of Queen, has all the wine-country fixings, minus the vines – but we’d rather sip on grapes than stare at them, anyway.
“We’ve been part of the neighbourhood for over 30 years,” says Aimee Macedo, who operates Downtown Winery. “We’re a family-run business. I’m actually a massage therapist by trade but my love for wine grew and now I’m committed 100 per cent to the family business.” She’s not exaggerating. You can tell just by looking around that the commitment to selling great wine in a beautiful space runs deep. As soon as you walk in, there’s a giant ‘Wine Solves Everything’ neon sign on the wall – a beacon of truth, if you ask me.
“The license that we have here at the Ossington location is ‘grandfathered’ in. We were able to attain it through someone else who had this existing license and it allows us to import wine in bulk, age it until we see fit, then package and brand them as our own. Or we will work with a winemaker to do our own blends,” Macedo says. This means you can get unique wines from all over the world at beyond reasonable prices. “I want to expose people to wine. I have such a passion for it and I want to remove that pretentiousness around it. I feel like a lot of people might be a little intimidated by wine. So I want to offer people a space to come in, feel comfortable and allow them to sample wines and ask questions.”
Browsing through the retail section of Downtown Winery is a lovely respite from my usual panic-buys at the LCBO. Plus you can sip while you shop and sample before you make a purchase – oh, and there are snacks!
“People associate a price point to a good wine, but you can get lots of wines around the $15 range or even under that are still really delicious,” says Macedo. “So for us, we thought we could totally sell bottles for $25, but we’d rather sell someone two bottles versus one and then they can get more value and expand their palates.” I like the math on that.
Downtown Winery: Wine-in-a-can
Downtown Winery also sells convenient and cute cans of wine. Try something new like their vinho verde style, inspired by the famous green wine from Northern Portugal. It’s a blend of Portugese and Canadian grapes with added carbonation.
Downtown Winery: Tastings
The winery hosts intimate wine tastings with snacks. The menu of different flights offers experiences like the O’Canada, a selection of home-grown samplers, or the Three M’s, a merlot, a malbec and a meritage reserva.
Downtown Winery: Bottle shop
Downtown Winery’s bottle shop has over 28 styles of wine. They specialize in Old World wines from Europe but with a New World technique – storing, ageing and blending right here in Toronto. There’s also a small food market.