Where to get a nice glass of wine in Waterloo region: Andrew Coppolino
Food columnist Andrew Coppolino takes a look at the local wine scene
With nearly three dozen craft breweries in Waterloo region and surrounding areas, we are well served with the popular hoppy drink.
But, like a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon swirling around in your glass, the wine scene is "opening up" at local restaurants.
"It's easier to move a lot of beer than it is to sell wine. But even with the many iterations of beer, there are a lot more with wine," says Kitchener-based sommelier and wine agent Rob Miller.
He points out it's less expensive to visit a restaurant and try out a new beer for $7 or $8 than it is a $12 or $15 glass of wine.
"Beer is definitely having a moment," he says. "But I think you are going to see a bit of a culling of the craft beer industry. There are only so many taps."
Innovative, fresh wine lists
Sommelier and wine consultant Rebecca Pettigrew of Waterloo adds that dynamic wine programs are showing up in the region.
"Passionate wine professionals and sommeliers are crafting innovative and fresh wine lists in the area's restaurants," Pettigrew said.
While both experts point out that there are very few true local "wine bars," there are many restaurants with strong wine lists.
"It's a great time to be a wine lover in Waterloo region," Pettigrew says.
For your consideration, I've created a short (and certainly not comprehensive) list of restaurants in the area and an overview of their wine programs.
In Blair, Langdon Hall has a remarkable wine list of 100 pages and some 1,400 wines: You'd expect that of one of the top restaurants in the country. Consider adding an Ontario cheese board and glass of wine at Langdon's comfortable Wilks' Bar.
Just around the corner from Langdon is Easy Pour Wine Bar, with more than 100 wines from Europe, North and South America, New Zealand and South Africa. There are wine pairings, flights and tastings offered on occasion.
On busy Hespeler Road, Blackshop! Restaurant and Wine Bar has been a recipient of several Wine Spectator awards and is a popular venue for wine lovers. Between this restaurant and its Waterloo sister restaurant, Sole, they have between 250 and 300 wines, including special reserve bottles.
Open now about six months, there is a unique wine bar on Wilson Street: Two Faces. Along with co-owner Meg Alford, Drea Scotland calls it the only wine bar in the area and says it has about 100 labels.
"We serve exclusively natural, organic and biodynamic low-intervention wines. Nothing we have is in the LCBO," Scotland said.
Note: there is very limited food available.
Well-known sommelier Wes Klassen takes care of an inventive wine selection at Grand Trunk Saloon, doing his viticulture part in a restaurant known for cocktails and mixed drinks. Rest assured, you'll find some interesting and unique wines on the list of roughly 20 wines.
Both The Rich Uncle Tavern and Gilt Restaurant, also in the downtown, have the ambiance, the selections and the patios for a relaxing sip of wine. The former has 11 wines by the glass and 20 by the bottle; the latter 96 different wines between the regular wine list and their "last chance" list.
At Public Kitchen and Bar on Victoria, sommelier Joanna Henderson oversees a wine list geared to Spanish-style tapas but which is, she says, "both familiar to our guests and introduces them to some new grapes and wine-growing regions."
Loloan Lobby Bar is home to some terrific southeast Asian cooking and there's a fine wine list curated by sommelier Jake Richards, who adjusts the list with the seasons.
"Right now, it's heavy on light reds like Gamay Noir as well as crisp whites like Gruner Veltliner for summer. We have a good range of wines to accommodate all tastes, but at the same time we will pair with the wide range of flavours in the dishes," he says.
Ainsley Szvitak at Red House Uptown says the restaurant offers wines from 80 to 100 different producers, with 12 or so different wines available by the glass.
"We'll do pairings for guests and flights can be available when we do our winemakers dinners," Szvitak says. They have a selection of organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines as well. For warm summer days and nights, check out the Red House patio, too.
At Wildcraft, sommelier and wine director David Fedy says their list runs at about 80 labels and about 30 special selections in their "wine tower" (a beautiful piece of architecture). About 65 per cent are new world wines and most are consignment wines not available at the LCBO, and that's what customers want.
"Customers know a lot more about wines now," Fedy said. "They are willing to come out of their comfort zone."
Henderson at Public perhaps sums up the intent of most of her colleagues who oversee wines in area restaurants.
"I want to showcase the people who are doing something different in the industry," she says as seeks out new wines for the restaurant's food pairings. "I certainly feel there's increased interest in wine being expressed by our customers."