Where to go and what to buy in anticipation of Valentine's Day.
Heading out to Prince Edward County or Niagara to discover new wines can be a treat—there’s nothing quite like strolling through wineries with the sun shining down as you sip on homegrown vino. But it’s not feasible to spend every weekend in wine country.
Instead, plan a trip to a Toronto LCBO for a local adventure. There may not be vines or a romantic atmosphere, but the liquor store down the street is home to several hidden gems of its own—especially in anticipation of Valentine’s Day this weekend.
Yet, not every store is created equally. For the best wine the city has to offer, check out the following stores that are worth going out of your way to visit.
Where to buy
Architectural beauty: Summerhill – 10 Scrivener Square
I remember my first visit to this store: I got lost in the massive vintages section. Since then, it has become my favourite location. Architecturally, it is more interesting than most LCBO stores in the city, housed in what was once the North Toronto Railway Station. It also has a tasting bar if you’re looking to try something before you buy, and a growler station if you’re a fan of craft beer. Bonus points for location, just a two-minute walk from Summerhill Station.
Best for taste tests: Queen’s Quay – 2 Cooper Street
Backed onto the LCBO head offices and warehouse, the Queen’s Quay LCBO is a short trek from Union Station. The selection at this store is astounding, and with a tasting bar, there’s opportunity to try some unusual wines. This past December, all five first-growth Bordeaux wines were available to taste (these wines retail for more than $1,000 per bottle, and a half-ounce sample costs about $50). And if you’re unsure about a purchase, the location’s knowledgeable staff are on hand to help—even virtually. Victor Borja-Sheen, known on twitter as @Torontovino regularly tweets about the store’s new arrivals.
— Victor Borja-Sheen⭕️ (@TorontoVino) February 8, 2016
Unique finds: Crossroads – 2625 Weston Rd
This location may be out of the way, but it is the best store for your next unique buy. The fourth biggest LCBO in Toronto, this store is where discontinued products end up, so you may be able to get a great deal on the last few bottles of something special. Bonus: It is open until 11 p.m. six days of the week.
Top-notch selection: Manulife Centre – 55 Bloor Street West
It may not be the prettiest LCBO, but this store, nestled inside the Manulife Centre, boasts a huge selection at an easily accessible location. Make your way to the vintages section and be amazed at the number of different wines staff managed to fit inside this shopping-centre location.
What to buy
Valentine’s Day is also fast approaching, and a romantic evening at home is the perfect excuse to uncork a bottle with loved ones. This week’s picks are both food friendly and well priced, so splurge for a few bottles produced from coast to coast.
2014 Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer – Vintages 904185 – $18.95 – ****+
This review won’t tell you to pair this wine with Asian cuisine—even though Gewurztraminer is infamous for complementing just about any Asian cuisine. Instead, fry up some pierogies, pick up some sausages and sauerkraut, and put it together for the ultimate comfort meal (it is, after all, still winter).
The flavours of this wine are soft and balanced, with tropical and rose petal aromas. There is just a hint of sweetness on the finish, pairing perfectly with the salt from your Bavarian feast.
2012 Fielding Red Conception – Vintages 189183 – $18.95 – ****+
I like to refer to wines like this as a “gateway wine”: it’s priced for the budding oenophile, but even a hardened wine snob will appreciate this bottle. There is no guilt in popping this bottle open and gulping it back with simple pasta and sauce. But it is also elegant enough to pair with a prime rib roast that will impress your dinner guests. Smoke, blackberry, and raspberry aromas waft out of the glass, with strong flavours of raspberry, strawberry, and cherry. Enjoy right now or cellar for five to seven years.
2014 Jost Selkie Frizzante – Vintages 41899 – $19.95 – ****
This wine comes from Nova Scotia, a budding wine region where a small handful of wineries are currently operating. The wine reflects where it came from, with high acidity and balanced sweetness in the bottle. Designed to be paired with seafood, this light sparkling wine offers a tropical burst in the glass with flavours of kiwi and pineapple. Low alcohol on this wine also helps make it easy to drink—no food necessary.
2014 Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling – Vintages 67587 – $17.95 – ****
The Narcissist Riesling is a perpetual favourite of mine, though it is a softer version than previous vintages. Fans of Granny Smith apples will love the 2014 vintage. Great balance between sweetness and acidity has this wine tasting dry and refreshing on the finish, with a touch of sweetness in the glass. The only downside? It will leave you yearning for summer. In the meantime, you can enjoy it with roast pork or chicken.