Canada has its share of excellent restaurants with even better wine, from Vancouver Island’s locavore haven Sooke Harbour House, with an extensive British Columbia wine list, to Raymond’s in Newfoundland, where you’ll find newcomers and back-vintage trophies seemingly at the edge of the world. Hefty alcohol taxes affect prices and availability, making focused, personality-driven programs—like the all-Portuguese selection at Toronto’s Chiado, the Italian lists at Daniel Costa’s Edmonton restaurants, and tiny-production natural wines at Calgary’s Pigeonhole and Montreal’s Manitoba—all the more heroic. With apologies to the hundreds left out, here are 10 places where wine, food, service and atmosphere consistently come together in brilliant ways.
This stalwart is the only restaurant to exclusively serve Prime Canadian beef (a label given less than 0.5 percent of the country’s production), and longtime Wine Director Christopher Sprague honors its complexity with different pairing recommendations for each cut. Patient cellaring means back-vintage bargains on an epic list that’s equal parts Old and New World.
One of the country’s most exciting dining experiences, Atelier’s 12-course tasting menu comes with innovative pairings that might move from Canadian natural wine to Belgian sour beers. A half-pairing menu is available, as well as a thoughtfully selected bottle list.
For more than 20 years, Canoe has been at the forefront of “modern Canadian” cuisine (think caribou rump, sea buckthorn berries and fried maple leaves), becoming even more ambitious over the years. The 500-plus bottle program is updated weekly and puts Canadian wines on equal footing with global classics.
Breadth and depth characterize this luxe retreat’s massive list of more than 3,000 labels from 19 countries, including almost 100 verticals of five or more bottles, overseen by 10 staff sommeliers. A true wine destination.
Ostensibly a wine bar, Le Vin Papillon—from the popular Joe Beef team—is a stellar vegetable-forward restaurant. Vanya Filipovic, the owner, wine importer and star somm, keeps her naturally minded selections in constant motion (the list can change daily). Put yourself in the staff’s hands, and you can’t go wrong.
Daniel Boulud’s only francophone location may be the best of all his restaurants. The global French-leaning list of more than 600 labels—with almost 30 glass pours—pits Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône varieties from less-known regions against the greats to fun effect.
7. River Café
At her flagship River Café—and the newer Deane House—Sal Howell sets the standard for fine and future dining in this increasingly hot wine and food city. Mature vintages come from a cellar that’s survived two floods in 26 years on Prince’s Island.
Since its modest debut in 1993, Toqué! has become perhaps the most influential restaurant in Québec, offering a fresh culinary look at the region’s complex history. Head Sommelier Maxime Lavallée seeks out wines that respect and reflect nature as clearly as the cuisine does.
Co-owner/Sommelier James Treadwell’s wine list at this farm-to-table destination has evolved over 11 years to be perhaps the largest collection of Ontario wines in the world, rounded out by international small producers that share the restaurant’s commitment to responsible farming.
10. Vij’s Restaurant
Vij’s wine program spans the globe, with an extensive selection of BC wines and everything with natural cork available as a half bottle; it would be award-worthy even if it wasn’t one of Canada’s best Indian restaurants. Goat curry with a Piemontese Pelaverga, anyone?