Sort-of Secret: Downtown Winery, a new winery, snack bar and bottle shop on Ossington
The Sort-of Secret: Downtown Winery, a full-service winery on the Ossington strip
You may have heard of it if: You’ve scoured the street looking for a drink or stopped by Macedo Winery, their location on Dufferin, to pick up a bottle or buy some imported grape juice for at-home winemaking
But you probably haven’t tried it because: The official opening for the space was December 2019, right before the pandemic.
The Macedo family isn’t new to Ossington Avenue. Quite the opposite, in fact: the winemaking brood behind Macedo Winery has had a home on the strip for over 35 years. “We’re pretty much the OGs of the neighbourhood,” says Aimee Macedo.
Until the end of 2019, the sign outside their Ossington address read Macedo Wine Grape Juice Ltd., and their primary service was to import grape juice for at-home winemakers. The new incarnation, Downtown Winery, is a whole different venture: a chic winery-slash-bottle-shop-slash-bar.
Hybrid licences—like the one that allows Downtown Winery to import wine, age it, bottle it, sell it and pour it under their own label—are hard to come by. So, when a space on Ossington with just such a licence popped up in 2019, the Macedos jumped on it.
“It’s a super unique licence that allows us to work directly with producers that make wine specifically for us,” says Macedo. Basically, the Macedo family partners with producers, curates and selects the wines, brings them into the country, ages them, bottles them and labels them.
That means you can stop into Downtown Winery and grab a bottle to go (for as low as $12) or stick around for a sip. There’s plenty by the glass (starting at $10 for a bright, bubbly Moscato from California) and by the flight, as well as Portuguese finger foods and an olive oil bar.
Portugal’s wines are well represented (“Our family is Portuguese!”) as are wines from Argentina, California and Canada. (By law, 25 percent of their bottles need to be CanCon.) Their selection covers everything from mineral-driven Canadian Rieslings to citrus-forward Chardonnays and peppery, silky Syrahs. Macedo’s current favourite is the Fernao Pires, a Portuguese white varietal. “It’s fermented on the lees, so it has a lovely body to it and a creamier texture,” she says.
Flights ($14 to $16) include two-ounce pours of three different wines. Guests can stick to autumnal red wines, dabble in natural wines (think wild Vidal or unfiltered Merlot) or sample more site-specific sips, like a trip through Portugal’s or Argentina’s offerings. It’s all far cheaper than driving to Niagara, plus you don’t have to find a DD. Macedo also hosts customized one-hour educational tastings that cover six different wines.
Not drinking? Flights of olive oils ($12) allow guests to dip their way through EVOO, roasted garlic oil, basil oil and cask-aged balsamic. There’s a well-stocked olive oil bar where customers can pop in and top up their stash with Portugal’s finest.
The food menu is on the snacky side, with a big Portuguese lean. “We’re Portuguese and we’re in Little Portugal, after all,” Macedo says. There are briny boquerones and marinated peppers ($7) sitting in glossy (what else?) olive oil. For $16, crack a tin of conservas: sardines, smoked mackerel or mussels in a pickled marinade. They’re best spooned onto crunchy Torres chips, available in fancy flavours like foie gras, black truffle or Iberian ham ($6).
Of course, there are also standard charcuterie situations that bring slices of jamón serrano, bresaola and salume ($12 each). But, when in Little Portugal, Macedo recommends the flame-kissed links of Portuguese chouriço ($21). “We’ve got to give people a taste of the neighbourhood!”
Downtown Winery, 30 Ossington Ave., 416-537-0416, downtownwineryto.com