Toronto’s Best Bottle Shops

Takeout booze is here to stay, and the city is now dotted with neighbourhood bottle shops, bodegas and wine dealers

One silver lining to the pandemic (and it’s a biggie) is the government’s decision to loosen restrictions on the sale of alcohol—and just when we needed it most. Now, the city is dotted with neighbourhood bottle shops, bodegas, wine dealers and food establishments that offer an entirely different kind of takeout menu. The proliferation of merchants comes with greater variety and serendipity, and an all-around pleasant shopping experience that’s a long way removed from the one-size-fits-all approach we used to know.

1. Grape Witches

Toronto’s Self-Titled grape witches, Nicole Campbell and Krysta Oben have spent the last five or so years building a mini wine empire in the city, hosting wine pop-ups, running a highly covetable wine club and setting up a permanent shop in Little Portugal (just weeks before the pandemic hit). Grape Witches performs many roles, but it’s primarily a de facto clubhouse for cool kids. Wine-loving west-enders spend sunny days parked at a table on the patio (complete with a functioning and very fancy water fountain), sipping on glasses from cult producers and snacking on cheese, pepperettes and buttered sourdough from Robinson Bread.

In the front, an artfully designed bottle shop highlights nice (largely natural and often rare) bottles from hip producers—California queen Martha Stoumen, Quebec boundary pushers Pinard & Filles and natural wine royalty Gut Oggau among them. Upstairs, a private tasting room acts as an event space for classes and discussion panels. Profits from fundraisers go toward the Grape Witches’ diversity scholarship program, which helps to fund education for BIPOC wine professionals. 1247 Dundas St. W., 416-546-2151,

2. Bottega Volo

The iconic Bar Volo and its younger sibling, Birreria Volo, are sacred ground for Toronto beer nerds. So it’s no surprise that the latest addition to the Volo family, a Little Italy bottle shop and bodega snuggled inside the lobby of the Royal Cinema, would also reach top-shelf status for anyone looking to stock their cellar. It features a uniquely impressive list of not just beer but biodynamic and natural wines that tend to fly off the shelves (meaning that if you see something you like, grab it while you can). After scoring that rare bottle (or three), check out the well-stocked pantry of artisanal European goodies. The space also doubles as the snack bar for the attached cinema, which means there’s no better place in town to catch a movie. 608 College St.,

3. Le Conciliabule

This Little India wine bar and bistro was first launched as a pop-up—a transient home for co-owners Manon Tournayre and Charles Boggio to turn out pastries and peddle bottles of good wine. It’s now the permanent neighbourhood boutique of our dreams. Cruise up to the takeout window (pre-order so you don’t miss out on the gooey croque monsieur or savoury pâté en croûte piled high with seasonal greens) and grab a few bottles while you’re there. The wine selection is tightly curated but it can still be intimidating, so chat with Tournayre or Boggio, who are happy to guide you to a bottle, producer or region that will tickle your fancy. If you want to geek out, they’ll dig into the specifics of soil, terroir, grape and region. If you’d rather relinquish control, Le Conciliabule offers monthly memberships of three or six bottles of wine, with pastries and a baguette tossed in for good measure. 1300 Gerrard St. E.,

4. Tommy’s Wine Bar

Tommy’s is the type of spot you wander into looking for a hit of caffeine but somehow end up leaving with a cute branded tote bag chock full of interesting bottles and bubbles. Though the square footage is small, the bottle selection is surprisingly varied, spanning wines (many under $45), bottled cocktails, small-batch Ontario beers and other boozy beverages—think seltzers spiked with Willibald spirits, wine-beer hybrids from Hamilton’s Merit Brewing and fruity refreshers from East Street Cider. The former convenience store space also offers solid snacking options, including sandwiches sourced from nearby bistro Donna’s, bagels and empanadas. 1977 Dundas St. W., 416-530-1430, @tommyswinebarto

Photo courtesy of Bot'l Shop

5. Bot’l Shop

Pre-pandemic, this little nook off Bathurst was called Bathurst Local, and it was one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Now, in addition to being a stellar watering hole, it’s also an excellent bottle shop—both IRL and online (the wine descriptions are just the beginning of the fun). Wine nerds will find a covetable list, stacked with bottles from hyper-hip producers like Fattoria al Fiore, Anders Frederik Steen, Domaine Bobinet and many more. Less bookish oenophiles will find the list skews extremely drinkable—wines that make you stay up late into the night and crack open a second bottle. The spot is owned and entirely operated by the absolutely delightful Anna and Glenn Wesley (they’re quite literally the sole employees), and they curate their list with bottles from like-minded small producers with a love for what they do. Whatever you choose, don’t ignore the extensive selection of sake. 322 Bathurst St.,

Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

6. Boxcar Social

Boxcar Social contains multitudes. In the morning hours, it’s a place for daily commuters or work-from-anywhere hotdeskers to get a good cup of joe. In the afternoon, caffeine-based beverages are swapped out for local beer and wines by the glass or bottle. Both locations feature spacious patios for outdoor sipping, and a fully fledged armamentarium of wine, with over a hundred different bottles, beers and other beverages including exclusive releases from the likes of Pearl Morissette and Das Juice, plus cans from niche Ontario producers like Sonnen Hill, Willibald and Half Hours on Earth. 4 Boulton Ave., 1210 Yonge St., 844-726-9227,

7. Happy Coffee and Wine

This low-key joint run by pals Edward Anderson, Madeleine Hayles and Sam Kim nails both the day drinks (good espresso) and the night ones (good wine), along with a never-boring selection of nibbles. The wine list is focused on fantastic small producers—expect rich, opulent jura whites from Didier Grappe (that the team describes as “sourdough bread,” “cultured butter” and “haunted mansion wine”) and beaujolais bottles from George Descombes (“like an old soul,” “raspberry tartufo” and “pretending to speak French”). The food menu is snacky and offers things like trout tartare with Ritz crackers for scooping and, only at lunch, a popular-for-a-reason shrimp burger. The sweet back patio is an excellent place to hang out (all year round thanks to heaters), while inside has ample space to linger. 1304 King St. W., 416-588-3000,

Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

8. Bevi Birra

Well removed from the west end’s fleet of wine and beer bars, this fun addition to Woodbridge offers an ever-changing array of Ontario-brewed beers. There are new releases from Reverence, Willibald, Barncat and Rouge River, in addition to more grail-type selections; think vintage co-ferments from Rorschach and bottles imported from craft Italian producers. Can’t decide? Bevi Birra is the bricks-and-mortar extension of the Small Batch Dispatch beer club, so they’re happy to set you up with a monthly subscription of hit bottles and cans delivered directly to your door. The brand-new kitchen turns out fluffy focaccia sandwiches as the food pairing of choice, like the Filomena, a mortadella sandwich topped with muffuletta spread, honey, provolone and peperoncino, or the Senza Carne, a tricked-out caprese sandwich with pea pesto and fior di latte. 7500 Hwy. 27, Unit 20, Woodbridge, 905-605-6677,

Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

9. Grape Crush

It’s easy to lose track of time in this Dundas West wine haven, where bottles of classical, natural and small-producer wines, beers and sakes line the neon-hued space, and a smattering of tables offers the chance to try before you buy. Early in the pandemic, partners Nancy Chen and Thomas Masmejean decided to upheave SoSo Food Club, their restaurant and cocktail bar, giving way to a bottle shop with a broad selection and an expansive delivery area. Wine-wise, they’re well-stocked with benchmark natural producers, house wines made in partnership with Traynor winery and a healthy offering of Ontario bottles (plus a dedicated under-$25 section). Magnums, bagged wine, sake, mead and non-alc options round out the drinkable offerings, along with edible treats like tinned fish and gourmet chocolate. 1166 Dundas St. W., 416-519-6661,

10. Paradise Grapevine

Paradise Grapevine straddles the line between a bottle shop and a low-octane wine bar. You can swing by at 1 p.m. or 1 a.m. and drink some fun, likely new-to-you bottles from small-scale producers. When you’re done, grab your favourite bottles to go. Alternatively, scroll online—they offer Ontario-wide shipping or same-day for Toronto folk. Their wine list runs deep, covering reds, whites, oranges and pinks, plus ciders and alcohol-free proxies. Highlights include a roster of grower champagne, frequent drops of older bottles from the cellar, and their own line of vin de soifs, skin-contact wines and cans of chuggable wine-based seltzers. 841 Bloor St. W., 416-536-7178,

These listings (and many more) appear in Toronto Life’s 100 Best Food Shops special issue, which is available on newsstands now. To purchase your own copy, click here.