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Best Bottle Shops

BAR LUPULUS Ottawa

Bar Lupulus hasn’t seated customers in its dining room since mid-March 2020. But the hangout for discerning food and beverage fans has kept its tables filled for months — with bottles. Since the bar opened in 2017, craft beers and natural wines were always big draws, along with innovative, technique-driven food. But in May last year, the bar became a bottle shop and customers summoned via Instagram ordered in droves, reports co-owner Anthony Spagnolo. After the bar’s pandemic patio opened in summer 2020, guests took bottles home, too. Until indoor dining resumes, Lupulus is selling bottles through its front window and allowing customers two at a time to browse stock in its former dining room. —Peter Hum

 

WHAT TO ORDER:

CRAFT BEERS AVAILABLE IN 2020 V. 2021: 300/200

NATURAL WINES AVAILABLE IN 2020 V. 2021: 200/300

ORANGE WINES AVAILABLE: 50

BOTTLE-SHOP ORDERS ON DAY 1: 200

REVENUE FROM BEVERAGES VERSUS FOOD PRE-PANDEMIC: 50%

REVENUE FROM BEVERAGES VERSUS FOOD DURING LOCKDOWNS: 80%

REVENUE FROM WINE VERSUS BEER DURING PANDEMIC: 50%

 


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PRIMAL Saskatoon

As executive chef and owner Christie Peters tells it, the liquor board of Saskatchewan has traditionally been “very, very strict,” so the idea of off-license sales was unthinkable until the pandemic rolled in. “The change has been a huge help,” Peters volunteers. So is her restaurant’s locally unique combination of downtown location, an extensive low-intervention wine program and deeply knowledgeable wine staff. “We’re putting together an army of wine knowledge,” she says of her team. “We have a wine club, so that customers can learn about wine pairing with our sommeliers. We have a captive audience, bored with what they’ve been drinking. We’re introducing people to orange wine. And we’ve actually been breaking records with combined sales from dine-in and takeout.” —Staff

 

WHAT TO ORDER:

DINE-IN TABLES LEFT: 6

WSET (WINE & SPIRIT EDUCATION TRUST) GRADUATES IN THE PRIMAL WINE ARMY: 3

LOW-INTERVENTION WINES ON THE LIST: 80–90%

TAKEOUT MARKDOWN: 25%

BOTTLES SOLD ON A GOOD NIGHT: 50

RATIO OF LIQUOR AND WINE SALES TO FOOD SALES: 50:50

 


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Dachi Vancouver

When Miki Ellis and Stephen Whiteside opened the charming Dachi, in Vancouver’s Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood in December 2018, they vowed that their wine list would be populated exclusively with bottles produced by family-owned wineries. “We’re looking toward farmers as opposed to factories,” explains Whiteside. Consequently, their bottle shop, which launched swiftly in March 2020, is perhaps the most consistently interesting in Vancouver. Not only are its international wines (all of them natural, organic and/or biodynamic) uncommon locally, there are 15 to 20 new discoveries every week. For oenophiles, Dachi’s “non-committal” Arthur’s Wine Club offers four bottles — accompanied by packets of ramen noodles! — for $150 a month. —Michael White

 

WHAT TO ORDER:

BOTTLE SHOP WINES SOLD WEEKLY: 70

BOTTLES SOLD THROUGH ARTHUR’S WINE CLUB: 170/MONTH

WINE REFERENCES IN THE BOTTLE SHOP (BOTTLES, NOT JOKES): 70 + 15 CIDER AND SAKE

ORGANIC OR BIODYNAMIC WINES: 100%

LOW-INTERVENTION AND NATURAL WINES: 95%

ORANGE WINES: 20%


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Larry’s + Lawrence Montreal

Last December, some life and colour finally returned to the eastern tip of Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood when a tweak to provincial legislation allowed the owners of Lawrence to open Larrys, a bottle shop in their combined restaurant/café/wine bar space. Now, floor-to- ceiling wine racks entice pedestrians to pop in for private- import wines to-go, with a snack instead of a meal. Wine director Keaton Ritchie has also launched dual monthly wine clubs. Larrys subscribers get three bottles plus a snack, a virtual tasting and zine-style wine descriptions. Lawrence subscribers get three bottles (generally from the reserve cellar) plus three food items, soigné tasting notes and recipe ideas. The club sells out quickly, but the bottle shop stocks plenty of juicy, food-friendly and skin-macerated options for walk-ins. —Amie Watson

 

WHAT TO ORDER:

BOTTLE SHOP WINES SOLD WEEKLY: 110

BOTTLES SOLD THROUGH THE WINE CLUBS: 90

WINE REFERENCES IN THE BOTTLE SHOP (BOTTLES, NOT JOKES): 90

REFERENCES IN THE LAWRENCE CELLAR: 250

ORGANIC OR BIODYNAMIC WINES: 100%

LOW-INTERVENTION AND NATURAL WINES: 90%

ORANGE WINES: 30%


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Archive Toronto

When the Corea brothers opened Archive nine years ago on a rather bleak strip of Toronto’s Dundas West, not only was it the only restaurant-bar in the area, it was pretty much the only Euro-style wine bar in the city. That is, a cute neighbourhood spot with huge windows, so passersby would be tantalized by the happy patrons snacking on tapas, cheese and charcuterie – and a killer beef tartare – while Joshua and Joel kept their glasses full with the kinds of wines they like to drink. Which can be described as good wines – interesting, sometimes challenging, never run-of-the-mill – at good prices. Naturally, the bar is now one of the city’s best bottle shops, with online ordering and free local delivery (often by one or the other brother), and chef Ian Leipurts’ outstanding charcuterie, spiced almonds, pickles and assorted bites. Archive is also the drop-off for Niagara’s The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette, which helps bring affluent customers through. Still, bottle shop sales “pay the rent, that’s about it,” Corea says. Coming soon: a curbside patio — and a welcome increase in walk-by traffic as folks head for nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park, stopping to pick up a little something on the way. —Dick Snyder

 

WHAT TO ORDER:

BOTTLE-SHOP WINES SOLD WEEKLY: 100

WINE REFERENCES IN THE BOTTLE SHOP (BOTTLES, NOT JOKES): 400+

ORGANIC OR BIODYNAMIC WINES: CERTIFIED 35%; PRACTISING 70%

LOW-INTERVENTION AND NATURAL WINES: 70%

CANADIAN/ONTARIO WINES: 20%

ROUGH RATIO OF CANADA/ NORTH AMERICA/EUROPE/ ETC.: 20% / 5% / 65% / 10%

ORANGE WINES: 20% MOST POPULAR ADD-ON

SNACK: SPICED ALMONDS

DAYS WITHOUT A PATIO AND COUNTING : 219

 


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