Few people realize how truly blessed we are in terms of selection of wine, beer and spirits in Alberta. Our privatized importation makes us the envy of provinces like Ontario and British Columbia, whose government monopolies make for limited selection.
Here in Calgary we have a number of awesome, independent wine shops that take advantage of this crazy selection! With each shop having its own area of focus, expertise and exclusive products, it can be difficult at times for the average wine lover to keep tabs. Given this I’ve decided to throw together a quick run down of some of my favourite vinous destinations in our fair city.
Vine Arts Wine and Spirits – www.vinearts.ca
I wouldn’t be much of a business owner if I didn’t throw my own wine store in the hat! My business partner Jeff and I opened Vine Arts Wine and Spirits in the revitalized community of Victoria Park in March of 2012. We believe that wine is all about creating an experience and that’s exactly what we aim to provide for our guests. We’ve added some funky touches to the space, making it what is in our very biased opinion one of the best looking shops in the city (luckily our customers and others in the city seem to agree!). Our tasting room table sits 16 people and is crafted out of a 100 year old snooker table base, with the top being made from staves taken from a massive Scotch whisky barrel (also about 100 years old). We also have a pair of doors from a 19th century church in Wales and a massive circus themed mural.
Our goal is to make wine fun and accesible. Rather than dividing the wines by country, we’ve divided them up by style of wine. From smooth & sexy, to spicy/earthy/funky, whatever mood you’re in we’ve got the wine for you! We’ve got wines from around the world and have a great selection of interesting and unique wines under $25.
Come down and check us out! You’ll be glad you did. 1310 – 1st Street SW.
Owner Richard Harvey is undeniably one of Canada’s leading wine minds. This downtown destination specializes in French wine, with a focus on the regions of Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Rhone Valley. This is a true gastronomic destination, being attached to one of the city’s top cooking stores/schools, The Cookbook Co. The staff is extremely knowledgeable…and handsome, and there is always great wines open to taste. A must visit for any aspiring wine geek or budding wine lover.
Richmond Hill Wines www.richmondhillwines.com
Australia is the word at Richmond Hill Wines and they do it better than anyone else in town. This shop, located in the south-west near Westhills shopping centre, also holds a very unique license which allows them to act as both a retail store and an importer (they are one of only 4 stores in the province with this license). If you’re a fan of Australian wine this is a must visit!
J Webb Wine Merchants www.jwebb.net
J Webb, located off 90th Ave and 14th Street SW in the Glenmore Landing shopping centre, has been a staple of the Calgary wine scene for decades! This shop has some interesting and unique exclusive products such as the much sought-after Blue Mountain wines from BC. They recently caused a stir by bringing in the wines from Caduceus Cellars, run by Maynard James Keenan aka the front man of iconic rock band Tool. J Webb has some extremely knowledgeable staff and a nicely balanced selection focusing on small, artisan producers. Worth a stop for sure…although they need to take that cheesy intro page off their otherwise nice website (Kevin or Janet you know I love you…but it is awful).
Bin 905 Distinctive Wine and Spirits www.bin905.com
This shop, which is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts group which includes great operations such as Divino Bistro and Buffalo Mountain Lodge, has size on its side. Located in the trendy district of Mission, Bin makes use of it’s relatively large size to stock a wide selection which includes some sought after and rare wines. Although many people know Bin for their trophy wines such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, my favourite part of this store is their unbelievable selection of German and Austrian wines (unbelievable relative to most stores that is). Here you can find some of the top Gruner Veltliner from Austria and Riesling from some of Germany’s greatest estates. Fans of these wines owe it to themselves to make the trip.
Kensington Wine Market (KWM) www.kensingtonwinemarket.com
Another Calgary landmark in the vibrant neighborhood of Kensington! Although they have some interesting wines, I associate Kensington Wine Market with one thing…Scotch Whisky! Resident Scotch expert Andrew Ferguson is definitely one of the top Whisky minds in the country and KWM is a true destination for Scotch lovers and collectors alike. For anyone looking to expand their palate and learn more about Whisky, this is the place to be.
So there you have it, a quick run down of a few of our fabulous specialty stores here in Calgary. There are a number of shops I have not included, simply because I haven’t had enough experience with them to feel comfortable commenting. These include The Wine Cottage, Willow Park Wines, 100 Wines by David Walker, The Wine Shop and Vine Stone Wines (in Cochrane). Feel free to leave comments if you have experiences you’d like to share at any of these shops!
Get out there and explore these fun and funky destinations…you never know what new liquid gems you might uncover!