The best places in Calgary to enjoy a glass of wine

The best places in Cowtown to enjoy a glass of wine

by Tom Firth


Visiting Calgary? Should you have some time to relax, enjoy a meal, or even a glass of wine in Cowtown, I’m happy to recommend a few gems you’ll want to check out during your next visit.

With all the world-class wine shops and passionate sommeliers and oenophiles working in the Calgary wine world, great wine lists can be found in almost every part of the city. The following have that je ne sais quoi, that make a glass (or two) of wine a little more special.

River Café 25
Prince’s Island Park, 403-261-7670,
The menu of this venerable Calgary restaurant (25 years old this year) is built around locally-sourced ingredients. The strong wine list that accompanies has plenty of Canadian bottles, several verticals and rare bottlings, along with a staff who know how to pair them. The rustic cabin-like charm of the décor suits the gorgeous park setting on Prince’s Island just north of downtown.

Blink Restaurant & Bar
111 8 Avenue SW, 403-263-5330,
Blink is located right along Stephen Avenue, perfectly located for visiting before or after a show or game, though delicious cuisine can be found at lunch too. The well- thought out wine list, bursting with wines from little-known or obscure producers, reflects the passion and knowledge of restaurant director, Leslie Echino. The staff on hand are adept at recommending the perfect dish to pair.

Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant
15979 Bow Bottom Trail SE, 403-476-1310,
Maybe you’ll be spending time in the south end of the city? The Bow Valley Ranche is right in the heart of Fish Creek Park, the largest urban park in Canada. The historic building dates back to 1896, and retains a quiet charm in a peaceful setting. An afternoon nibble and glass of wine easily turns into a walk in the park to burn off that dessert, while in the evening, the setting becomes pleasantly cozy, and you’ll never feel rushed. The wine list is well-curated and packed with plenty of gems.

306 17 Ave SW, 403-452-4694,
Pigeonhole was recently named Canada’s Best New Restaurant by enRoute Magazine and it’s right next door to Model Milk, another wine and food place in Calgary we are proud of. Pigeonhole’s short-but-sweet list has a big focus on natural wines, the minimal-intervention wines that are the hot new wine out there, and for some, the epitome of that sense of place wine geeks call terroir.

Sky 360 at the Calgary Tower
101 9 Avenue SW, 403-532-7966,
I’ll be honest, there was a time when I wouldn’t have recommended the Calgary K Tower for much of anything. In recent years, the décor has been refreshed, the menu completely revamped, and the whole experience significantly upgraded. The revolving restaurant has two speeds, a slower one for the evening and a faster one for lunch making sure you get to see all the sights. The wine list reflects modern and accessible wines, without being too nerdy or esoteric. Make a reservation and bypass the elevation fees.

Avec Bistro
105 550 11 Avenue SW, 587-352-0964,
Avec is beloved of Calgarians who love to eat and drink, and this includes a lot of the wine and food trade. Opened a few short years ago by experienced restaurateurs Jackie Cooke and Kirk Shaw, every detail is expertly attended to, from cork to fork, with a wine list that is truly excellent.

Recommended bottlings

River Café
The 2011 Tahbilk Marsanne ($37) is a fine example with lifted citrus and great acidity, pairing with fish or game birds, or a selection of fresh oysters, yum!

Blink Restaurant & Bar
Treat yourself! Among the many enticing bottles, maybe the 2011 Gaja Dagromis Barolo ($145) is the perfect thing to cap off an evening.

Avec Bistro
The n/v Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne ($10 by the glass, $50 for the bottle) is a stunning sparkling rosé from France.

Looking for something different? The 2013 Marabino Muscadetta ($75) from Sicily is a fantastic example of a bio-dynamic wine—clean flavours, oozing terroir, and yes, exciting to drink. Try it with the octopus.

Sky 360
The menu at Sky 360 showcases seafood and poultry, ideal with the 2014 Brokenwood Semillon ($56), packed with minerality and green apple flavours with a lengthy finish.

Bow Valley Ranche
Ever hear that Pinot Noir goes with anything? Try a bottle of the top-quality Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir ($108), a full-bodied and structured wine which works very well with duck or beef of all kinds.

Tom Firth is a Calgary-based wine writer and the director of the Alberta Beverage Awards, only recently discovering a talent in the kitchen, but he’s more than happy to bring a bottle of wine to your place.