The state of wine bars and shops in Ontario is changing dramatically, and Loop Line Wine & Food is one of the more recent additions leading the charge into this new frontier. Located at 643 Dupont St, on the historic Loop Line Lane, they’re one of the only wine bars in the area, and certainly the only independent wine shop. Born of the minds behind Cru Wine Merchants and Stratus Vineyards, Loop Line seeks to provide a true wine bar experience, and a cozy bottle shop filled with unique, international (and local!) wines.
Loop Line has been quietly spreading its wings since it opened this August, expanding its inventory and putting the polishing touches on the space. Don’t let its slim stature fool you, right now Loop Line boasts a 150 label wine list, with plans to eventually push the number well over 200. Each wine is handpicked (Wine Director Adrienne Bertrand’s champagne selection alone is so immaculate, it’s worth visiting just for that), with a focus on small estates and eco-conscious producers. Their list only contains about 35% wines imported from Cru Wine Merchants’ own portfolio, but the ethos applies to every bottle. Each wine captures the essence of the vineyard they come from, true expressions of terroir.
This extends beyond the wine, as every part of Loop has a story behind it. The pictures on the walls were taken by local artists like Graham Girard and Alex McLeod, the plates on your table made barely a 20 minute walk away by dex(terity) labs, and even the shelves the wines sit on were made by Stratus Vineyards owner’s furniture company, Teknion. Thought has been put into every inch of the space, with nothing being selected without great consideration.
The atmosphere manages to strike that elusive balance between homey comfort and meticulously crafted design. The lighting, seating, and arrangement of the place makes time slip away into bliss, and I found myself nearly forgetting about my job and unconsciously transforming into a guest. With its 30 person capacity, each experience at Loop Line is aimed to be personal and tailored, with wines and food hand sold by experienced and knowledgeable staff.
The menu is designed with careful consideration for the wines. Small plates, mostly all under $10, offer clean and complementary flavours to pair with your glass. The concept of “less is more” is most evident in the food and kitchen of Chef Sheyla Thurler, who prepares all the dishes at the back of the bar with a small oven, a sous-vide machine, and a lot of ingenuity. Many items are sourced from local bakers, cheesemakers, and chocolatiers. House-made dishes such as pickled peppers, smoked fish, and torched butternut squash are exercises in culinary humility, with balanced and vibrant flavours that hide behind nothing. The star for me, a cantaloupe panna cotta with crispy prosciutto.
I met with illustrious industry veteran Charles Baker to discuss the fledging bar, the current state of wine shops in Ontario, and our mutual love for bread.
Loop Line is a return to form of sorts for Charles, taking a step back onto the restaurant floor after nearly 20 years of building Cru Wine Merchant’s incredible portfolio, working tightly with Stratus Vineyards, and producing world-class Ontario Riesling under his own label.
Outside on their charming patio with a glass of Raventos Blanc (an incredible Spanish sparkling wine with over 500 years of history) Charles explained to me the significance of Loop Line’s namesake street. The area had been used as a hub for transportation along Dupont and Christie Street, dating back to the late 19th century, and had served as a turn-around point for street cars since the early 1900’s. The concept of a central point, where all things return to, is mirrored in the philosophy of Loop Line Wine and Food. All things come back to the earth, the terroir, the local community, and the true nature of wine bars themselves.
Charles spoke about how when he’s visiting Italy, if you enjoy a wine at a bar, you’re completely free to purchase a bottle to take home with you. Anywhere else in the world this is often the case, but somewhere along the line Ontario shunned this tradition. One of the few positives of the pandemic are the changes to selling bottles of alcohol directly to the consumer, provided that food is part of that purchase (many shops are skating around this loophole with something as simple as a fortune cookie). I recall visiting a wine bar years ago, and hunting a bottle I drank there for months, to no avail. Finally, things have come full circle. I loved the glass of Stratus’s 2017 White I shared with Charles that day, and before leaving decided to purchase a bottle of my own. It felt right.
Visiting Loop Line reminded me of the definition of hospitality. It’s the name of our industry, but it doesn’t always feel taken literally. From the moment I walked in the door, I truly felt a guest. Whether being welcomed in by Project Manager Kasia Koziara, or attended to by server Adrienne Whiten, the passion everyone had for Loop Line was palpable. Every facet has been designed with the idea of a personal and direct customer experience. It’s hard not to fall in love with Loop Line, and I see them becoming a local institution amongst wine enthusiasts. I eagerly look forward to returning not as a writer, but as just another happy customer at the welcoming bar.
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