9.25.2005

grapes and hops

What's the deal with wine here?

I've figured out that the LCBO is owned and operated by the Province of Ontario. Certain US states have a similar deal; when I lived in Philadelphia, we bought wine or liquor at a "state store". Are liquor sales controlled by the province throughout Canada, or do different provinces have different liquor laws? I assume the latter.

More importantly, are all LCBOs the same? There's one right around the corner from us, and while it's terrifically convenient, the selection is poor. Yesterday we checked out another LCBO - this one conveniently located next to a Beer Store - but the selection was nearly identical. So is this the wine that's available in Ontario? I know Canadians are beer-lovers, but stereotypes aside, what do people do when they want to drink a nice bottle of wine?

We're also trying different Canadian beers, so if you have recommendations, send them in. Right now we're drinking Export (I prefer it to Canadian) and Steam Whistle, and we had Keith's at the Blue Jays game. US readers: Canadian and Export are both Molson. Yummy.

39 comments:

James said...

Don't forget Creemore Springs, brewed on Mill St. in the village of Creemore. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm an American who has traveled to Toronto 30 plus times (my SO and I think Canada rocks too!!) and I have to say there's some really nice Ontario wines in their liquor stores. There's no Canadian wines here in Pittsburgh in our state store :( They do carry ice wines sometimes, but they're a little too sweet for my taste.

Anonymous said...

If you want a huge selection of different wines you have to find an LCBO "Vintages" store. They just opened one near me and it is almost twice as large as the old one they just closed up.

http://www.vintages.com/

"Sleeman Original Draught" has been my personal favourite beer over the course of the summer. Fantastic beer. I have tended to stay away from the big boys "Molson" and "Labbatt" for a long time now.

ALPF
--------------------------------

You are less than 1 hour drive to the best wineries in Eastern North America.
Peller Estates in Niagara-On-The-Lake is really nice.

http://www.winedining.net/niagara.html

http://winesofontario.org/

Jubileee said...

Oooh, I second the Sleeman nod! Though I much prefer Sleeman Honey Brown. I'm not a beer fan at all, and the fact that Sleeman's is the only beer I actually like says a lot.

L-girl said...

Thanks ALPF! I'll check out a Vintages store.

We've passed signs for the wineries on our way back and forth from Buffalo. I definitely look forward to a visit. We have happy memories of a Finger Lakes winery crawl.

We'll also try both Sleeman and Creemore Springs. Let me tell you, Molson may be a big boy around here, but it beats Miller and Bud by a ten kilometres.

L-girl said...

Ding ding ding ding ding!! I just checked the website - there are several Vintages stores in striking distance from us, and one right near by.

Liam J said...

Sorry to post out of context, but this news story brings home a good reason for your move to Canada.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050923/ap_on_re_us/lesbians__daughter

This girl was expelled from a school for what her parents are. Ironic that a Christian school would be so Unchristian. Here in Canada even private schools cannot get away from it thanks to human rights tribunals in the provinces.

I have to say that this is another example of what is wrong with modern religions. I say this speaking as a practicing Roman Catholic who is rappidly becoming disenchanted with most organized religion.

L-girl said...

Thanks for the story, Liam J. No matter that it's off-topic, it's very welcome. I'll blog about it later or tomorrow.

Disgusting, isn't it? All the awful shit that goes on in so many heterosexual families - one would think the only thing that matters would be a stable, loving home. But no.

ex Torontian said...

go to the wine festival later in the month in Niagra on the Lake and try all the Ont. wines...great tasting. You will like it.

dogsled_stacie said...

OOH! My second most favourite topic...

Another vote for the Sleeman's. There's also some great Yukon beer (www.yukonbeer.com)- not sure if they carry it out east. Notable beers are the Herbal Cream Ale and the Espresso Stout for those coffee fanatics.

Big Rock Beer from Calgary is a mainstay for me on those dark, cold winter nights, or warmish summer days, anytime really. Warthog & Grasshopper are my faves, and the dark beer lovers go for Traditional.

I've been getting into Alexander Keiths too. Mmmmm... good stuff.

If you really have some time on your hands and want to study Canadian beers, check out www.realbeer.com/canada - the Canadian Beer Index!!

dogsled_stacie said...

Also - the liquor store question. Not all are provincially/territorially run. Some, like Alberta are privatized. Which translates to much better deals! Cheaper prices as the liquor stores try to compete.

In the Yukon here, they are run by the territorial gov't, and all have the same selection. Now that may be because there is only one main liquor warehouse, and all stores in the territory go through them.

Oh, and in Saskatchewan, they call them the "Liquor Board Store" - that always makes me laugh...:-)

L-girl said...

Thank you ex-Torontian and dogsled_stacie!

Wine festival? We're on our way!

Second favourite topic - LOL. Gotta love a woman whose favourite subjects are dogs and beer. I'll look for some of the Yukon brands, as well as Big Rock Beer, and see if they're available here in the east. I must try Espresso Stout!

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

L-Girl:

The rules vary from province to province.

In Ontario, only the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) and the actual manufacturers are allowed to sell alchohol. The Beer Store isn't a government corporation, but jointly owned by three large brewers (Labatt, Molson, and Sleeman). Vineyards are also allowed to sell alcohol, but only the ones they produce, so you'll see things like Blah-Estates wine shop.

Niko said...

The one nice thing is....have you noticed...there are no seedy liquor stores :-)

RobfromAlberta said...

Further to the question about liquor stores, Quebec probably has the most complex system. There are provincial liquor stores and they are the only ones permitted to sell hard liquor. However, convenience stores, called depanneurs in Quebec, are permitted to sell wine and beer.

Lone Primate said...

Laura, you definitely goin' to the wrong one. :) The LCBO is, believe it or not, the biggest importer of wines and spirits on the Planet Earth. They import for Ontario and several other provinces who use our leverage to get better deals. When France and Germany wouldn't agree to stock our ice wines a few years ago in favour of their own, the LCBO threatened to deprive them of access to a huge chunk of the North American market. We got our ice wines stocked in Europe. :)

The days when the LCBO was run like a shameful Stalinistic nod to human frailty are way gone. There are some huge LCBO boutiques now. I'm guessing the local one in Port Credit, which almost certainly predates the paradigm shift in the mid-90s, isn't one of them. Some of the newer ones stock hundreds of wines. If you ever get a chance, drop in on the LCBO outlet at Summerhill in Toronto -- it's a short walk from the Yonge Street subway line. It's a converted train station, and it must be the jewel in the crown for what should be renamed the Liquor Celebration Boutique of Ontario. :) It's about the only government-run operation I've ever heard of that makes money -- billions of dollars a year for the province. Let's celebrate the success of conspicuous consumption socialism! :)

L-girl said...

Thanks everyone, great info, much appreciated!

I could tell from the LCBO website that the system had been changed and upgraded, although I didn't know by how much. Liquor Celebration Boutique of Ontario! Port Credit needs to upgrade, too!

In New York, you can buy beer in supermarkets, and New Jersey supermarkets carry both both beer and wine. It's very different to make a special stop for beer and wine.

James said...

The LCBO is also the most profitable of all Ontario government-owned corporations. Surprise, surprise. :)

Anonymous said...

As for beer, you might like Black Oak's Nut Brown or Pale Ale. Black Oak is a favourite microbrewery of mine, and they're just over in Oakville. I'm also partial to Unibroue's beers. They're a Quebec company, specializing in Belgian-style beers with medium-to-high alcohol content and some fantastic flavour. Maudite and La Fin Du Monde are available in a lot of beer and liquor stores, and some carry Trois Pistoles, Raftman, or Blanche du Chambly. I love 'em, but friends of mine have had some truly horrendous hangovers afterward.

Southern Ontario has a lot of great microbreweries, so there's a lot to try.

L-girl said...

Southern Ontario has a lot of great microbreweries, so there's a lot to try.

Cool. Thanks!

Lone Primate said...

I could tell from the LCBO website that the system had been changed and upgraded, although I didn't know by how much.

I've got friends about a half a generation older than me who can remember when the LCBO was just a counter, run like the post office. You looked in a book, wrote down the stock number of the item you wanted (rye #1 or rye #2?), handed it to the guy behind the counter, and he disappeared into the secret booze archives, and returned with your brown-bagged bottle of evil. This is as late as the 1970s. By the time I was old enough to drink in the late 80s, they would actually let you handle the stock on big, boring shelves, but they still didn't open on Sundays and would not accept credit cards -- what, encourage immorality in blue Ontario? Heavens, it could lead to dancing. Things really changed in the 90s... maybe the one good thing that came out of the Harris years. Now they practically step on your foot and pour booze down your throat. "Here, try this, isn't it scrumptious? It's better with a bit of havarti, here..."

Money talks, I guess. Booze is biz.

L-girl said...

Now they practically step on your foot and pour booze down your throat. "Here, try this, isn't it scrumptious? It's better with a bit of havarti, here..."

We've been thoroughly enjoying the free samples! I've already bought two bottles from those giveaways. Very effective marketing!

The glass-barrier bank-style ordering is how I remember "State Stores" in Philadelphia, in the marginal neighborhood I lived in.

L-girl said...

but they still didn't open on Sundays

Would you believe New York only started selling liquor on Sundays this year? Blue laws die hard.

Lone Primate said...

Would you believe New York only started selling liquor on Sundays this year? Blue laws die hard.

Wow, that does surprise me. :) I know it varies, but generally, I'm used to the idea that liquor laws in the US are more liberal than here. When I visited LA a decade ago, you could buy beer, wine, even hard liquor (I think) in the grocery stores.

L-girl said...

I'm used to the idea that liquor laws in the US are more liberal than here.

It varies hugely from state to state. I lived right near the George Washington Bridge, which connects NYC to New Jersey. On our side (the NYC side) of the bridge, you can buy beer in grocery stores, except on Sundays before noon, and wine and liquor in liquor stores, except (until very recently) on Sunday. On the NJ side, beer and wine are sold in grocery stores every day, but liquor only in liquor stores, except Sundays.

Some states have really convoluted liquor laws, governing things like drinking at a bar, but not carrying your drink to a table. There are even still counties that are totally "dry" - no alcoholic beverages of any kind allowed.

Sass said...

heh, the first trip my dad makes when I land in canada is to the LCBO (the second, on a sidenote, is to Swiss Chalet, because that sauce they have is like crack)...the way to get through the long holiday season of visiting with people you don't like all that much, but are family anyway.
I'm always amazed that the lcbo is nicer or at least on par with the fanciest rich folk liquor stores here in boca.
l-girl, also be sure to pick up the magazine the lcbo gives out for free, there are some really amazing recipes in there.

L-girl said...

l-girl, also be sure to pick up the magazine the lcbo gives out for free, there are some really amazing recipes in there.

Go figure! Good thing you told me, I never would have looked otherwise.

Then again, Redsock never passes up a free magazine, so we probably would have gotten it anyway.

L-girl said...

Swiss Chalet, because that sauce they have is like crack

We had Swiss Chalet for dinner the other night! I don't like the sauce, and I guess that's a good thing.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Swiss Chalet sauce is an acquired taste, like coffee or beer. But once you've acquired it....

Of course an alternative is St Hubert. Similar idea, but tastes different. They have one restaurant in the GTA it seems (sorry, the website is only in french).

L-girl said...

Since I'm a coffee addict and I love beer, perhaps I'll acquire a Swiss Chalet sauce addiction, too! :)

kelly said...

If you can get to one of the big LCBO's (which arent necessarily Vintages), you can get the best selection. These tend to be in the suburbs, although they did just revamp the one at Summerhill and Yonge.

Welcome to Toronto, btw!

Kyahgirl said...

L-girl, luckily I live in Alberta and have a pretty good selection of liquor stores and liquor (its been privatized).

My favorite North American beer is Miller Genuine Draft. My favorite used to be Kokanee before they sold out to Labatts and started making their beer like everyone else's.
I once spent two weeks in Germany and tried very hard to drink every German beer I could find. Many are nice but nothing compared to the Belgian Trappiste beer. You can sometimes get it in speciality liquor stores here. Its a heavy beer but rich and sweet. Not gagging like a dark English beer.
Yeah, Canadians like beer! :-)
Must stop now, before I start blithering about beer!

L-girl said...

My favorite North American beer is Miller Genuine Draft. My favorite used to be Kokanee before they sold out to Labatts and started making their beer like everyone else's.

Whoa! You don't like beer that tastes like everyone else's, and your favorite is Miller Genuine Draft?? That's interesting! To me, Miller is as tasteless as it gets, barely a step above a Bud.

My favorite would have to be Murphy's, an Irish stout similar to Guinness, which I also love. I drink Guinness any place I see it on tap.

I also like all kinds of amber, honey-toned beers. I don't find English beer heavy or gaggy at all.

L-girl said...

Welcome to Toronto, btw!

Thank you Kelly - and welcome to wmtc. :)

Franc said...

I can't believe St-Hubert is down to only one restaurant in the Toronto area :(
I remember when they used to have al least 4 of them back in the area back in 97...I'd say the chicken is better IMHO (especially the skin - always crispy unlike Swiss Chalet which is a hit or miss in that department!) and the sauce is similar yet different (sorry, this doesn't make sense!)...a matter of personal taste I'd say...in Quebec, most of the St-Hubert's have been revamped and have a great atmosphere and decor...they're "cult-like" the way Swiss Chalet is in Ontario...not sure Swiss Chalet is that popular outside of Ontario...I didn't too many of them in BC or Alberta...same goes for Tim Horton's...saw more Starbucks in Calgary last summer...Back to St-Hub though, I would check them out on a trip to Quebec. The one in Etobicoke is "OK", I mean the food is pretty much the same as in Quebec but it definitely has a late-70's / should have been re-decorated long time ago vide to it which is not so great. But being originally from Quebec, I do go to that one once in a while when going through St-Hubert chicken withdrawal!!!

Going back to liquor and beer etc...Beside the convenience stores in Quebec, beer and wine is also sold in major grocery stores including Loblaws.

L-girl said...

Hey, coming home from Ikea and Canadian Tire today, I realized I've been passing St Hubert's for weeks. I didn't connect the name until today. It's a bit out of the way, but maybe we'll pick up a chicken on the way home from a shopping trip one day. Lord knows we have enough shopping trips...

Franc said...

Great!
It's probably the one on the south side of the Queensway. There also used to be one on Dundas in Mississauga...I guess that one is probably closed now since there's only one left in the GTA...

L-girl said...

It's probably the one on the south side of the Queensway.

That's the one. :)

Sass said...

swiss chalet is an institution in my family, always has been...there's actually one in Ft. Lauderdale, to serve all the addicted snowbirds, but it seems from all accounts that it's godawful.
interestingly enough, reading some of Margaret Atwood's writings on her younger years, when she worked in a Swiss Chalet, almost made me give up the habit--she gives some pretty grim descriptions.
Tim Hortons coffee is also like crack, we have quite a few family friends who stop there 2-3 times a day (!)--and I thought 'starbucks people' were bad!