Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar rewards those who pay attention, because the details are where its treasures are hidden. You’ll begin to notice them everywhere—in the house spices and symmetrical searing of the filet mignons, in the surreal bend of the martini glasses, in the fresh-picked Ontario berries dotting the desserts. Though steak remains Wildfire’s cornerstone, overly dogmatic carnivores risk missing out on the barramundi fish drizzled in lemon-lime butter sauce. The servers can find a counterpoint to any dish amongst its bottled ocean of wine from Canada, France, Italy, the U.S., and Portugal.
Most of Best of Toronto’s favorite details, however, were found in Wildfire’s urban-chic decor. Walls of weathered wooden planks—illuminated by sleek rail lighting and adorned with dusky cityscapes—lend a polished-yet-rustic vibe to the high-ceilinged dining room. The simple glass lanterns overhead and the flickering candles at each table cast a sensuous glow perfect for romance or concealing the fact that your date is a scarecrow.
The Wine Bar is a restaurant made for sharing. Everything on the menu—from the braised meat of the beef bourguignon to the goat-cheese chocolate truffles drizzled in chocolate syrup—arrives on plates designed to be passed between friends and family. Of course, the bottles of Canadian wines that line the restaurant's walls also lend themselves to being passed around, particularly the exclusive vintages secured by The Wine Bar's sommelier.
In that same spirit of sharing, The Wine Bar doesn't hide much from the public eye, except the lever that keeps the restaurant's gravity on. Jars of organic, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients function as a Technicolor decorative display whenever the chefs aren't incorporating them into dishes. A wooden counter surrounds the open kitchen, letting diners watch every step of their maple squash risotto's creation, while a similar setup wraps around the wine bar.
A Gust of Sun Winery's name is more than a lovely turn of phrase. It's also a nod to the name of its founders, Erik and Shane Gustafson, a couple whose love for each other bloomed on the latticework of a shared love of wine. It all started when Shane took a wine appreciation class at their alma mater, Purdue, and convinced her new beau to follow suit. Erik became an oenophile too, and when they married they relocated from Indiana to his native western New York, where grapes flourish.
The duo tilled and sowed the land themselves, literally building their orchard from the ground up. From there, they added some sunny, sophisticated indoor lounges and tasting rooms. In August 2011, they opened their doors and started cracking open bottles of the seven wines they had created at the time. Since then, a Gust of Sun Winery has continued to fill glasses as well as schedules, arranging events, workshops, and tasting parties with the same dedication they pour into the creation of new wines.
Just as winemakers transform grapes into sumptuous sips, oenophiles Cynthia West-Chamberlain and Michael D. Chamberlain transformed their passion for wine into the family-operated Black Willow Winery. Although the winery primarily functions as a home for the couple's inventive wines, its charms don't end there. An elegantly appointed tasting room invites guests to sit, sip, savor, and even hold private events on Black Willow's scenic grounds. While they're there, many stock up on some of the winery's other house-made offerings, such as mead, chocolates, infused oil, and artisan vinegar.
When Nana and Papa Varallo brought winemaking to America from Italy, they unknowingly brought a livelihood for their successors. Son Nicholas made wine in Papa's basement from the age of 8, then taught the techniques to children Dominic, Cristina, and Americo Varallo. Now all three generations contribute to the development of the family's Spring Lake Winery, which offers group vineyard excursions, rentable wedding space, and, of course, the Varallo's award-winning wines.
A decade ago, the Oakes family planted their first vines across 6 acres, yielding a harvest that would produce 14 types of plump, juicy grapes. The result is a diverse wine list that includes smoky cabernet, award-winning fruity ice wine, and even one that's steam punk cider. Visit the tasting room to partake in sipping sessions, where varietals have been carefully selected and paired with offered snacks, and learn about the wine-making process.