In the heart of Toronto’s skyscraper soaring Financial District sits a new underground private members-only social club. While searching for the place I find myself waddling around Richmond Street West, looking high and low for a sign or marked door.
A concerned businessman chirps, “are you looking for Wine Academy?” and moments later he smirks and points to an unassuming wooden door featuring a nearby intercom buzzer and finger print scanner. I’m naturally curious to see if I have an extravagantly wealthy doppelgänger so jam my thumb onto the scanner. With no luck (obviously) I ring the front desk and moments later the massive door pops open and I tip toe into a magical basement best dubbed – an urban oasis for oenophiles.
Wine Academy is built around a masterpiece wine cellar worthy of housing the worlds’ most storied and finest wines. The club offers exclusive membership for casual and dedicated wine aficionados in a jaw-dropping 6000+ square food, two-story space. The venue, 17 and a half feet under street level, houses a state-of-the-art private wine cellar where members can store their wines safely and securely in a temperature and humidity controlled space. The cellar holds up to 105,000 bottles of wine – consisting of 1,122 individual and separately keyed personal storage lockers, each that hold up to 92 Bordeaux style bottles.
I had a chance to chat with Wine Academy’s enthusiastic Executive Sommelier Natalie Pope about her vino philosophy and what members can look forward to when joining in on her tutored tastings, “Behind every wine there is a story. A story co-written by the vine, land, environment and the winemaker. When we enjoy wine, these are not always things we tend to think about but when we taste wine, all of these aspects are deeply considered. At the Wine Academy, we offer classes that will appeal to both the novice and the advanced wine lover. We explore varietals and regions, winemakers and winemaking techniques. Each class will give you tools to improve your wine tasting skills as well as learn more about the one thing that has brought us all together – wine.”
One needs nibbles to pair with each sip. The Wine Academy kitchen is led by Executive Chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe and features light seasonal menus, highlighting flavours of the Mediterranean, along with charcuterie and cheese plates. Highlights include simple and sweet quinoa, decadent cheese board, fresh beef tartare and a divine Smoked Trout featuring a dollop of mustard seed flecked creme fraiche and crispy fried artichoke.
Quinoa | eggplant, red onion, tahini
Cheese | apricot, fig, red currant
Beef Tartare | crostini, tomato, caper, cornichon
Smoked Trout | creme fraiche, watercress, artichoke