Head to Montecito’s By The Glass for a Taste of The World’s Best Wines

By Ross Vernon Dias

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Our wind-down recommendations are a great way to forget about a grueling work day. This week, change your routine with this after-work wine discovery series.

When: Thursday to Sunday, every week, after 5 p.m.

What it is: By The Glass is wine bar located upstairs at Montecito with a fixed markup of $30 for the vino-curious.

Where it’s located: 299 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1P7

Why visit: The world of wine is confusing and intimidating. If you’re not advanced with wine speak, or are curious about appreciating and uncorking a great bottle of wine, By The Glass is where to dip a toe in the wine pool.

How it came to be

Heather McDougall wanted to introduce people to the wide variety of the world’s greatest wines she’s had the pleasure to experience in her line of work — but the numbers weren’t adding up. 

While unique and interesting wines aren’t hard to find in Ontario for the savvy sommelier, it didn’t make financial sense to purchase enough for the wine list at Montecito, the Financial District restaurant where she works. Most restaurants charge between 200 to 300 percent mark-ups on the bottles they store in their cellars to support other expenses that take up the bulk of their operating budget. 

Instead of this standard percentage mark-up, McDougall was looking to create a better value for the restaurant and its patrons by attempting something unheard of at Montecito and most of the city: a wine bar operated under a fixed markup.

For her markup strategy, McDougall needed to consider her costs, the number of bottles she would need to sell to determine the lowest she could take the price enabling her to buy and sell the most wine. “I started with a white board and a calculator — and [began] with the math of all the things.” she says. At $30 markup — the price that McDougall settled on — a $60 bottle of wine in the restaurant would have cost the establishment $18, but upstairs at By The Glass, a $60 bottle would have a retail cost of $30. 

Prices don’t change if you order by the glass or bottle. Every glass is priced at cost plus $30 divided by 5.

“It is a lot of math, but what it boils down to is: I get to pour the world’s best wines — the most interesting, modern and dynamic examples of wines from Bordeaux, South Africa or Australia, and price almost comes off the table.” 

What to expect

By The Glass operates like a regular wine bar. But, really, it’s a crash course in wine learning. Every week, the bar will have 15 open bottles of wine, and guests can choose their own adventure. They may be themes of glass pours, mixed bags or personal favourites. Because the glass pour list changes every week, the list is very short.

If a table at By The Glass is in interested in trying something off the offical list, McDougall says she would find something in the cellar downstairs and open it, and hope to sell the other few glasses.

“I don’t want you to look at a wine list if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Just talk to me — I’ve tasted every bottle that’s come into this building,” she adds. “People place too much importance on choosing the right bottle when most often they can just choose a bottle and no one’s going to die of they don’t like it. It’s totally fine to not like a wine.”

Her favourite tasting style is informal and playful because, McDougall says, selling wine is match-making. Featuring twenty to thirty open bottles side by side on a table ready to be sampled is her preferred style of tasting. “This is meant to be an adventure. A fun, delicious, casual adventure,” McDougall says.

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