The Reveal – Chez Nous Wine Bar

By Stephanie Dickison

“There’s a stigma, but it’s not true. I could have listed five times more wines.” – Laura Carr, owner

The Gist

After working in the industry for years, including pubs in France, Belgium, and the U.K. and managing a wine bar in New Zealand, Laura Carr decided it was time to create her own. The Niagara Falls native has “always been a big drinker of local wines,” and while she loves going to bars, “I don’t drink wine in bars. It’s either too expensive or not good,” she says. Her goal was to create a place where you can go for a glass of vino without breaking the bank or having to know a lot about different varietals. “I don’t think wine needs to be a big thing,” Carr says, “I don’t see why it can’t be just everyone’s everyday drink.” The list includes 5 oz. pours ($6-$14.50) and bottles ($30.75) of sparkling, white, rose and red wines, as well as local brews in cans and bottles ($6-$34).

Libations

The constantly changing list features some LCBO picks, but most are not available in stores. “I’ve been on site to visit almost all of these wineries in person, and tasted everything on the list. They’re all good – no plonk on the list,” Carr says. Even the house red, at a shockingly low $6. Carr describes it as “good, nice. It’s not meant to blow your socks off, but it’s easy drinking.” Her excitement about local wines is front and center. She dares you to taste the difference between our Bordeaux-style reds and bottles from France. “We have world-class Pinot Noirs and Rieslings, and 200 wineries in Niagara right now.” Some of her current favourites include Cab Franc ($9.50/$48) by Ravine in St. David’s, Niagara-on-the-Lake, PEC’s “faboulous” Grange Gamay Noir Select ($11/$56), and Aure Wines (pronounced Aura) from the Beamsville Bench area: White Gamay ($12/$60) and Pinot Noir Reserve ($75 btl). And naturally, she had to get Creekside’s Laura’s Red ($10/$50). “It’s surprising,” she says. “You just might just like it.” Before you start spouting about “chewy tannins” or your search for “angular wines,” know that Carr has “zero formal training in wine” and is not interested in hearing about “bouquet.” "I want people to enjoy the wine, not my descriptions. I want people to come in and not be afraid to drink the house wine. I want people to ask me about wine.” That’s easy since it’s only ever Carr working the joint.

Grub

Wine is the focus here, so there are just a few store-bought snacks on hand to keep you sated:

  • Cheese and Crackers - $7
  • Meat - $7
  • Olives - $5

Mind you, they’re delicious and nicely plated. It’s all about keeping with the fun, casual vibe here. It’s meant to feel like the “type of thing you have in the fridge at home,” Carr says. The place is “an extension of my apartment when friends come over.” At other wine bars, Carr says, “provisions are very expensive and they make you feel obligated to order food. I want to get rid of the stigma that you have to go out and spend a bomb.”

Fixtures & Fittings

The former County General Riverside got a slight makeover thanks to Carr and friends. The layout remains the same. The streamlined room boasting 30 seats is simple, yet still striking. The bar now boasts a lighter colour and open shelves have been swathed in an inky hue, which goes with the oversized map – also a leftover of the previous tenant. The casual vibe is very much on purpose. “I wanted to really amplify that pub feel here,” she says. Upon entering, you’ll be invited to take a seat, order at the bar and enjoy.

How Cool is This?!

The Barware is courtesy of Carr’s “bar shower” where she registered for various glassware and decanters.

Off the Menu

  • Crackle (Sparkling Vidal), Calamus ($9.50/$48) – Light and refreshing.
  • Riesling, Pondview ($8.50/$43) – A blend of citrus, mineral and floral.
  • Steely Chardonnay, Calamus ($7.50/$38) –  ight and crisp with notes of green apple and tropical fruit.
  • Cabernet Rose, Ravine ($11/$55) – A delightful rose that suits whatever the weather.
  • Cabernet Merlot, Reif Estates ($7.50/$38) – Looking for something full-bodied with a medium-long finish? This affordable beaut will please you and your pocketbook.
  • Laura’s Red, Creekside ($10/$50) – A 'Bordeaux' style red that is vivacious and fruity.

Deets

Head Honcho: Laura Carr Map It: 798 Queen St. E. (two blocks east of Broadview) Visiting Hours: Daily 5 pm-2 am Phone It In: (416) 781-4743 ---- Check out our Facebook page for more photos.

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