Gatineau | 88, rue Montcalm | 819-600-7643 |

Véronique Rivest is a star in international wine circles. Setting her sights close to home, the Outaouais native chose to leverage the prestige from a second-place finish at the 2013 World’s Best Sommelier Competition to open a wine bar in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa. Soif (thirst in French) shares key personality traits with the 120-odd bottles on its wine list: It’s lively, smart and devoid of pretension. Just what a wine bar should be in 2015.

The red-brick building is an incubator for wine appreciation. The squadron of young, bilingual servers are also trained sommeliers who know their Bourgueil from their Brouilly (Loire vs. Beaujolais). The decor – cork walls, stools that resemble champagne corks with their metal muselets, and hanging racks of polished glasses that double as chandeliers – is as playful as the cellar. In the kitchen, Gold Medal Plates winner Jamie Stunt builds clever small plates that fit Rivest’s dictum: “We like wine-friendly foods, and food-friendly wines.” The tostada dazzles, spread with house-smoked yogurt and stacked with chorizo rounds, oversize chunks of cucumber and radish, and purple peonies. And a vegetable platter assembled from chilled asparagus, blackened garlic scapes and raw, salt-dusted chard belongs in an art museum.

Thanks to the two-ounce pours (and our resilient livers), my guest and I manage to taste a dozen wines in two hours: an energetic assyrtiko from Santorini, a dense and bitter white field blend from just outside Vienna and a brambly Rhône-style red from South Africa’s Western Cape. While nurturing a new generation of oenologists, Rivest enjoys her role as host, visiting tables and overseeing a playlist that includes Beck’s “Devils Haircut.” This bubbly somm is overflowing with good taste.

  1. FD

    November 2, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    What about the food?

  2. Peter Arnold

    November 3, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Why is it that all ten restaurants are located in cities that Air Canada services? Do they not have innovative restaurants in Cambridge, ON, Stratford, etc.?
    You need to get out more.

  3. Emeline Landry

    November 6, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    My friend and I enjoyed the food and the the service at Soif last night. However, the music is very loud and not conducive to chatting aver a glass of wine especially when surrended with the merry drinkers who have to talk louder in order to be heard. For that reason I will not go back and will choose other places where we do not hae to scream in order to have a conversation.

  4. John Spence (@CanWineFan)

    November 10, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    The question for the servers/sommaliers at Soiff is whether they know the difference between a Pinot from Okanagan Falls and one from Prince Edward County. It’s about time that our top restaurants and wine bars start serving any, or more, Canadian wine!!!

  5. Hailey Smith

    December 18, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Peter Arnold, I am pretty certain Air Canada does not fly to Galiano Island.

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