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There's a Restaurant here in a suburb of Toronto (Etobicoke) that has received the "Grand Award" multiple times.

I do agree they have a very impressive wine list, although the wines are in many cases extremely over priced.
But we live in a free market society and if people are silly enough to over pay for a product or service then they can't complain.

However I do believe a restaurant that receives the "Grand Award" should have a minimum number of certified sommeliers on staff to ensure proper service to its clientele.

Via Allegro restaurant here in Toronto (Etobicoke) has won the "Grand Award" two years in a row but has never had more than 3 certified sommeliers on staff (according to staff members I asked after receiving shoddy service from the sommeliers or rather the absence of on more than one occasion). This is a 180 seat restaurant with a wine list of likely 4500+ different wines available, many of which are rare trophy wines. It is not uncommon on a busy lunch or evening to have to wait 45 minutes or more for a sommelier to arrive after being requested. It's ludicrous that ones main course would be minutes away from arrival or worse having arrived prior to the sommelier to aid in choosing a wine. There have been many times that I have seen the head sommelier carrying multiple bottles for multiple tables while others wait for service. The bottles are given to servers some of which have very little if any wine knowledge to present and serve.
I can't imagine this is the level of service that a "Grand Award" recipient is expected to provide. So why has this been allowed to continue, why does this establishment subject its clientele to this type of mediocre wine service? I'm certain in one of Canada's largest cities there must be many qualified sommeliers.

So why does the Wine Spectator give its most prestigious "Grand Award" to a restaurant that clearly can't live up to the standards to which one would expect of a "Grand Award" recipient?
Why does Via Allegro subject its clientele to such poor service?

"Grand Award" what does it truly stand for?

I would imagine Via Allegro has submitted itself for another "Grand Award" for this coming year, perhaps rather than viewing a wine list the Wine Spectator should review a restaurants ability to provide the service expected of a "Grand Award" recipient for a change.

Unfortunately I am requested by out of town clients to take them to Via Allegro so they can experience the wine list of this so called "Grand Award" recipient. I explain the situation regarding wine service or lack there of by competent sommeliers and we still venture off. While they are always impressed by the wine list itself they are usually shocked and outraged by the lack of proper service one would expect for such a prestigious award.
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As far as I understand the award is for the list only, not the service that goes with it.

You won't get too many people sympathising with you about the lack of sommeliers on these boards, because most people here think they can do a better job selecting wine than a professional sommelier. For one or two that may even be true.

The most common complaint I have heard about the award on these boards is restaurants that do not stock what's on the wine list that won the award. Some have gone as far as to suggest that there's some bait and switch happening, so if Via Allegro stocks what's on its list that puts them ahead of some others in the game.
I had dinner at Via Allegro on January 30th last year after finding out about being a Grand Award recipient.

I had the 5 course meal with optional wine paring. (not cheap!)

My wife had an appetizer and dinner.

The sommelier did an excellent job picking wine for her. Mine was obviously already choosen for me.

Overall my dinner was excellent. The wine chosen with my meal was very good but not great.

For my wife, the Ectasea dinner was terrible. The tender shrimps and scallops were essentially burned on too hot a grill. Her wine selections were excellent as she had the opportunity to taste 6 different selections prior to choosing her two glasses.

Would I go again? Yeah probably, but be prepared to pay an arm and a leg!
Last edited by hugh

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