Calgary’s Best Restaurants for Wine: Barbarella Bar / Major Tom Bar

The wine lists at these downtown Calgary restaurants are constantly changing, offering new and unconventional pairings.

Brad Royale, corporate sommelier for Concorde group, at Barbarella Bar. Photo by Steven Collins.

With Barbarella Bar on the ground level of the Scotia Centre and Major Tom on the 40th floor of Stephen Avenue Place, Concorde Entertainment Group has a duo of hit downtown restaurants. Barbarella courts an Amalfi coastal vibe, while Tom is a swanky steak joint. But when it comes to the wine lists, both are buoyed by the expertise and joie de vivre of Concorde’s corporate sommelier extraordinaire, Brad Royale.

Ultimately Royale’s role is to design lists to provide the perfect little sip with that perfect little bite. “We have a well-trained populus of wine consumers who, thanks to changing tastes … have been drinking better bottles, trying different varietals and educating their palates,” Royale says. “They are much more open to a broader selection of wine now.”

With more than 100 offerings from 12 countries, Tom’s list will change almost every two weeks, while Barbarella’s list focuses on wines from Italy, France and the U.S., and changes approximately once a month. Royale enjoys sourcing from smaller producers — one recent favourite being Mencia from Spanish producer Veronica Ortega — and buying up the entire allotment.

“Diners at Major Tom will say, ‘This is really delicious,’ and ask where to get it,” Royale says. “My response is, ‘See you next week if you want more.’”

Royale has been in the wine business for three decades now, the last three years with Concorde, and is known for his unconventional pairings and his poetically composed wine notes. “There is nothing better than a rich, delicately flavoured wagyu filet paired with a powerful full-bodied white Burgundy,” he says. “Customers shake their heads in disbelief, but when I explain why, and they try it, most will love it.”

Barbarella Bar, 240 8 Ave. S.W.,; Major Tom Bar, 700 2 St. S.W.,

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This article appears in the November 2023 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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