Calgary’s Best Restaurants for Wine: River Café

River Café features wines from areas like Washington, California and B.C. to complement its Pacific Northwest cuisine.

Sommelier Bruce Soley on the patio at River Café in Prince’s Island Park. Photo by Steve Collins.

Calgary’s much-loved River Café has been championing local producers since it opened in 1995, long before “local” was even a movement. As cellar manager and sommelier Bruce Soley tells it, the restaurant has been buying Canadian wines, like B.C.’s Blue Mountain, since day one. “Because our cuisine focuses on the Pacific Northwest, it made sense to showcase wines from Washington, Oregon, California and, of course, B.C.,” Solely says. “They pair well with our food.”

Photo by Steve Collins.

During his 24 years at River Café, Solely has committed to having depth and variety of wines, maintaining consistently attractive markups and never buying anything that doesn’t sell. With the wine, as with the food, understanding the local market and where clients’ comfort level lies is key. “We have not leaned into the wine of the day,” says Soley. “During the whole malbec trend seven years ago, we only carried two.”

Ultimately, the wines at River Café add to the somewhat surreal experience of stepping into another world, one that is removed from the city, while, at the same time, right in the middle of the city. Says owner Sal Howell: “What’s on the menu, and what we pour in a glass, all fits into the bigger picture of what it feels like to be here.”

Prince’s Island Park, 403-261-7670,

Photo by Steve Collins.

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

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