Adega is redefining wine tasting by thinking outside the bottle.
Sommelier and founder, Thierry Alcantara-Stewart, takes pairing a step further and connects wine with the individual – personalizing the experience by making it more accessible and more enjoyable based on preferences, mood, and style. He’s opening up the world of wine for exploration at Adega Wine Bar in Prince Edward County.
Thierry’s passion for wine is evident in conversation. He’s keen to spark that excitement in others, as well, as creating a loyal following at Adega as a safe space to discover County wines alongside grapes from all over the globe. In doing so, he’s also encouraging wine enthusiasts to branch out and be bold in their selections. Part of that is what makes Adega stand out. It doesn’t have a fixed by-the-glass list, something which Thierry says allows guests to have the freedom to try different wines each time. “It’s all about passionate hospitality, with a cool wine program that doesn’t limit people,” he said.
Adega Takes Root
Thierry is perfectly poised for business leadership with a background in accounting and hospitality management. He unearthed an interest in wine while studying in Toronto, after being encouraged by an instructor to pursue his sommelier certification. “Until that point I hadn’t considered wine as a career,” he said. “The course opened up my ideas and my palette.”
He soon earned his second accreditation with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers program and eagerly took on high-level hospitality positions. But when the pandemic hit, Thierry said he and his husband and business partner, AJ Stewart, were laid off and living in Toronto. They quickly realized they couldn’t afford to stay in the city.
Always dreaming of residing in wine country, they moved to Prince Edward County in 2020, and Thierry got a job working at Karlo Estates. From there, he moved to work at Stanners Vineyard, an artisanal, family-owned and operated winery near Hillier. His time at Stanners provided an incredible chance to learn the craft. He said he was able to experience all aspects of winemaking, harvesting grapes, bottling and even marketing. “It was very eye-opening for me to have the opportunity to be a part of the whole process and understand wine further while being hands-on from farm to bottle,” he said. “It gave me a whole new appreciation.”
Thierry started The County Somm, offering private tours and tastings throughout Prince Edward County. While that was successful, he yearned for a place to call home – where instead of driving around, people could seek him out at a fixed location and he could showcase even more incredible wine. In November 2020 after only being in the area for about six months, they ended up finding more than 1,000 square feet next to The Grist Mill in Consecon. It was formerly the local train station – and it was perfect. “It was a big space and it needed extensive renovations, but we had a vision,” he said.
Fortunately, Thierry hit it off with the owner of The Grist Mill and she graciously offered space for pop-ups while Adega’s new space was in the midst of a makeover. This also helped Adega get established and gain momentum for the opening.
Fast forward to August of 2021 and the doors of Adega Wine Bar were flung wide with Thierry loving every minute. “The bar is my livelihood but it’s also my passion,” he said. “The world of wine is so huge and I enjoy allowing people to explore it.”
Adega, which means “cellar” in Portuguese, now focuses on regional wines and tastings, but considering a clientele that is 80 percent local, Thierry also knows to stock a large selection of wines from further afield. In fact, he said they have about 200 different labels – and anything that’s on the shelf can be enjoyed by the glass.
“The idea behind not having a fixed by-the-glass list is that people can have the freedom to try different wines each time,” he said.
He enjoys personally visiting tables and asking people what they feel like drinking to ensure the experience is suited to each patron. “I want to know what you like, how you’re feeling, what you enjoy – essentially pairing the glass with the person and how they present that day,” he said.
In addition, Thierry prides himself on introducing refreshing new choices to the table, encouraging guests to move past being shy and try new wines. “Perhaps the grapes are ones that people have never heard of, but it provides a different wine experience,” he said.
He notes that one thing people always want above all is to feel welcome and comfortable. Whether it’s through handshakes, hugs, and often remembering faces and even what they previously enjoyed, Thierry is known for cultivating that inclusive atmosphere. “I treat everyone the same – as if they were friends,” he said, noting that he simply wants patrons to drink good wine, with good people, in a welcoming place.
Adega Wine Bar takes that a step further and is Rainbow Registered, ensuring it provides a welcoming and inclusive 2SLGBTQI+ customer and staff experience, as a safe space for the community to gather.
As Adega Wine Bar gears up for a busy season, look for everything from jazz nights to entertaining drag shows, queers + wines night with Rowena Whey and much more. The kitchen at Adega is small and simple, offering fresh local produce in the summer, with tapas-style dishes created by Chef Lucas Mullins and Thierry. It’s a delicious local favourite for mouth-watering fare expertly complementing the robust and carefully-curated wine selection.
Cocktails and sangrias are new offerings this season to tempt guests, with Thirsty Thursdays featuring $10 classic cocktails and $25 pitchers of Sangria. Fridays are also a highlight, with Adega showcasing FricoFridays – $6 per glass of Scarpetta Wine Frico Bianco, Rosato and Rosso, as well as cans of Frizzante and Lambrusco. Finally on Sundays, come hungry as Smash Sundays are on the menu featuring $12 smash burgers, $10 truffle fries and $5 regular fries.