Find out what bottle of wine, John Robarts, operations manager of Bonterra, Cibo, Posto and Scopa, is saving for a special occasion

Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel

“I’m a bartender at heart, I love the bar,” says John Robarts, operations manager of The Creative Restaurants group, the folks behind Bonterra, Cibo, Posto and now the brand new Scopa.

And Robarts has spent almost all his adult life working with bars and restaurants, even during his days studying engineering at University. “I love meeting people, and letting them try something new,” he explains. “And the variety of what you have to do behind a bar, making drinks, keeping organized, multitasking, making one type of drink while greeting other guests and answering the phone – just doing a whole bunch of different things all at once, it’s fun.”

Edmonton born and raised, Robarts moved to Calgary in 2001, following his family who had already moved south. He applied to work at Wildwood but ended up at Bonterra, shortly afterwards taking over as GM. “I committed myself to its success,” he says, “to making sure it was one of Calgary’s favourite places to dine. I’m a firm believer in a handshake; eye contact and a smile go a long way in the world. It creates a sense of trust and makes people feel welcome.”

It was a very close family friend who spelled out to Robarts why he was successful, that when people come to the restaurants, they feel important, and that they matter. “And it’s so true,” he admits. “What he said opened my eyes and put to words the way I felt.”

Expanding their horizons, the group started looking for new space, opening Cibo in 2012. The space next door to Bonterra then became available, so they opened Posto last year, and now Scopa. “We’ve got our eyes on a whole bunch more,” laughs Robarts.

Outside of work life, he’s also the proud father of a soon to be one-year-old daughter, the apple of his family’s eye.

So what special bottle is Robarts saving for a special occasion?

“I’m super lucky to have a small selection of very nice wines in my cellar at home,” he says. “We’ve got wines classified as before midnight and after midnight. Often the wines you drink after midnight, you’re drinking less responsibly, so I knew I had to look at the before midnight selection to pick one. I thought about a nice Super Tuscan, a wine from France, from Spain, but this is the special one.”

In 1997, Wine Spectator awarded this 1994 Vintage Fonseca Port 100 points, as well as their number one wine in the year’s top 100 wines listing.

And when Robarts will open the bottle? As a wedding gift from his longest standing friend, whose father who opened Robarts’ eyes as to why his guests feel special, Robarts says, “With my wife, and probably with my friend who gave it to us as a gift.” Not to celebrate the opening of his next venture? “Ha ha, the opening of a restaurant is a long process, and typically you’re just so busy you just want a beer on those nights!”

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