A visit to Augustine is like stopping by your oenophile-buddy’s home to sample some rare vintage wine. Matthew Kaner and Dustin Lancaster (Bar Covell), along with newcomer Dave Gibbs, have carved out a little slice of heaven from a former Brats Brothers along Ventura Boulevard, complete with black truffle cheese plates, $6 tater tots, and some of the rarest vino you'll find in the valley, let alone the entire city. Soak up the jazz humming through the sound system and sink into a worn-in sofa as you get your money’s worth out of the 1964 Chateau Latour Pauillac ($100 a glass) that caught your eye on the chalkboard behind the bar. There's a rotating list of 75 varieties by the glass, including gems like the spicy reserve Vina Olabarri tempranillo from Spain's Rioja region ($16) and an Austrian sparkling rosé ($15). For some guidance, find your nearest bartender. These guys and gals know the menu like the back of their hands and will find exactly what you are looking for—or what you weren’t, which makes it all-too easy to burn a hole in your wallet. Best to let the soft industrial lighting and sexy vino lingo wash over you, and worry about your negative checking account tomorrow.
Good for: Nerding out over a vintage collection that dates back to the 1800s and spans the entire globe. Intimate two-tops and low lighting make this a prime date spot—it doesn’t get more romantic than comparing notes on a $350 bottle of 1959 Coron Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru. Maybe save that one for a special anniversary. If romance isn't on your mind, a few glasses of pink bubbly ($13 Red Car Rosé, perhaps?) make for an epic girls night out.
The scene: You’ll find wine buffs chatting amongst themselves and the owners at the 18-seater Carrera marble-top bar, while less seasoned imbibers and locals commingle around the ruby-red L-shaped window seat on the side. Despite the price tags on some of these bottles, Augustine prides itself on being an approachable wine bar, and it's true—you can still get a glass for $12, $11, even $10. Bartenders are more than happy to steer folks in whatever direction they feel comfortable.
Drink this: You never quite know what you're going to get on any given week, but you can expect to find something that will knock your socks off and maybe even jumpstart your new hobby as a collector. On our visit, the standout red was Espino Carmenere’s 2011 “Gran Cuvee” ($14). I wanted something full-bodied and a little funky, and the bartender delivered exactly that. Meanwhile, my date opted for a buttery chardonnay. The recommended 2013 White Queen from Sonoma County ($13) was spot-on. Augustine's impressive selection of beer on tap is also worth mentioning, from rare suds like the 8-percent Belgian Prior 8 Dubbel from St. Bernardus ($10) to popular brews like San Francisco-based Almanac's IPA ($8). Beer drinkers will surely be satisfied.
Our tip: Follow Augustine's Instagram (@augustinewinebar) for an up-to-date list of vintage wines by the glass. And if you're going to splurge on chef Evan Algorri's food, get the chorizo and chickpea braised octopus ($19).