The right lighting, knowledgable bartenders, excellent pours—there's a lot that goes into creating a top-notch wine bar. In L.A., cocktail bars and beer bars are aplenty, but there are also fantastic boîtes offering quality reds, whites and everything in between. Whether you're an aficionado, newbie or just someone looking for a great first date spot, this town has you covered. Winos, check out our top picks of the city’s best wine bars and dig in your heels.
L.A.'s best wine bars
Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner became friends at the retail shop Silverlake Wine, and years later opened Bar Covell. There’s never a quiet night at this Los Feliz den of wines that all have a story to tell through interesting, lesser-known bottles. Kaner and staff are as deft in wine speak as they are in steering the consumer toward a happy pour of wine (or bottle) served in Riedel glasses. Ask for a seat at Bar 1 for prime people watching, and discover a new wine from the ever-changing menu. A limited food menu of wine- and beer–friendly items like cheese and charcuterie help satiate wine geeks and amateur enthusiasts alike.
Dark, sexy and surprisingly unpretentious, Bar Bandini is the neighborhood wine bar Echo Park didn’t know it needed. A curated selection of natural and organic wines and beers is listed on black letter boards, both legible and imposing in scale. Dark painted walls, suede banquettes and black slate surfaces are balanced with rustic exposed wood, conducive to both date nights and catching up with friends. Bandini’s tap offerings are all produced in California—Zin fans might opt for the Field Recordings Fiction, a robust and brambly blend from Paso Robles, while white wine drinkers should go for the Batterieberg C.A.I. Riesling: dry, crisp, ripe and seriously quaffable.
From the successful duo behind Bar Covell comes Augustine, a Sherman Oaks wine bar specializing in some serious vintage varietals. Matthew Kaner and Dustin Lancaster, 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. 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 and an Austrian sparkling rosé. 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.
Marvin is a neighborhood spot, a place where Beverly Boulevard locals come for a hearty plate of rigatoni bolognaise, oysters and a bottle of wine to share. But if you don't live in the area—and you're a true fan of wine—it's also a worthwhile destination for glasses of white, red, rosé and bubbles (drop in on Tuesdays and you'll be privy to Marvin's ham and sherry night). On weekends, brunch dishes come rolling out of the kitchen: fried chicken and waffles, smoked salmon Benedict, huevos rancheros and more.
Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin have created a beautiful restaurant and wine bar with AOC, where just as many people come to sip on unique wines as they do to enjoy dinner. The wine list is dedicated to boutique producers of the unusual and eclectic (think: small production, biodynamic), with a condensed list of 20-some wines by the glass, ranging from $9 to $28. No cute water glasses here—serious winos can appreciate the aromas and flavors in proper wine glasses, better appreciated with Goin's signature seasonal, Cal-Med small plates. Stop in for $6 wine by the glass during nightly happy hour and take in the action from the communal table alongside the well-heeled crowd.
Snuggled directly beside Cassia on Santa Monica’s 7th Street, this wine shop and bar is light, bright and airy, with its impressive inventory visibly stocked to the ceiling on the surrounding shelves. Some 250 wines are for sale by the bottle, and about 20 by the glass in the bar, with France, Italy, Spain and the U.S. all represented through the thoughtful selection of wine director Kathryn Weil Coker. Wine aficionados looking to splurge, schmooze and be seen while they sip will do just fine here, but if you’re on a budget, you’ll likely flinch at the sight of Esters' by-the-glass wine prices. The outdoor patio offers a breezy option for glamorous al fresco imbibing, and don't forget to pair your vino with some of chef Jeremy Fox's fine cheeses and charcuterie.
Prepare to be charmed by Santos Uy’s intimate Parisian-style wine bar turned bistro. Rich, midnight blue walls, pressed tin ceiling and bookended hardbacks alongside framed portraits on shelves set the homey atmosphere, as a friendly staff pour about 30 palate-friendly bottles of small production, natural wines mostly from France, Italy, Germany and Spain. The tiny DTLA space doubles as a retail shop, so if you really like a wine by the glass, take a bottle home or peruse the selection displayed on shelves in the front of the bar. If you're staying for dinner, there’s also a three-course pre-fixe option, as well as small plates, cheese and charcuterie. Stop by for lunch and you'll be privy to Avner Levi's Cento Pasta Bar, a pop-up serving excellent pasta dishes like uni spaghetti.
Sitting rather indiscreetly on a quaint street just off bustling Santa Monica Boulevard, this open, lofty wine bar/retail outfit takes its name after a V-shaped white marble bar that commands the center of the room with an olive tree that holds court in the center of the bar. Booths and comfortable armchairs are tucked away on either side, while hightop tables for parties of four or eight fill the room. Owner “Mikey” Consbruck has curated his list to feature wines from boutique producers he knows personally, weaving each winemaker’s story into every pour. You’ll not only get fruit and floral descriptions, but also short, memorable anecdotes about these small production wines from the staff.
Turn into an alley and climb the wrought iron staircase that leads to this eclectic wine bistro as the sounds of Sinatra drift around you. A domed glass ceiling reminiscent of Paris’ indoor markets marks the entryway of this sleek, elegantly-lit and dark-toned noble house of wine in Pasadena. Old World is the focus here, with French and Italian terroir-driven wines (think: earthy and mineral-y), though equally impressive is a list of New World crowd-pleasers: fruit-forward, lush, opulent wines from California. Ask to try a vertical flight—a tasting of three wines from three consecutive vintages from a single producer—poured in Riedel glasses. Hungry? There are small plates—cheese, charcuterie, sliders and pizza—for snacking and sharing, as well as full dinner options.
Raise a glass to D’Vine, an unstuffy wine sanctuary hidden beneath Downtown’s O Hotel, where imbibers descend into a shadowy den of communal tables and worn-in sofas. Start by cracking open the D’Vine binder, a compendium of all of the 50-plus international varietals and the dozen-or-so grape-based spirits that this cellar can hold. If you get overwhelmed, D'Vine's spirited wine director Joe Ochs (formerly GM of Scratch Bar) or his posse of in-the-know servers are there to lend a hand. And if you get hungry, there are funky cheeses (3 for $12) and adventurous French dishes to share.
On most nights, this intimate Downtown wine bar is hopping with USC sorority girls, grad students and professors, as well as the nearby, after-work crowd. The wine program focuses on Italian wines by the glass and changes as frequently as the attention span of its patrons—the chalkboard wall showcases a constantly rotating menu of eight reds, seven whites, two sparkling and two sweet, replaced after each case. The atmosphere is pure conviviality, and serious wine geeks sit at the long, communal table to make new friends and sniff what’s in their glass. Don’t miss Sunday brunch (11am-3pm), as well as Monday night happy hour (5-7pm) with $5 plates and half-off wines by the glass.
The revitalization of DTLA is alive and well, as evidenced by this wine bar and retail store nestled on an enchanting, neighborhood block. Owner (and wine pro) Lorena Porras worked as a wine distributor for eight years and offers global wines she’s passionate about from small-production, family-owned winemakers. The atmosphere is derived from the friendly, easy-going staff, Porras included, who’ll help you decide on a wine by the glass or a three- to four-glass flight, which rotates monthly. If you really liked a wine you tasted, grab it off the shelf and take it home for more imbibing. Join locals at the intimate bar or patio or drop in for trivia night on Tuesdays at 7:30pm, when the winning team wins $20 toward their bill.
The smoky scent of grilled panini and pizzas fills the interior and tented patio space at Norma Alvarado and Oscar Hermosillo's casual and intimate neighborhood wine bar. There are 20 wines by the glass ranging in different prices, regions and varietals—choose from 100 percent Tempranillo house red to Sexual Chocolate, a rich Zinfandel and Syrah blend with a subtle mocha finish—and a small plates, Mediterranean menu. Venice’s eclectic, artsy crowd convene around communal tables—opt for the table made from an old Oregon stump—for weekday happy hour from 4-6pm when beer is $4, wine by the glass is $7 and bottles are 25 percent off.
Between the top-notch vino and engaging staff, this Magnolia Park gem is just the boîte to awaken your palate. The staff has put together a score of excellent varietals—from a Santa Barbara calm, cool and collected 2010 White Hawk Cordon Syrah to Coto de Hayas' brazenly bold 2011 "Garnacha Centenaria." Guests would be remiss not to sip these alongside small plates off executive chef Wes Pumphrey's carefully curated American-Mediterranean menu: try the lamb meatballs, the charcuterie and cheese boards, and the pistachio biscotti with a side of spiced chocolate for dessert. Take advantage of "studio hour" from 4-6pm when there are half-off specials on selected wines and beers.