L.A.’s best wine bars
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 or caraffe, ranging from $12 to $40. 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 $7 wine by the glass during nightly happy hour and take in the action from the communal table alongside the well-heeled crowd.
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, which all have a story to tell. Kaner and staff are as deft in wine speak as they are in steering the consumer toward a happy pour of wine (or bottle) based off a few adjectives—think: "dry," "complex," "soft"—that’ll steer them to the right selection for you. 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. There’s no food menu, but the barkeeps are more than happy to let you order delivery right to the bar; also, keep your eyes peeled for food pop-ups and collabs, such as a Glou Glou BBQ night or a breakfast event with Belle’s Bagels.
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. 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 might flinch at the sight of Esters’ by-the-glass wine prices—and especially at the bottle prices. But the quality isn’t just found in the wine; it’s also in the ambiance. The outdoor patio offers a breezy option for glamorous alfresco imbibing, and don’t forget to pair your vino with fine cheeses and charcuterie.
This Sherman Oaks wine bar specializes in some serious vintage varietals. Bar Covell’s Matthew Kaner and Dustin Lancaster, along with Dave Gibbs, carved out a little slice of heaven from a former Brats Brothers along Ventura Boulevard, now 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 L.A. area. There’s a rotating list of more than 50 varieties by the glass from a collection that occasionally dates back to the 19th century, including gems like Jansz’s Australian 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 $30 glass of 1983 Vichon cabernet sauvignon. Our tip? Always look to the “rare and vintage wines” chalkboard menu first.
Marvin is a neighborhood spot, a place where Beverly Boulevard locals come for a hearty plate of rigatoni bolognese, 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, especially during its killer weekday happy hour. With around 120 bottles available—and that’s not including the impressive selection of sherry—it can almost feel overwhelming, but don’t worry; the staff is always good for a recommendation or four. Rolling nine deep or more? Book the family-style prix-fixe special at $55 per person and pick and choose from pomodoro pastas, steak tartare, roast chicken and more. This is absolutely the spot to bring your friends.
Oriel is a must-visit for lovers of French wine and stylish places to perch. Follow the glow of soft pink neon to this cozy, comfortable wine bar that’s as dotted with plants as it is solo imbibers, families and trendy denizens on dates. Tucked away from the neighborhood’s main drags, this spot’s almost hidden beneath the Chinatown Metro stop but manages to whisk you away to France with roughly 20 wines by the glass. The petite spot keeps a French focus not only on its vino, but its food: French onion soup, roasted bone marrow, escargots and gnocchi à la Parisienne all round out the menu of Paris-comfort classics.
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 15 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 looking for a bite, there are reasonably priced small plates, cheese and charcuterie.
Atwater’s wine-bar charmer comes—surprise, surprise—from Matthew Kaner, the city’s go-to wine guy. Here, he’s built an unpretentious neighborhood spot perfect for snagging a seat at the bar or a booth and disappearing with a vintage pour—and we do mean vintage. In addition to modern, domestic labels from California, New York and Oregon, and more than a sprinkling from the world over (primarily Italy, France and Spain), you can find splurge-worthy options such as the 1955 António Bernardino Paulo da Silva Reserva from Portugal, and the 1970 Château Calon-Sègur Saint-Estèphe from France.
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.
This breezy, “lazy French” wine bar not only offers some of the city’s funkiest, most fun pours—it’s also got the best spot to sip them. This repurposed Craftsman home in Virgil Village is now a breezy wine bar and café that pumps vinyl playlists and laid-back vibes onto one of L.A.’s best patios (though inside is just as charming). Small-producer and organic wines are the name of the game here, and you’re just as likely to catch vintner talks and appearances as you are killer DJ sets. Hungry? Shareables such as daily oysters, roasted mushrooms and an addictive smoked brandade dip are all calling your name.
On most nights, this intimate Downtown wine bar near USC is hopping with 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 reds, whites, sparkling and 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 Saturday and Sunday brunch (10:30am–2:30pm) with its $20 bottomless mimosas and bellinis, and definitely don’t miss Bacaro L.A.’s 90-minute open bar, available any time, when select wine and beer pours are unlimited for only $20.
Turn into an alley and climb the wrought iron staircase that leads to this eclectic wine bistro as the sounds of Sinatra drift past 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, though equally impressive is a list of New World crowd-pleasers: fruit-forward, lush, opulent wines from California. Ask to try a flight—a tasting of three wines from three consecutive vintages from a single producer. Hungry? There are small plates—cheese, charcuterie, calamari and pizza—for snacking and sharing, as well as full dinner options.
Last-minute birthday gifts, hostess presents, “I’m-sorry-I-forgot-our-anniversary” peace offerings—you can find all of these at Héritage Fine Wines in Beverly Hills, a veritable catalog of fine French wine, from Champagne to Provence to the Rhône Valley. The shop holds wine tastings, offers a wine club for those who need bottles on the reg, and sells gourmet cheeses, bread and other food to accompany their pours. This is Beverly Hills’ one-stop shop, and is even home to the occasional John Legend wine pop-up and performance.
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 of 20 to 30 by the glass—all between $8 and $30, and all available in the retail shop—and guests would be remiss not to sip these alongside small plates off the carefully curated American-Mediterranean menu. Try the charcuterie and cheese boards, the polenta cakes with manchego, and the melty capicola grilled cheese sandwich. Take advantage of group tasting events, and if you’re a Burbank resident, show them your ID for locals’ discounts.
Planted firmly but quietly in the Spring Arcade Building, Garçons de Café is a Francophile haven—and an oft overlooked one. This cozy and classique wine bar gives off strong bistro vibes with tables for two, a long marble bar, and tile inlay on that industrial-chic concrete floor. But the undeniable star is the wines, often organic, and hailing from Loire, Rhône, Bordeaux and even Roussillon, to name but a few. With more than 60 options—some as inexpensive as $8 by the glass—you’ll be there awhile. Bettet settle in and order one of their impressive charcuterie boards.
This wine bar and retail store’s nestled on an enchanting, neighborhood block where owner and wine pro Lorena Porras worked as a wine distributor for eight years. Now, she offers global wines she’s passionate about from small-production, family-owned winemakers. The atmosphere is derived from the friendly, easy-going staff who’ll help you decide on a wine by the glass, bottle or flight, with varietals rotatating monthly at minimum. 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 this wine bar’s monthly trivia night, “Wine School’ed.”
Old World wines get all the shine, and while there’s good reason for it, our own coast is often sadly neglected in the process. Enter LA WINE, a charming, minimalist wine bar in the heart of Chinatown’s Blossom Plaza. Brought to us by David DeLuca—he of Ham & Eggs Tavern fame—this spot serves a seasonal menu of exclusively California wines at affordable prices, with a small selection of snacks and beers, to boot. Taste something you love? Bring a bottle home for $10 off the listed cost. Stop by during happy hour for fun specials, such as the Miller High Life and shot-of-sherry boilermaker combo, and don’t neglect that patio, either.
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 about 20 wines by the glass, ranging in prices, regions and varietals, as well as small plates, entrées and lunch specials on the Mediterranean-leaning food 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 3 to 6pm, tastings and monthly wine-club selections.