Latest Best of LA

Los Angeles’ Best Wine Bars

August 26, 2010 10:46 AM

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(credit: cbs)

(credit: cbs)

As one’s palate progresses in life, appreciation of the pungency of hops and barley tends to lessen, and the goose of a well-aged grape tends to grow. You need not have seen Sideways to understand the allure of fine wine either, or why L.A. is home to dozens of lovely bistros and bars where reds and whites are served with equal aplomb. So if you feel like a little vino would be keen-o, and consider yourself evolved enough to enjoy the finer things, this shortlist will show you the path to a proper carafe or, if you’re on a budget, a balloon glass or two. – Kevin Byrne

verticalwine Los Angeles Best Wine Bars

Vertical Wine Bistro (credit:

Vertical Wine Bistro

70 N. Raymond (upstairs)
Pasadena, CA. 91103
(626) 795-3999
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If someone told me back in 1983 that the same lady who co-produced The Terminator would, in the future, eventually become the founder of Pasadena’s finest wine bar, I’d have thought them as crazy as the cyborg killer of the same film. But sure enough, acclaimed action film mogul Gale Ann Hurd (Armageddon, Aliens) is the gal genius behind this hyper-cool and elegant outpost where the décor is as roomy and chill as what’s racked around the bar. Unlike other bistros, Vertical also allows for frequent “flights” (a trio of wines, served as samples) that are not only affordable (average range: $18 to $35) but also excellent, especially when accompanied by a tasty array of tapas whipped up by executive chef Doug Weston. And if you’re a high roller on a quiet spree, there are also plenty of solid chards and champagnes to enjoy as well, but be prepared to pay dearly.

bacarowine Los Angeles Best Wine Bars

Bacaro LA Wine Bar (credit:

Bacaro LA

2308 S Union Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 748-7205

Given that the founders of this blackboarded bistro are USC grads, it’s easy to see why they’d take such comfort basing themselves in the not-so-obvious West Adams section of L.A. After all, many students and faculty from their alma mater are keen to flock there as opposed to hauling over to Culver City. Boasting a beautiful, backlit ceiling comprised entirely of empty wine bottles and comfortable barn wood table seating, the staff at Bacaro (the name of which, incidentally, is derived from the immortal known as Bacchus, the hedonistic god of wine) is very laid back, and can be seen on occasion giving guidance to novice noses out to sample from its wide-ranging roster. Though Italians do dominate (the Querceto L’aura is outstanding), there’s plenty of French and European flavor, with prices ranging from late $20s to the late $40s (a bottle of Vina Valora from Spain tops things off at $142). And the food (which ranges from fresh crusty baguettes to grilled eggplant pizza and marinated goat cheese) is absolutely to die for.

corkbar Los Angeles Best Wine Bars

Cork Bar (credit:


403 West 12th St.
Los Angeles, CA. 90015
(213) 746-0050
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One of the best things about California from a bon vivant’s perspective is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on a cask of overpriced European vinegar just to get a decent glass of wine. That’s probably why so many folks flock to a relaxed, airy and woody place like Corkbar, which takes great pride in pouring out varietals (no less than 40 on deck) from some of the finest state-based vintners. The only catch is most of the product is seasonally-driven and regionally-focused. Beyond that, only a fool would think of taking a single glass without having it accompanied by some of their utterly succulent small dishes (the pork bruschetta, white bean puree, stuffed figs and ballpark sliders are outstanding). Open daily from 11:30 am, and $2 on a Tuesday will allow you to road test the kitchen staff’s latest and most experimental apps.

salutewine Los Angeles Best Wine Bars

Salute Wine Bar (credit:


2435 Main St.
Santa Monica, CA. 90405
(310) 450-3434
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Just yards from the sandy beaches of Santa Monica, this low-lit, lush and plush lounge caters to both wine buffs and booze hounds, hence it attracts an array of trendies and tipplers eager to enjoy both delicious small plates and a cool drink from a bar that serves both fine wine and alcohol, which is an added bonus for many who aren’t as fond of fruit. An additional architectural bonus: the sliding door patio provides easy access for stargazers. Ladies who like a little bit of sweetness when they sip will love the Layer Cake Zinfandel. The only downside is in the bar’s employment of an electronic dispensary. To wit, an Enomatic (which allows pre-measured mechanical pours) and for sommelier’s in training, this would seem to suggest a form of sacrilege. But hey, you can’t please everyone. Half-price happy hours run from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Mon thru Thurs.

venicewine Los Angeles Best Wine Bars

Venice Beach Wines (credit:

Venice Beach Wines

529 Rose Ave.
Venice, CA. 90291
(310) 606-2529

As surprising as this may sound, owner Oscar Hermosillo’s ramshackle boutique on Rose Avenue started out as a mere convenience: a tiny shop with an amazing array of fine wines readily available and purchase by any sun-blasted types rolling off the Pacific-facing beach in the early evening. Since then, he’s installed a bar and started serving food. As a result, it’s hailed by both Venice regulars and Southern Cali visitors as a slice of heaven with real street cred, especially for anyone who likes to try the vine. ADDED BONUS: No dress code required and anyone in flip-flops can get served … just be sure to leave your decks, wheels and pets parked by the curb. Great sangria poured on Saturday and Sunday.

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