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
Vertical Wine Bistro
70 N. Raymond (upstairs)
Pasadena, CA. 91103
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.
2308 S Union Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
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.
Venice Beach Wines
529 Rose Ave.
Venice, CA. 90291
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.