For its stunning weather, proximity to vineyards and bottle variety, it’s hard to top Los Angeles when it comes to enjoying wine. Where else can you drink wine outdoors year-round while never being more than 90 minutes from some of America’s top vineyards? (Assuming L.A. traffic is on your side, of course.)
While there are plenty of impressive wine lists at globally renowned restaurants across the city, there’s something special about a great wine bar. If you look across the vast urban sprawl, there are more than enough destinations worth a visit.
For Sarah Clarke, wine director at three L.A.-based restaurants—République, Manzke and Bicyclette, each known for their impressive wine lists—a successful wine bar is more than a great selection. Bottles should be “curated well based on who you see drinking your wine, not just what your vision is,” Clarke says. She also believes wine lists need to cater to more than one type of customer, especially in a city like L.A., where there are “the kind of the wine bars that serve, not just the general wine public, but somms and restaurant people getting out of work.”
Taylor Grant, who has been behind some of L.A.’s top bar programs over the past decade, including Dama, Scopa and Dudley Market, knows firsthand that having a knowledgeable staff is a top priority. “You really need to have people hands-on who know what they’re talking about, who are knowledgeable,” she says.
It’s a sentiment that Christopher Lucchese, owner of and sommelier of Wife and the Somm, also believes in. “You need a very knowledgeable team who can not only talk about the wines they are offering but also the general world of wine,” he says. A good mixologist can speak about all things booze and cocktails, Lucchese notes. The same should be true about a good wine bartender.
“They need to be knowledgeable, but not pretentious,” Lucchese stresses. “Wine should be fun and exciting. The days of the stodgy sommelier are past.”
Lastly, a great wine bar should have an incredible atmosphere. “Like places in Europe where you can just sit there forever having a glass of wine or two and a couple [of] snacks,” says Clarke.
“Candles are a bonus, as is a killer soundtrack,” Lucchese adds. “I mean, to enjoy good wine, the space should be inviting and relaxed.”
With all that in mind, here are 10 wine bars in L.A. where you can enjoy a plethora of delicious glasses of wine with a fun loving knowledgeable staff and a great atmosphere.
The 10 Best Wine Bars in Los Angeles
Tabula Rasa opened in 2016 in Thai Town/East Hollywood and means “clean slate” in Latin. Owners Nicole Dougherty and Zach Negin focus on natural wine, which they define as a “holistic approach to agricultural practices.” Sometimes that involves official certification, however, many of the producers they work with are either too small to go through the certification process and/or use unique methods. Additionally, the duo makes a strong effort to do business with female winemakers and/or wife-husband teams.
“It is, without question, the wine bar that I recommend to people if they’re asking for a wine bar,” says Clarke. “It’s the kind of wine bar I would run if I was [going to] run one.”
Grant agrees, adding, “I think that’s still at the very top of my list as well. It’s just a really good place where you could saddle up to the bar. You can bring friends. It’s such a cool, intimate vibe at night.” She notes that their wine list is “not so extreme where it’s like all conventional wine or, like, all so natty. It’s nice, kind of in the middle. So it just speaks to different palates.”
Outside of its wines, Tabula Rose also offers a variety of delicious small bites. From the “famous” Cubano to the burrata condimenti with confit tomatoes, seasonal jam and grilled Bub & Grandma’s sourdough, the dishes make for the perfect companion to just about any pour.
With California locations in both Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, Wally’s is something of a legend among L.A.’s longtime wine lovers. The Beverly Hills original, where the space also acts as a wine, spirits, cheese and gourmet food shop, guests can try over 100 wines by the glass, build their own cheese and charcuterie boards and partake in a full menu. Each dish —like bone marrow, grilled octopus, endive salad and more—is meant to pair with Wally’s glorious, if pricey, pours.
The spot is “always a pleasure to go to,” says Lucchese. “Some amazing wines to taste both by the glass and the bottle. The vibe is definitely more upscale and not for everyone, but the wine selections and service are beyond reproach.”
“Esters is great,” says Clarke of the Westside wine bar/bottle shop, which opened in 2015 inside 1937 Art Deco landmark The Telephone Building. The operation, which is across from sister restaurant Cassia, has somehow managed to turn Santa Monica into a destination for wine lovers—not an easy task for neighborhood-centric Angelenos. Offering both indoor and outdoor seating, the space focuses on “planet-friendly” wines from small producers. The wine list offers classics alongside lesser-known offerings, while the food menu is packed with light bites including oysters, grilled cheese and Belgium waffles on weekends. A variety of visiting chefs drop by to keep things interesting.
One of the best times to stop by is for Sunday tastings (12 pm to 9 pm), which allows visitors to sip something new through a thematic flight curated by sommelier Randall Middleton.
Located in the courtyard of Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction, La Pharmacie du Vin sits beside longtime neighborhood favorite Cafe Stella. The cozy wine bar/bottle shop is already a go-to amongst some of the city’s top wine minds, including Helen Johannesen, founder of L.A.’s top wine shops, Helen’s Wines.
On the calendar, visitors will find a variety of tastings that take imbibers on a journey through various wine destinations, from Austria and Italy to Spain and beyond. Specialty food items are also on offer, including cheese, jams, mustards and, of course, freshly baked bread.
This cozy wine bar, located between Los Feliz and Silver Lake, just happens to share the block with some of the Eastside’s most convivial eateries, including Kismet and HomeState. The wine list often looks toward less trodden regions, keeping visitors on their toes. Add in craft beers and light bites and it’s easy to understand why Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner’s stop quickly became a must-visit in one of L.A.’s most fickle neighborhoods.
“One of the original Silver Lake wine [people], Matthew Kaner, helped to expand [Wife and the Somm’s] horizons with a broad worldview of interesting wines and interesting wine regions,” notes Lucchese. “And this is a classic ‘wine bar’ vibe inside. Cozy, comfortable [and] welcoming. And with great employees who always can steer you in the right direction for what you want, or maybe something you didn’t think you wanted.”
Another joint from Dustin Lancaster, this wine bar was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s 50 Best Restaurants in North America in 2022, and for good reason. Augustine somehow manages to get non-Valley-based Angelenos to cross this hill into Sherman Oaks—which, as locals can tell you, is a true feat. That’s because Augustine pours some incredibly old and rare bottlings from the collection of co-owner David Gibbs. Vintage decor, including a 1912 piano, as well as a menu that includes burrata and prosciutto alongside house-made tagliatelle makes repeat trips more than worth the drive over the hill.
“They really started something with their vintage program and we’ve had many, many amazing glasses of rare wine over the years,” says Lucchese. “Always a treat to get over there to see them. And they’ve been ramping up their food game as well.”
Wife and the Somm is another spot on Clarke’s must-try list. Located in quickly up-and-coming Glassell Park, Lucchese’s rotating wine menu features a mix of the classics alongside glasses that will inspire even the best-traveled wine lovers, including a variety of vintage and rare bottlings.
There’s indoor and outdoor seating with plenty of light and greenery to keep the space feeling airy. On the food front, local and seasonal light bites pair perfectly with the wine and include oysters, bone marrow and pork belly.
French for “on the green,” the just-opened Sur La Vert is the latest spot from Tabula Rasa founders Dougherty and Negin. To mix things up, they’re now trading the cool confines of East Hollywood for the ritzier streets of Beverly Hills. Visitors can expect a more upscale menu featuring crudos and charcuterie boards alongside more filling entrees like steak and seared chicken. The wine menu once again features small, family-run producers from across the globe, like bubbles from Denmark and orange wine from Portugal.
“They’re just crushing it,” says Grant. “It’s a really good vibe and they have an outdoor patio…I see that as someplace I’ll be at a lot of times.”
Tinned fish is certainly en vogue these days, and Kippered has taken advantage of the trend by pairing sparkling wines with over 50 different varieties of tinned fish. Add in a passionate staff, who are more than happy to advise you what bottle pairs best with octopus in olive oil, and you have one of the hippest wine bars in L.A.
Run by the same people as DTLA Cheese, a popular local cheese shop, Kippered manages to be both bright and cozy, edgy yet classic. Located in Downtown L.A., just steps from Grand Central Market, there are two daily happy hours, 5 pm to 6 pm and a later 9 pm to 10 pm, which makes stopping by before or after dinner a more than worthwhile endeavor.
The last decade saw Virgil Avenue turn into one of L.A.’s top streets for food and drink, and Melody certainly played a role in the transformation. Opened in 2017 by husband-and-wife team Eric Tucker and Paloma Rabinov, Melody is a funky, indoor-outdoor wine stop that keeps things exciting by hosting a rotating array of pop-ups within the grounds of a converted bungalow.
Melody offers an ever-changing menu of $48 wine bottles, which can feature anything from Slovenian bubbles to chilled Italian Cinsault. “It leans more natural, but I like the vibe there,” notes Grant. Adding that she particularly enjoys the pop-ups from various up-and-coming chefs. Even better, there’s a daily happy hour featuring light bites as well as a revolving list of wines by the glass.
Last Updated: June 6, 2023