While Los Angeles isn’t far from a prime grape-growing region, you’ll find the city’s top wine bars are stocked with international selections that come from far beyond Napa and Sonoma. Whether you want to travel through tastes to France, Italy or more far-flung locales, you can get your fix at Southern California’s bevy of wine bars. Here are six we can’t stop pouring out the praises over.
After opening Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Lucques in 1998, the dynamic duo of celebrity chef Suzanne Goin and sommelier/owner Caroline Styne embarked on A.O.C., the area’s pioneering wine bar that first paired an indulgent list of vino by the glass with a menu of market-driven small plates. Make your pilgrimage to their eatery, which features an upbeat atmosphere, a romantic patio and a robust bar, perfect for chatting with mixologist Christiaan Rollich as he pours glasses of sancerre or whips up a Three Sisters (rum, pumpkin, orange, ginger, cinnamon and pepitas). Kitchen standouts range from a delicious selection of European cheeses and charcuterie to innovative plates like squid served with black rice and topped with saffron aioli or soft-shell crab with fried green tomatoes and romesco.
The iconic Westside café and wine bar moved east to open its second location across from the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood’s Design District. It’s in this stylish spot where you’ll be able to decompress in front of a cozy fireplace on a patio accented with twinkling lights, trees and vines. Zinque isn’t all aesthetics though; nibble from a menu of French-inspired fare and carefully selected pours from Bordeaux and other parts of the world. Savor a variety of tartines utilizing bread imported from Poilâne Bakery in Paris, coffee from La Colombe and gourmet sandwiches, flatbreads, cheeses and more.
The team behind this Hollywood wine sanctuary keeps it casual without sacrificing taste, whether you’re craving sips of an obscure bottle from a boutique producer in Tyrnavos, Greece, or curious to find the right pairing for the blue crab bruschetta. Secure a spot on the front patio to watch people stroll by while you nosh on seasonal Italian-influenced small plates. Then, let sommelier Danielle François’ ever-changing wine list take your taste buds on a journey from California to offbeat spots that can range from Alto Adige, Italy, to Kremstal, Austria.
Don’t let the lighthearted lineup of Fluffernutters (smoked almond and roasted peanut butter, marshmallow fluff and bananas on grilled brioche with dark chocolate ganache), duck sloppy Joes and cholo fried rice (carnitas or fried tofu, cilantro, salsa verde, avocado, jalapeño, onion, fried egg) steal the thunder from this avant-garde downtown destination’s wine list. Co-owner and sommelier Coly Den Haan serves up a globe-trekking roster that could include anything from a pošip from Croatia to a bläufrankisch from Slovenia, to an orange pinot gris from the Santa Cruz Mountains — one of the few orange wines you’re likely to find by the glass in L.A.
Journey to L.A.’s hip Los Feliz neighborhood to sip on a rotating selection of 150 varieties handpicked by wine director Matthew Kaner. You won’t necessarily find a list here; simply tell your bartender what you like and he will guide you to the right choice. If you lean toward pinot noir, make sure to try Covell’s privately labeled vintage, sourced from grapes from the Carneros area of the Sonoma Coast. Pair your pour with comforting menu items such as tortilla Espanola and the seasonal flatbread pizzette with eggplant, cauliflower and sour onion.
The Four-Star hotel’s location situates you in the middle of Malibu wine country, where you can easily spend the afternoon tasting local labels throughout the canyon. However, the property’s Tasting Room (which debuted in summer 2014) allows you to experience the best coastal vintages from Malibu Family Wines without ever leaving the perfectly manicured grounds. Order by the glass, sample a four-wine flight or grab a bottle and retreat to the outdoor patio to bask in the California sun. Complement your experience with artisan cheeses, smoked pork rillettes or even an assortment of chocolate. Oenophiles will also delight in the hotel’s Malibu Wine Coast tasting package, which includes two flights at the Tasting Room, overnight accommodations, a bottle from Malibu Family Wines and a passport to exclusive offers at nearby tasting rooms and vineyards.