We love wine. And we love drinking it with friends. It’s just a shame that so many wine bars in LA are overpriced, pretentious, and have atmospheres that barely rival most Brentwood orthodontist offices.
Luckily, more places are starting to prove that wine bars can actually be some of the most fun places to hang out in town. Whether you’re meeting a client, a first date, or your old roommate just really wants to drink some chardonnay tonight, these are the LA wine bars you need to know about.
This casual wine bar right on Ventura is the kind of place you walk into and mutter, “Wow, this is really cool,” without even realizing it. The space isn’t big, but with a wrap-around bar, two-seater booths, and a front couch area, there are plenty of places to burrow in for the night and pretend you’re on vacation in the French countryside. If you get hungry, there’s a solid menu full of cheese, charcuterie, and everything else that tastes good while drinking wine.
Kensho is one of those rare places that’s in the heart of all the action, but still feels like a secret. Tucked behind Yamashiro in the Hollywood Hills, this Japanese wine and sake bar has a laid-back patio with unobstructed views of the Hollywood Sign, a rotating menu filled with interesting snacks like mushroom inari and perilla bowls, and when it comes to drinking, expect a bunch of rare sake that was distilled in rural Japan and natural wine that you’ve probably never tried before.
When it comes to a night out on the Eastside, Bar Bandini is never the first place that comes to mind. But this Echo Park wine bar deserves to be in your rotation. Bandini is one of those places that always seems to get the mood right - on weekdays that means regulars drinking natural wine from the tap and complaining about how there’s too much traffic on side streets. Come weekends, things get livelier, but you’ll never have to worry about getting a lemon drop thrown in your face. In fact, it’s beer and wine only - but it’s the furthest thing from a snooze.
Holcomb is the kind of natural wine bar you walk into and immediately wish it existed on your block. With a long wooden bar, leather booths, and plenty of floral wallpaper, it’s nice enough to bring a first date to, but also casual enough for a weeknight wine outing in sweatpants. This Highland Park spot is run by the same people as the equally excellent Bar Covell in Los Feliz, which means you can expect a tremendous wine list, solid bar snacks, and bartenders who’ll happily let you taste-test until you find the right glass. Bonus: There’s a front sidewalk patio that’s entirely dog-friendly.
While we would never recommend taking an actual wine certification course on a first date (too much studying), a night at Angeleno Wine Co. in Chinatown makes learning about grape juice actually fun. It’s the first fully-fledged winery to open in LA since Prohibition, and the owners of the place will happily tell you all about varietals, vineyards, and vintners while you try to figure out if your date has any weird attachments to their ex.
At first glance, Melanie looks and feels like many other good wine bars around town. There’s a well-curated list filled with mostly European biodynamic wines, a cute space that feels like a friends’ living room right as the party is starting to peak, and a menu filled with snacks you want to eat while drinking chilled Beaujolais. But what makes this spot great are the actual people serving you the wine. No question here is a dumb question, even if you’re date asks if orange wine is made from oranges. As far as the food goes, the mussels are a standout. They’re plump, buttery, and come bathed in a rich vadouvan curry. And though it’s not technically on the menu, be sure to ask for a side of their perfectly-crispy shoestring fries. It’ll be the perfect exercise to see how good your date is at letting you eat all of them.
Wife & The Somm is a casual wine bar in Glassell Park that’s much bigger than it appears from the sidewalk. With two different interconnecting patios and a main bar area that’s as outside as it is inside, you have several choices when it comes to seating. If you’re rolling in with a big group though, we recommend the leafy, semi-private back patio. When it comes to the food, expect small plates like charcuterie, seasonal pasta like tagliatelle in yuzu butter, and other things that taste great as you work your way down their excellent wine list, which includes an entire chilled red section.
Let’s be totally clear - you go to Sushi Note because they serve some of the best fish in Los Angeles. But you go back so you can sit at the bar, make friends with the sommelier, and drink from their extensive wine list all night. The servers will happily let you try as many wines as you’d like until you find the one you want, but if you feel like leaving everything in the hands of the somm, they’ll course out a pairing for every piece of fish you eat.
With their sprawling sidewalk patio and menu packed with funky orange wines, Tilda is where you go to impress the person sitting across from you. If you’re not familiar with skin contact wines (although, the fact that you’re out in Echo Park somehow tells us you are), someone from their waitstaff will patiently walk you through their menu of native Portugal varietals and Cara Cara orange spritzes. Grab a tinned fish board or dish filled with the meatiest, most buttery Castelvetrano olives you’ve ever had in your life if you’re hungry.
With a slightly hidden Chinatown location (it’s under the Gold Line tracks) and a dimly-lit interior that feels like you’ve stepped into a New York film noir, Oriel is one of our favorite casual date spots in LA. There is a fantastic French menu (get the bavette steak), and while the wine list isn’t very long, it’s full of interesting and well-priced selections that even your friend who has a wine fridge at home probably hasn’t tried before.
Located in a converted bungalow in Virgil Village, this neighborhood wine bar has everything you like about your apartment (huge windows, cozy atmosphere) and none of the things you don’t (poor wifi connection, unwashed dishes in the sink, nosy neighbors who feel way too comfortable knocking on your door). In addition to the tables on their wraparound patio, their outdoor courtyard is one of the most romantic around - think big, comfy couches, lanterns overhead, and an evening light that’s so flattering, you run the risk of having anyone sitting across from you falling in love. Be sure to keep an eye out on their food line-up, Melody is home to some of the most exciting pop-ups in LA.
Same Same in Silver Lake is just as much a wine bar as it is a Thai restaurant, with an always-rotating list of excellent American and European biodynamic wines. It’s the kind of place you can come by yourself on a quiet Wednesday night, hang at the bar, and sip unfiltered Slovenian wine in peace or roll in on Friday with friends and power through bottles of chilled Gamay like its alkaline water. Another plus is they don’t take reservations, making it a great option if you forgot that it was your turn to plan date night and everywhere else is booked up.
Tabula Rasa is the anti-wine bar wine bar. The industrial space in East Hollywood is calm and cool, there’s probably a live band in the corner, and most people inside are talking about Moby’s free meditation album and not the Malbec they’re currently holding. But they do serve great wine here, along with a solid beer list and a snacks menu that has no business being as delicious as it is.
Many of us know absolutely nothing about wine and have simply perfected the art of pointing at things with confidence. So the notion of a wine bar with over 150 rare bottles generally induces waves of anxiety. But here’s the catch - at Bar Covell, there are no menus. You simply tell the people behind the counter what you’re in the mood for (to the best of your ability) and they choose for you. And they usually get it exactly right. Also, the snacks menu is quite strong, and you and your date should definitely be splitting that charcuterie board.
Do you have a strong opinion on Merlot vs Syrah? Do you know what kind of wine glass will go best with the wine you want to drink? If you’re a serious wine person, you probably already know about Wally’s. If you want to be a serious wine person, you should start going to Wally’s. This Beverly Hills spot is, like most Beverly Hills bars and restaurants, kind of a scene - it’s full of rich people who love wine. Come here to people watch, and don’t leave without getting the carbonara pizzetta.
We all have that friend who’s been around forever. The one you go months without talking to, but as soon as you actually hang with them, you wonder why you don’t see them more often. Marvin is that friend. This French bistro/wine bar in Beverly Grove is a laid-back neighborhood spot that isn’t trendy, and often gets overlooked for the cooler, newer bars in the area. But every time we go back for drinks and end up staying for a great dinner (get the jamon tomate toast), we always ask ourselves why we aren’t here all the time.
Don’t mistake Esters as merely a holding pen for the inevitable wait for a table at Cassia next door - it’s a fun, laid-back wine bar that’s worth checking out on its own. The wine list covers a lot of ground, but they’ll happily direct you towards something you’ll want to drink. It’s also a wine store, so if one of the bottles on the wall strikes your fancy, you can grab it, and pay the retail price plus a corkage add-on (which still ends up being good value for wine bar drinking). The food is mostly snacks that go with wine - charcuterie, cheese, sugar-y lavender almonds that are much tastier than they sound - but there’s enough stuff to make this a casual dinner spot too.
Garçons de Café
Garçons de Café, a little wine shop and bar in Downtown’s Spring Arcade run by three French people, is a place you need to be drinking at. The wine list is completely French, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, order one of the flights, and try different wines organized by region (Burgundy) or type (organic whites). Accessorize with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Berets are optional (but suggested).
Most people inside El Prado don’t even realize it’s a wine bar. Essentially serving as the pre-/post-game watering hole for Echoplex concertgoers, El Prado can certainly get loud at times, but ultimately serves as a cool, mellow spot to grab a quick drink during the workweek. If you want to hang outside, they also have one of the liveliest sidewalk patios in the neighborhood, with several intense games of chess happening at any given time.
We would argue that the best use of wine bars is the after-work drink. You get to feel like an adult because you have a job and drink wine, but that wine is also helping you forget how crappy it is to be an adult. Mignon, in the Historic Core, is well-positioned for Downtown after-work drinks and has $7 glasses of wine from 6-7pm every day. The list is small and mostly European, with a bunch of unusual picks in the mix.
Silver Lake Wine is more of a wine shop than an actual bar, but we don’t care. They know wine and they know how to have a good time drinking it. There is a wine tasting bar off to the side, but it fills up quickly, so expect it to be standing room only most nights. You can come in here and pick up a bottle any day of the week, but the best times to visit are during their stumble-home-with-a-neighbor wine tasting events. Ranging from $15-25 per person (and that includes cheese, hummus, and flatbread), these things fill up fast, so reservations are definitely recommended.
The owners of Venice Beach Wines clearly understand what Venice residents want. It has a tiny covered patio, a cozy-yet-modern interior, and a Happy Hour that runs from 4-6pm, because who around here has an office job anyway? VBW is our go-to spot for a low-key drink in the neighborhood–the wine selection is good (and you can always shop inside too), they know their way around a cheese board, and the whole place makes us wish we were also one of those Venice people without an office job.