We love wine. Who doesn’t? But the idea of a bunch of people getting together and paying to drink it in a public place that’s not a restaurant is about as excruciating as it gets. Most wine bars are overpriced, aggressively pretentious, and have atmospheres that barely rival most Brentwood orthodontist offices. But to think there aren’t any LA wine bars worth your time is also completely false. Whether you’re meeting a client or a first date or your old roommate just really wants to drink some chardonnay tonight, you need to be ready with spots that aren’t going to make you want to give up fermented grapes forever.
At first glance, Same Same looks like another dime-a-dozen wine bar. It’s dimly lit, there’s a long row of cushy booths against the wall, and there’s a couple in the corner giggling and doing weird human flirtation things. But then you notice there’s a steaming plate of pad thai sitting in front of them, and you realize things are different here. Thai food and wine? Get into it. Same Same’s wine list might not be the most extensive, but it’s all selected to pair perfectly with the fantastic (and very spicy) Thai food coming out of the kitchen. The khao soi is a must-order.
Tabula Rasa is the anti-wine bar wine bar. The industrial space in East Hollywood is calm and cool, there’s 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. We’d come here for the Cuban sandwich alone.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, most 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 types of rare wines should generally induce 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 tonight (to the best of your ability) and they choose for you. And they usually get it exactly right. Also, the snacks menu has gotten quite strong as of late, and you and your date should definitely be splitting that charcuterie board.
Don’t mistake Ester’s as just a holding pen for the inevitable wait for a table at Cassia next door - it’s a fun and not even a little bit stuffy 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 too, so if one of the bottles on the walls strikes your fancy, you can grab one of those, pay retail plus a corkage add on (which still ends up being good value). The food is mostly snacky things 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.
There are a lot of things French people do better than us, and one of them is wine. So Garçons de Café, a little wine shop and bar in the Spring Arcade run by three French people, is going to be an excellent choice of wine bar. 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, and berets are optional (but suggested).
Anyone who ever tells you all wine bars are total snooze fests should be pointed to Bacari PDR. This bright and airy wine bar right by the beach in Playa Del Rey might not have the most thought-provoking stock of Australian sauvignons in town, but they do have a 90-minute open bar on the weekends where all house wines, sangria, and champagne are free reign for $25 per person. And you know what? Sometimes that’s the kind of party you need in life. Bacari is fun and unpretentious with the kind of drink specials to get any night started off right. See you there.
Most people in El Prado don’t even realize it’s a wine bar. Essentially serving as the pre-game/post-game drinking hole for Echoplex concertgoers, El Prado can certainly get rowdy at times on the weekends, but ultimately serves as a cool, mellow spot to grab a quick drink during most of the week. They also have a decent beer list and bar snacks (read: hummus) for when you need some nutrients.
We would argue that the best use of wine bars is the after-work drink. You get to feel like an adult because you both have a job and drink wine, but that wine is also helping you forget how crappy it is to be an adult sometimes. Mignon, in the Historic Core, is well-positioned for downtown after-work drinks and has $6 glasses of wine from 6 until 8pm every day. The list is small and mostly European, with a bunch of unusual picks in the mix. Get here at lunchtime from Wednesday to Saturday for some of the best pasta in town from Cento Pasta Bar.
Silverlake Wine2395 Glendale Boulevard
Silverlake Wines is more of a wine shop than an actual bar, but we don’t care. These people 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 power move is to come in on a Monday, Thursday, or Sunday for 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.
Of course there’s a wine bar in Venice. And of course it has a cute covered patio on Rose. And of course their happy hour is from 4 to 6pm, because who around here has an office job anyway? Having said all of that, 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 one of those Venice people without an office job.
Pour Haus wins the award for having the best happy hour of any wine bar in the city. The laidback spot in the Arts District is serving $5 red, white, and sparkling options from 4-7pm every day of the week, and also a handful of excellent snacks at the same price. Definitely get involved with those oxtail tacos. Also, Tuesday night trivia can get aggressively competitive.