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 also be places where you’d actually want to hang out. Whether you’re meeting a client or 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.
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 you ordering a part-burrata, part-mozzarella cheese that will change you. 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.
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 wine fridge at home probably hasn’t tried before.
Let’s be totally clear - you go to Sushi Note because they serve some of the freshest 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 sommelier, they’ll course out a pairing for every piece of fish you eat.
Located inside a converted bungalow in Virgil Village, Melody has been open since 2017 but is still somewhat of a secret. And that’s exactly why we like it so much. Come here any day of the week and you’ll find a relaxed crowd of mostly locals drinking natural wine, chatting up the bartenders, and snacking on whatever pop-up is on the premises that night. They also have a great side patio that’s ideal for cozying up with a date.
Bacari isn’t so much a wine bar as it is a place people go to drink a lot of wine with their friends. If you’re confused about what the difference is, head to this slightly rowdy patio in Beverly Grove to find out. Tucked behind a row of commercial buildings on 3rd St., drinking at Bacari feels like you’re hanging out in a hidden garden on an estate in the Greek Islands. As far as the wine goes, it’s not the most extensive or unique list in town, but there is a 90-minute open bar for all house red, white, and sparkling wine - plus beer and sangria. Stay safe out there.
At first glance, Same Same looks like most other wine bars. It’s dimly lit, there’s a long row of cushy booths against the wall, and there’s a couple in the corner doing weird human flirtation things. But then you notice there’s also a steaming plate of pad thai sitting in front of them, and you realize things are different here. Same Same’s wine list might not be the most extensive in town, 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. Come on Thursdays when La Morra parks their pizza trailer out back.
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 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 more than they love their trophy wives. 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 underrated 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 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.
There are a lot of things French people do better than Americans, 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 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 work 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 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 $6 glasses of wine from 6-8pm 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.
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.
Pour Haus wins the award for the best Happy Hour of any wine bar in the city. The laid-back spot in the Arts District serves $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, too.