Six Top LA Wine Bars: Where to Wine Like a Pro in Los Angeles

Top LA Wine BarsPeople say that one of the best things about living in LA is that at any given moment, you’re about an hour away from every natural playground you could ever want — the seasonally snowy mountains, the forest, the desert, the beach, and Santa Barbara’s thriving wine country. Yes, we are counting any and all wine growing regions as natural playgrounds. With some of the country’s best wines within reach, including Napa and Sonoma, and easy access to a dizzying portfolio of international wines, it’s no wonder that Los Angeles restaurants are boasting some of the best wine programs in the country.

We’ve rounded up six of the city’s top wine bars in restaurants with programs as progressive and exciting as they are approachable. So whether you’re a newbie who’s never ventured far from Franzia or a hardcore oenophile who’s watched Somm 100 times, there is something here for every palate – and that includes the food.

Smoke.Oil.Salt / Poco Wine Bar
This Iberian gem, housed underneath a tattoo and piercing parlor on LA’s iconic Melrose strip, features one of the city’s most thoughtfully curated Spanish wine lists, thanks to co-owner and wine director Stephen Gelber. With a 130-plus bottles and 30 wines by the glass list showcasing exclusive Spanish gems like Txakoli and Godello, an extensive selection of sherry flights, and wine cocktails, you don’t need a passport to tour Spain’s rich wine regions. Even more boast-worthy is Smoke.Oil.Salt’s use of the Coravin, a tool that extracts wine through the cork without ever having to open the bottle — thereby leaving the wine preserved. This gives Gelber the opportunity to let guests taste rare and prized bottles of wine that most would never be able to experience otherwise.

For a more casual experience, stop by the walk-in only POCO, the newly opened wine bar concept housed next door. POCO gives Gelber a little bit more room to taste and test wines — all at incredible prices. The weekly rotating glass list features a red, a white, and a sparkling from $5-$7, and everything on the small tapas menu is under $10. Everyone wins! Keep an eye out for soon-to-come monthly “wine socials” like women-only wine nights, sommelier-led tasting classes, and themed industry nights. Make a reservation at Smoke.Oil.Salt.

Top LA Wine Bars

Wilde
At Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant, where the wine selection focuses on small production and sustainable wines from all over the world, it’s all about discovery and adventure. “We want to break down the intimidation behind ordering wine. It should be a fun journey,” says owner and wine director Lorna Donohoe. “We’re excited to introduce customers to unusual wines like ancient grapes being revived in Greece or wines grown so high on The Alps only donkeys can be used to access them.” With themed nights like Vino and Vinyl, where guests can bring in their own records to play, Thirsty Thursdays, where guests create their own wine-inspired cocktails at a DIY cocktail bar, and Fried Chicken and Bubbles every Sunday, there is absolutely no shortage of fun, discovery, and adventure. Be sure to check their website for an updated events list as super cool happenings and weekly series are constantly being added. Make a reservation at Wilde.

Top LA Wine Bars

Napa Valley Grille
With a name like Napa Valley Grille, you can look forward to a list featuring the best of California’s famed wine country and a passionately educated staff to expertly guide you through it. In addition to tastings and weekly educational emails to his staff, wine and beverage manager Chris Shannon also created a separate (ahem, leatherbound) wine list for servers with tasting notes highlighting the nose and palate of every wine on the list. The restaurant group also proudly features its own collection of exclusive and reserve wines under the Tavistock Reserve Collection in addition to a curated selection of international wines. “One of my favorite things to do,” says Shannon, “is taste someone on a pinot noir from Burgundy versus a pinot noir from California or taste a guest through the delicate difference between a Napa chardonnay and a Sonoma chardonnay. I feel so lucky to be able to ask people what they want instead of telling them what they want. I think it’s important to be a place that’s educational and accepting of everyone’s tastes.” Consider yourself in good hands. Make a reservation at Napa Valley Grille.

Top LA Wine Bars

Bestia
At downtown acclaimed Italian favorite, wine director Ryan Ibsen admittedly calls the wine list “a complete and chaotic immersion,” but trust us, that’s a good thing. “At any given moment, I can find just as many unexpected great French pairings as I can Italian pairings. Running a progressive wine program means finding the right tone and voice that appeals to everyone.” When Ibsen notices someone excited about the wine list but unsure about what they want, one of his favorite things to do, whether it’s a single diner at the bar or a party of six, is to provide pairings across the meal rather than the traditional bottle service. “It gives the people a chance to see what we’re all about and helps us to create a customized experience.” And despite the wine list’s exquisite range, Ibsen is quick to stress, “The educational tone is always to make the guest feel comfortable rather than holding the wine over their head.” At Bestia, go for the food and stay for the wine. You never know, you just may find yourself in the middle of an unexpected and unforgettable wine tasting! Make a reservation at Bestia.

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Eric Ziebold’s Kinship By The Numbers

You’ll find numbers everywhere you look in restaurants – from the menu and the wine list to the purchase orders and time sheets. We wanted to take a calculated look at the numbers that add up to create the critically acclaimed Eric Ziebold’s Kinship in Washington, D.C.

Chef Ziebold first found success at the lauded-to-the-moon-and-back CityZen, where he earned a Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic from the James Beard Foundation, a Best New Chef award from Food & Wine, and a Chef of the Year award from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. His new venture in the Shaw neighborhood combines graceful elegance, spot-on execution, and dishes that range from elevated takes on simple fare – like roasted chicken – to those that are the definition of decadent indulgence, such as Maine lobster French toast. Here are the numbers behind Ziebold’s winning restaurant. (Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a math whiz for them to make you hungry!).

Eric Ziebold's Kinship

Seats: 75

Tables: 24

Year the building was built: 1904

Kitchen staff: 14

Number of hours a dining room server needs to train before becoming “live” on the floor: 80

Bottles in the wine cellar: 2,000

Largest bottle of wine in the cellar: 12 liters of Diamond Creek

Most expensive bottle of wine sold: $2,300 for a 1989 Chateau Lafite

Pieces of ceramics handmade for the restaurant when it opened: 1,200

Pounds of lobster purchased each week: 165 pounds

Eric Ziebold's Kinship

Chocolate chip cookie dough soufflés ordered last week: 70

Number of orders of the best-selling Maine lobster French toast sold last month: 612Continue Reading

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges: Where to Spend Your Refund

April showers bring May flowers or if you’re really lucky, the month itself brings a big fat tax refund. Since experiences bring more happiness than possessions, a big splurge dinner on the town seems like the perfect way to spend it. Here are some top picks Tax Day 2016 dining splurges to live and eat large if only for one night. please note that the most exclusive wines are available in extremely limited quantities, so it’s best to inquire ahead of time if you have your heart set on a particularly splurge-y selection.

Daniel, New York, New York
Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant on the Upper East Side just off of Central Park is the epitome of contemporary French extravagance. The seven-course tasting menu clocks in at $234 or $459 with wine pairings and includes signature dishes like velvety Minted Pea Soup with chicken mousse and Louisiana crayfish and garlic pennycress and can include courses of langoustines, beef, and quail with foie gras. The wine list has selections such as Chateau D’Yquem 1918 for $10,000 or Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2009 for $15,000. Or if you’re celebrating with similarly flush-with-cash friends, how about a magnum? You can’t go wrong with the Domaine Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru “Cros Parantoux”1995 for $20,000. Make a reservation at Daniel.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

Providence, Los Angeles, California
Chef Michael Cimarusti’s 2-Michelin star paean to fine dining in the heart of Los Angeles features the chef’s menu, a 12-course tasting menu with sustainable seafood from the U.S. and beyond, as well as other delicacies like prized A5 wagyu beef. Decadent touches include ossetra caviar and white truffle and black truffle fondue. It’s $220 or $325 with wine pairings. But if you’re really looking to splash out, begin your evening with a bottle of 1998 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay Champagne for $3,500 and then move on to a bottle of 2012 La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for $4,000. Finish the evening with a bottle to remember in the way of a 1959 Staatsweingut Kloster Eberbach Riesling Auslese for $3,500. Make a reservation at Providence.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

Saison, San Francisco, California
Chef Joshua Skenes and sommelier Mark Bright have crafted one of the most unique high-end dining environments at Saison, with its open floor plan encompassing the dining room, bar, lounge, and kitchen — effectively removing all walls. The goal is to bring diners into the chef’s world, in this case, a minimalist redesign of the California Electric Light Company building. Dishes have vague and poetic names such as Fire in the Sky Beet, Bone Marrow Roasted over Coals and Sea Urchin, Liquid Toast. The prix-fixe Discovery menu is a luxe $398 for about 16 courses with an additional $298 for wine pairings. But if you want to really max out the credit cards (assuming you can pay it off with your return dough), you might consider ordering the Domaine Georges Roumier ‘Bonnes-Mares’ Grand Cru 2009 for $15,408 or ending the experience on a truly sweet note with Château D’Yquem Premiere Cru Supérieur, Sauternes 1942 for $6,888. Make a reservation at Saison.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

StripSteak by Michael Mina, Miami, Florida
Located in the historic Fontainebleau hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami, StripSteak is swank and clubby with its wood tones and rich browns. Start your meal with rare golden osetra caviar service for $295, and then indulge in a beefy entrée like the 50-ounce Australian tomahawk for $150 or the Japanese Miyazaki prefecture A5 striploin for $32 per ounce. Then gild the lily with add-on extras like half a Maine lobster tail or seared foie gras. The restaurant prides itself on having one of the largest pre-embargo Cuban cigar collections in Miami, all dating back to 1962 and earlier with prices generally in the $100-200 range but topping out at $395 for a 6-inch Montecristo. To accompany your stogie, choose a tableside Japanese whisky ceremony or perhaps a glass of 25-year Macallan for $370. Make a reservation at StripSteak by Michael Mina.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

Grace, Chicago, Illinois
This Michelin three-star restaurant is also one of the biggest splurges in Chicago. Elegant and understated, chef Curtis Duffy’s Windy City gem is upscale without being fussy. The menu offers an 8-12 course tasting menu format at $235. The dishes are described in classic minimalist style such as Alaskan King Crab, sudachi, cucumber, lemon mint or Pig Tail, endive, cauliflower, oxalis. Many dishes have Asian accents and the vegetarian “flora” menu is as captivating as the “fauna” menu, which showcases seafood and protein. The wine list features saves and splurges among 1,400 selections. Teetotalers can splurge on bespoke teas that cost upwards of $20 each. Make a reservation at Grace.

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2016 James Beard Award Finalists: Chefs + Restaurants

The picks are in for the final nominees for the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards. Even though not every chef or restaurant listed here will go home with the award, trust us when we say that you will have a sublime dining experience with any of them. We’ll be cheering them all on in Chicago on May 2nd at the awards ceremony; you can purchase a ticket, too, in case you didn’t know. Congratulations to all the 2016 James Beard Award finalists!

James Beard Awards 2016 Finalists

Finalists include:

Best New Restaurant
Death & Taxes, Raleigh, North Carolina
Launderette, Austin, Texas
Shaya, New Orleans, Louisiana
Staplehouse, Atlanta, Georgia
Wildair, New York, New York

Outstanding Restaurant
Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
The Spotted Pig, New York, New York

Outstanding Service
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
Eleven Madison Park, New York, New York
North Pond, Chicago, Illinois
Quince, San Francisco, California
Topolobampo, Chicago, Illinois

Outstanding Wine Program
Canlis, Seattle, Washington
FIG, Charleston, South Carolina
Sepia, Chicago, Illinois

Outstanding Chef
Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina
Suzanne Goin, Lucques, West Hollywood, California
Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans, Louisiana
Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco, California

Rising Star of the Year
Alex Bois, High Street on Market, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grae Nonas, Olamaie, Austin, Texas
Daniela Soto-Innes, Cosme, New York, New York
Alan Sternberg, Cerulean, Indianapolis, Indiana
Edward Sura, Perennial Virant, Chicago, Illinois

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Meg Galus, Boka, Chicago, Illinois
Maura Kilpatrick, Oleana, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Dahlia Narvarez, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California
Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, New York, New York
Jennifer Yee, Lafayette, New York, New YorkContinue Reading