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Los Angeles wine bars: A Decanter guide

Los Angeles has a rising wine scene, from on-the-rise urban wineries to long standing and impressive fine dining wine lists. The last few decades has seen the city's neighbourhoods and their wine bars serve as incubators for fun and approachable wine culture in the City of Angels.

Los Angeles has long been a drinking town, from the heady first days of Hollywood’s fledgling movie industry to the mid-century Rat Pack era of Manhattans and Martinis. Cocktails rather than wine have ruled the scene, despite Los Angeles‘ status as the southern anchor city of America’s largest wine-producing state.

When wine bars started appearing in the early aughts, beverage directors focused on the higher end of the market; recommendations for fun, democratic places to sip and learn or simply relax were, admittedly, according to those in the industry, too few and far between.

Today, the Los Angeles wine landscape has been flipped on its head, with dozens of new spots opening in the last few years tailored to their most important clients: their neighbours. The city must be tackled in sections, thanks to its notorious sprawl and commensurate traffic. Community has become the key driver in successful business models, especially in the era of high rent, inflation and heavy competition.

You cannot conquer LA in a day. Nor should you try.

Here’s a guide to the city’s latest wine spots, spanning a plethora of neighbourhoods.


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Melanie Wine Bar

This dark and moody date spot in Beverly Grove attracts residents from nearby Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and The Grove. An excellent wine list by Stephen Sherry encompasses small producers, overlooked regions and offbeat grapes like Romorantin and Hungarian Hárslevelű, as well as hard-to-find Grenache by Santa Barbara’s A Tribute to Grace. Glasses range from $15-25, with bottles in the $70-120 range. A full-service dinner menu to encourage drinkers to linger enhances the offer, while a wine club and bi-monthly Saturday night tasting class fosters friendship between denizens.

Wife and the Somm

In 2021, Christopher Lucchese and Christy Lindgren Lucchese opened a retail wine shop in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Glassell Park, just northeast of downtown LA. A response to demand from their neighbours wishing for better dining options replete with good wine. The duo expanded the concept into a wine bar and restaurant. Chris works as the wine director, selecting small producers, family wineries and low-intervention wines for a diverse customer base that spreads awareness through word-of-mouth.

The wine list, which ranges from $10 glasses of easygoing fizz to $40 Coravin pours, plus rare vintages by the bottle, changes frequently with the menu and season. At any point in the day, you’ll find Angelenos with their dogs hanging out on the front patio, others relaxing beneath the vines on the sun-dappled back deck, or in-the-know sommeliers sidled up to the zinc-wrapped circular bar inside.

People dining at a table in Los Angeles wine bar Wife and the Somm

Glassell Park’s Wife and the Somm, northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Wife and the Somm

Tabula Rasa Bar & Shop

This popular spot in East Hollywood’s Thai Town opened in 2016 and is owned by Zach Negin and Nicole Dougherty. Though billed as a neighbourhood bar, there is a strong lean towards the natural wine world, and the venue hosts RAW Wine festival afterparties and winemaker events which attract the LA beverage industry crowd.

For an expensive city, daily happy hour offers a superb deal with $9 wines by the glass, helping novices and budget drinkers feel at home amidst a cellar deep with old Burgundy and grower Champagne. One local critic declared the vibe ‘chicly battered’, though you can spin your own interpretation of the bohemian space spanning two outdoor patios and a dark, sultry interior come night. The pair also own a sister retail shop in North Hollywood.

View of wall behind the counter at Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa. Credit: Tabula Rasa

Buvons Natural Wine Bar + Shop

Founded in December 2021 by Alicia Kemper, Buvons focuses on small-production, natural and low-intervention wines served in an elegant yet low-key spot in the Zefaria neighbourhood of Long Beach. Kemper pours mainly French producers from the regions of Champagne, Jura, Burgundy, Loire and Savoie with a small selection of ciders and beers. Buvons attracts a mix of locals as well as wine drinkers willing to trek across town and traffic in search of her rare and allocated bottles. An outdoor garden and patio shared with sister project Mangette lets hungry patrons pair French café fare with crisp mountain whites made from Altesse and Jacquère.

Stanley’s Wet Goods

Since opening in 2017, Stanley’s Wet Goods, a wine bar and bottle shop in Culver City, has become synonymous with the European natural wine scene. John Stanley and Michelle McDermott serve as wine directors, sourcing for the enormous 600 bottle list which patrons can enjoy on-premise for a $25 corkage fee. The modern, airy space transitions from a mellow remote work vibe during the day into a lively spot filled with young professionals at night. Whether seated at the bar, at a communal table or on an outdoor patio, don’t miss Mediterranean-inspired dishes like Turkish eggs or mortadella and provolone served on tender, salty focaccia. If you take your cues from the popular vote, order the beef and ricotta meatballs or a cheese and charcuterie board.

Offhand Wine Bar

Opened in 2022, Offhand Wine Bar stands as the Santa Monica bricks-and-mortar offspring of the music and wine collective Westside Winos. The latter, founded in 2019, began as a group effort between Khalil Kinsey, Justin Leathers and Teron Stevenson to host pop-up wine tastings that quickly grew into collaborations with winemakers and restaurants, bars and hotels. The team’s lighthearted approach to wine education, rooted in inclusion and accessibility, led to opening a laidback bar where they could put their ethos to the test in a permanent space. Pops of orange and photos of vintage cars punctuate the simple, bright space, providing an aesthetic complement to a wine list that draws mainly from West Coast minimalist producers. Music and a sense of community keep the neighbours coming back.

Khalil Kinsey, Teron Stevenson and Justin Leathers

From left: Khalil Kinsey, Teron Stevenson and Justin Leathers of Offhand Wine Bar. Credit: Offhand Wine Bar

Lasita

Part Filipino restaurant, part natural wine bar and 100% fun, Lasita operates in an unexpected location for a buzzy destination spot: a two-storey 1970s Chinatown strip mall called Far East Plaza. Founded in 2021 by wine director Chase Valencia, executive chef Nico de Leon and CFO Steff Valencia, the venue has welcomed guests from destinations as far-flung as Mexico City, France and Spain, thanks to its eclectic wine list, loud music and the juicy, aromatic chicken inasal and luscious lechon that recently earned Lasita a national media nod. Lasita has a very diverse staff and customer base introducing new audiences to wine.

Given the bold flavours, acidity and spices laced through the cuisine, wines tend towards the playful with light, bright and mineral-driven profiles from the likes of Languedoc-Roussillon, Catalunya and Rias Baixas. Dishes are served family style in the dimly lit room, the setting inspired by convivial European gatherings and the rich hues of sunsets over Manila.

Vintage Wine + Eats

From Riesling and Hip Hop to Tarot and Tempranillo nights, Vintage Wine and Eats founders Rebecca Rose Phillips, Joe Barker and Peter Brill remain steadfast in their commitment to making wine fun and approachable. Located in Studio City, the bar entertains everyone from wine nerds who geek out over soil types to neophytes eager to learn. Though not dogmatic about their selections – you won’t find bottles from mass producers – Rebecca Rose Phillips, who serves as the wine director, shoots for thoughtful, intentional wines, many from the nearby bounty of Santa Barbara County producers. Inside, the décor echoes America’s farmhouse chic obsession, with flowers, plants and mint green accents giving it an elegant, cosy touch.

The bar at Vintage Wine + Eats

Vintage Wine + Eats. Credit: Vintage Wine + Eats

Stir Crazy

Opening in May 2023 in the Melrose Arts District, Stir Crazy defies strict definition as either a wine bar or restaurant. Modelling it after the late 19th and early 20th-century European all-day cafes, founders Mackenzie Hoffman, Harley Wertheimer and Macklin Casnoff sought to establish an intimate space of eight tables that encourages lingering through soft lighting, warm woods and materials meant to patina rather than fatigue.

Sundays are for menu inspiration when the team buys produce at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market to complement shareable dishes like crudo, marinated anchovies, cheese, charcuterie and delicious, fresh bread. An expansive wine list of classical and modern selections from small growers and producers runs from $45-$600 a bottle and $13-$18 by the glass. An ethos of sustainable management extends to its staff: Stir Crazy opens only for dinner service Monday through Friday, taking the weekends off. In essence, it’s an evening café for quaffs and nibbles with friends.


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