Seek out Austin's top wine bars on your next trip to Texas, thanks to Ray Isle, Decanter.com stateside expert and current executive wine editor of Food & Wine.
Off-beat and appealingly priced choices (Carignane from CA up-and-comer Broc Cellars for $48) are balanced with more familiar names (Vieux Telegraphe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape for $68, a steal) at this south Austin tapas-and-wine destination. The food nods to Spain but borrows from everywhere (the not-exactly-Iberian chicken liver mousse is a must-get), the vibe is Austin laid-back-cool, even down to the grace notes on the menu (“Buy the Kitchen a Beer — $1”), and on Sundays and Mondays a selection of bottles are offered at half-price.
Austinwinebelly.com; 519 W Oltorf St., Austin, TX 78704, 512-487-1569
June’s All Day
Master Sommelier June Rodil oversees wine for the entire McGuire Moorman restaurant group, but her eponymous new wine bar on South Congress Avenue, June’s, probably qualifies as the venue closest to her heart. June’s list is basically a frequently changing snapshot of its namesake’s favorite pours—recently choices included Austrian star Roland Moric’s Supernatural Hausmarke white, an unlikely blend of Grüner, Chardonnay, and Riesling and sommelier fave Hervé Souhaut’s fragrant Ardeche Gamay. The menu is a happy hodge-podge of influences; particularly good are the bone marrow Bolognese on house-made tajarin and the crunchy, irresistible fried chicken sandwich.
Junesallday.com; 1722 South Congress, 512-416-1722
Is Bufalina a pizza joint? A wine bar? Ask any wine pro in town and they’ll probably say the latter—at the very least they all tend to congregate at this East Austin destination to drink up the primarily French and Italian selections on the surprisingly deep list. Pizza places don’t tend to offer cult champagnes like Jacques Selosse’s Grand Cru, Blanc de blancs, initial or multiple vintages of Allemand Cornas, but don’t tell that to owner Steven Dilley, who goes right on putting them on his list. Nor does it hurt that Bufalina’s pizzas are fantastic, too.
Bufalinapizza.com; 1519 E Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78702
Lenoir Wine Garden
The backyard “wine garden” at Lenoir doesn’t have the deepest list in Austin by any means—it’s actually quite short, with only two choices each for sparkling, white, rosé and red. But it’s impeccably chosen, changes frequently, and the pleasure of sitting outside on a nice night under the spreading live oaks is inarguable. Order some crunchy cornmeal hush puppies or a few of the daily tacos (goat with roasted tomato salsa, recently), a bottle of Aglianico from California vineyard guru Steve Matthiasson, settle in at one of the long picnic tables, start talking to your neighbor—that’s about as Austin as it gets.
Lenoirrestaurant.com; 1807 South First, Austin
Wink Wine Bar
Whether you consider this petite space a waiting area for the acclaimed restaurant Wink next door, or a no-reservations, stand-alone destination, either way Wink’s casual bar is one of the best places for wine lovers in Austin. One reason: over 50 different by-the-glass selections at all times, ranging from familiar names like Greg La Follette’s sleek North Coast California Chardonnay to esoterica such as a 2013 Vino z Czech Riesling from Moravia ($11 a glass). Conveniently, the restaurant’s regular menu—from small dishes like Hamachi sashimi with breakfast radishes to entrees such as rabbit risotto with kohlrabi greens and shiitakes—is also available in the bar.
Winkrestaurant.com; 1014 North Lamar Blvd. Ste. E, Austin, TX 78703
The Driskill Bar
The Driskill Bar isn’t technically a wine bar, but it is the most storied (and certainly one of the most beautiful) places to get a glass of wine in Austin. Located on the mezzanine floor of the Driskill Hotel downtown—built in 1886 by a cattle baron, who eventually lost ownership of the place in a poker game—the look is elegantly, classically Texas. Think cowhide couches, lots of dark wood, pressed tin ceiling, imposing longhorn steer head above the fireplace, and no lack of customers in cowboy boots. But the key aspect for wine lovers is that if you ask (and if you don’t feel like drinking a Driskill Julep) you can order wine off the more formal Driskill Grill’s extensive list. It leans traditional, with plenty of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and also great choices like Bodegas Muga’s 2005 Prado Enea Gran Reserva for $142 and Andrew Will’s Two Blondes Vineyard red blend for $164. Or bring a group and go big on a magnum of ’01 Chave Hermitage for $850. You’re in Texas, after all.
driskillhotel.com; 604 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701
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