Austin City Guide: Your Guide to Great Wine Bars

Austin City GuideThere are tons of places in Austin to get a great glass of wine. The city is bursting with excellent wine lists at restaurants and bars, and we are fortunate to have many bars focused primarily on wine. Here are some of the top wine bars in Austin.

Downtown

Coal Vines, 314 West 2nd Street

After a hard day of shopping in the Second Street District, Coal Vines is an excellent place to cool your heels. What could be better than people watching on the chill outdoor patio with a glass of vino or three? Coal Vines offers 20 wines by the glass and an unpretentious selection of bottles from big Californian and Australian producers.  It is open for brunch and has delightful pizzas to recharge your engines for more shopping.

Cork & Company , 308 Congress Ave

This long, narrow wine bar has a classic, cozy warm feel with a broad selection of wine. Cork & Company carries the usual suspects like California and France, but also a good mix of wines from South America, Italy, Spain and New Zealand. The menu offers 40 different wines that we serve by the glass: 13 red, 17 white, six sparkling and four dessert wines. If you can’t find your perfect wine by the glass, they offer more than 300 wines by the bottle.

In addition to wine Cork & Company has a solid list of Texas craft beers and an assortment of delightful snacks. They offer cheese, charcuterie and antipasto plates, paninis and carry Austin Cakeballs.

“Our focus at Cork is to be a neighborhood wine bar with a friendly atmosphere where we know our patrons and where anybody can come in and find a wine they love, whether they are drinking wine for the first time or have the best cellar in Austin,” says Carlo Bligh.

Crú,  238 W. 2nd St.

Cru Wine Bar has a couple locations in Austin; one downtown and one in the Domain shopping center. It offers 300 wines from around the world with a focus on American, Italian, Spanish and France. Cru servces 13 flights of three wines grouped by varietal, style or region, including five white wine flights, one sparkling/Champagne flight and seven red wine flights. It also has 39 wines by the glass and an additional 10 to 15 dessert wines also available as well as a small selection beers.

Cru offers a menu of what they call on “Wine Country” fare with an emphasis on appetizers and small plates, but also seafood, cheese plates, larger entrees and desserts.

Max’s Wine Dive,  207 San Jacinto

$$$ American, Wine Bar

Max’s is the kind of place where the wait staff wears t-shirts that read, “Fried Chicken and Champagne? Why the Hell not?” Max’s is the kind of place that serves down-home food like Gator Beignets and Shrimp & Grits.  Max’s is the kind of place that doesn’t serve flights of wine, because who really just wants a small taste of wine when you can have a whole glass?

This Houston-based chain has a respectable selection of wine with three sparkling wines, two rosé, about a dozen reds and a dozen whites available by the glass. They carry anywhere from 140 to 170 wines by the bottle at prices ranging from $12 to $500. All wines are available to take home at retail prices. If you’re not a wine drinker, they also carry about a dozen kinds of beer.

The service is prompt and attentive. I like Max’s willingness to open any bottle to pour a glass as long as the table is willing to order at least two glasses from the bottle.  Good wine, good service, casual attitude.

 

Mulberry,  360 Nueces St

The sidewalk café in front of Mulberry is always packed with smiles and laughs. The sleek bar seems to burst at the seams spilling people into the fresh air. Mulberry has a nice mix of new world and old world selections with more than 20 red, white, rose and sparkling wines by the glass. They also carry more than 100 wines by the bottle. What keeps my grin beaming is the lineup of desert wines including a Port, Sherry and Sauternes. Yum!

The bistro menu is kick-ass with meat and cheese plates, sandwiches and hearty entrees. Mulberry is a delightful urban oasis.

 

Bill Elsey The Red Room LoungeRed Room Wine Lounge, 301 E. 3rd St Suite A

If you don’t know what you are looking for, you might miss it. The Red Room Lounge is unobtrusively tucked to a quiet spot below street level, just down the block from the Convention Center and two doors west of the Vince Young Steakhouse. It doesn’t have a sign out front, so you better know the address.

Despite its anonymity, the Red Room is typically packed on any given night and the city’s best sommeliers treat it like their personal living room. One reason the wine crowd is drawn to The Red Room Lounge is because its owner, Alex Andrawes, has created a chill, speakeasy-like atmosphere for people to enjoy a few glasses of great wine. The red velvet draped entrance gives it an elegant, hushed feel. There are nicely arranged conversation areas and dark nooks for lovers to steal a kiss or two.

Another reason is this is a place where both wine experts and novices can learn something new. Not only is Andrawes  a wine expert, but Texas’ Best Sommelier 2011 and Advanced Sommelier, Bill Elsey, is behind the bar bringing incredible wine knowledge and a deft touch for sharing that insight without making people feel stupid.

The Red Room Lounge has some pretty amazing wine in the cellar with a stock of 2,000-2,500 bottles spread over 400-450 private labels and boutique wines. Rare and collectable wine like Screaming Eagle, 1982 Chateau Haut Brion, 1955 Taylor’s Vintage Port and 1989 magnums of Petrus share the spotlight with lesser known and hard to find wines from Bordeaux and California. “I am always happy to discuss the higher end cellar wines with our clientele and help them find that rare gem to enjoy for the night,” says Elsey.

There is something to meet every wine lover’s desire with bottle prices ranging from $35-$5000. The Red Room offers 10-12 wines by the glass and selection changes every 3-5 weeks, so people can try new and exciting wines regularly.

While the wine selection is large, that’s all you can expect. They don’t serve beer, cocktails or anything else. They don’t prepare food on premise, but have service agreements with restaurants within a two block radius that will bring you cheese plates, hors d’oeuvres and light eats. The Red Room hosts private parties and arranges for catering.

Uncorked Wine Bar,  900 E 7th St

Just off the beaten path perched on a hill overlooking I35, Uncorked feels like a world away from downtown Austin. The renovated old house has comfy rooms in which to lounge about and a gracious back deck to enjoy the breeze and live music. Uncorked has a seasonally rotating menu of wines from around the world. The list is dominated by French, Italian and Spanish wines, but also has wines from lesser-known wine countries like Lebanon and Uruguay.

The knowledgeable staff, lead by owner and Certified Wine Professional, Ron Wright, is quick with astute recommendations and pairing suggestions for just the right wine to go with your delicious dinner. Whether you choose a flight of wine, wine by the glass or by the bottle, the well selected list has a broad enough range to satisfy almost any palate.

Wink, 1014 North Lamar, Ste. E

Hidden behind the venerable restaurant and accessible through a separate entrance, Wink has a lovely little wine bar. The extensive wine list features more than 45 wines by the glass and even more by the bottle. The sommeliers put together a stellar line up of predominantly old world wines with great choices from France, Italy, Spain and Germany and many wines from the U.S. as well.

Wink Wine Bar has its own delightful bar menu with mac & cheese with black truffles and steamed mussels to curb your appetite. You can also order from the full restaurant menu and nosh on it in the casual wine den. Love it.

North Austin

Apothecary Cafe & Wine Bar,  4800 Burnet Rd Ste 450

This Allandale  café is a lovely place for a cup of coffee and desert or for a glass of wine. It features a long list of European and U.S. wines by the glass or by the bottle.

Vino Vino,  4119 Guadalupe St

This Hyde Park mainstay draws wine lovers and foodies with its fantastic and ever changing menu. Owner, Jeff Courington, stacks the wine list with gems from Oregon, Argentina and the left-field old world wines from places like Greece and Lebanon. The meat of the wine program is made up of exquisite French, Italian and Spanish wines. Vino Vino pours around 20 to 25 wines by the glass on any given day, a handful of sparklers and an even few sweet wines. The bottle selection is always changing with 100 to 150 labels elegantly displayed on the walls. The staff knows their stuff. Not only do they have two Certified Sommeliers on the team, but the whole crew is dedicated to helping customers pick the perfect wine for the evening.

Vino Vino also has an excellent cocktail menu with a full bar and seasonal specialty cocktails. If you are adventurous, ask the bartender for something unique and they will take you on a whole journey to find your perfect cocktail. Let them treat your senses by rubbing various bitters in their palms to smell all the intricacies, tasting each ingredient of a cocktail individually before they come up with the perfect blend. Vino Vino also has four local craft beers on tap.

It offers full dinner menu and late-night snacks with tasty dishes like steak and frites made with wagyu beef from Strube Ranch and slider and fries.  Vino Vino also has salads, several cheese plates and desserts. If you don’t want to mess around with so-so wines and passable food, head to Vino Vino where everything is top notch.

South Austin

Henri's Wine and CheeseAviary, 2110 South Lamar

This is one hell of a unique place. It’s a home furnishings shop with  a lovely little wine lounge tucked in for good measure. Aviary has a small lineup of carefully chosen Italian red and white wines, sparkling wines and beer. It also has charcuterie plates to nosh on.

Henri’s Cheese and Wine , 2026 S Lamar Blvd

What is a cheese shop doing masquerading as a wine bar? How can you go wrong with opening a bottle of delicious French wine with an expertly chosen artisanal cheese? Henri’s is open for lunch and dinner and sells wine by the bottle and glass. It also sells wine and cheese at retail all day. It’s a fantastic south Austin spot.

House WineHouse Wine , 408 Josephine St

House Wine is in a little house tucked away just south of Lady Bird Lake a block west of S. Lamar on Josephine St. They are definitely going for the South Austin vibe – casual, cozy and a little sloppy. The space is intimate (small) and eclectic (mismatched décor).  It has a lovely front porch and outdoor lounge. Love.

Table service isn’t a priority here, so belly up to the bar to look through the menu of about 25 whites and 30 reds by the glass and by the bottle. The prices are pretty damn reasonable ranging from $7 to $11 and bottles in the $20s and $30s. They also offer flights for three half-glasses for $15. A bargain.  If you go at happy hour, you’ll be rewarded with a discount of two bucks a glass.

House Wine offers a decent selection of nibbles like cheese plates and Mediterranean plates with smoked salmon served in a gorgeous wooden bowl.  You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with a selection of deserts.

If you are looking for a very relaxed, inexpensive wine bar with a decent selection, try House Wine. If you want knowledgeable wine guidance and service in an elegant setting, you may be disappointed here.

Opa Wine BarOpa! Coffee & Wine Bar  

This south Austin Greek restaurant and wine bar has ample seating outdoors under the spread of ancient oak trees and casual couches and chairs inside the rooms of the renovated house. Live music sets the mood for easy conversations. Opa has a full bar, several beers and dozens of wines by the glass in the $7 to $10 range. The wine list has a wide variety of unassuming old and new world wines

Water2Wine, 4036 South Lamar Boulevard

Water 2 Wine is an actual operating winery that offers wine by the glass, by the bottle, or by the batch (approximately 28-30 bottles per batch).  All of its wines are fermented on premises from the grape juice of about 90 different wines from 13 different countries. Water 2 wine has red, white and dessert wines, but no sparkling wines. There are three different locations for Water 2 Wine with the other two at 3300 W. Anderson Lane and 2000 S. I-H 35 in Round Rock.

West Austin

360 Uno Trattoria & Wine Bar,  3801 N Capital Of Texas Hwy

This West Lake Hills eatery has award winning wine list of 375 different wines from around the world with a focus on Italian and us wines. 360 Uno serves 50 wines by the glass to go with a full Italian menu.

Eleven Plates & Wine,  Bar 3801 N Capital Of Texas Hwy Ste C200

Also in West Lake Hills, Eleven Plates has an outstanding wine list. Owner Mike Swartz and partner Randy Laboy, both Certified Sommeliers, have selected 50 diverse wines – including some from Texas – to serve by the glass. It also has an extensive list of wines by the bottle with both affordable and high end options. Eleven Plates has a full menu for lunch and dinner.

The Grove,  6317 Bee Caves Rd

Some of my sommelier study buddies frequent The Grove for its solid list of excellent wines and knowledgeable staff. It serves wines three sparkling, 16 whites, 25 reds, and five dessert wines by the glass an additional 150 by the bottle from all over the world. The Grove has an extensive menu of pizzas, pastas and entrees.

Riviera Bistro , 12801 Shops Parkway, Suite 200 (in The Shops at the Galleria)

The wine bar in Riviera Bistro offers 17 wines by the glass in a continually evolving menu. It is primarily focused on Italian wines, but has a nice selection of French wines as well.

No matter what part of Austin you are in, you are never too far from a wine bar.

What are you drinking?

 

 

 

Published by

Matt McGinnis

As a marketing strategist for Pen & Tell Us, Matt McGinnis provides marketing, branding and communications counsel to food and beverage as well as other clients globally. He is also an avid beverage enthusiast, chronicling his interests as a Food & Drink contributing writer for CultureMap, as the Food & Drink columnist for Austin Man Magazine, and as a blogger for What Are You Drinking?. He is passionate about the wine industry having previously worked at a winery in Oregon and in wine sales. He has served as Guest Host of Sommelier Cinema at the Alamo Drafthouse, and is a Certified Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. His writing has been recognized as a Top 10 Food Blog by the Austin Chronicle in 2013 and 2014, with a 2011 Texas Social Media Award from the Austin American-Statesman.

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