Where to Explore Next: Wine bars

St. Louis’ wine hotspots and sipping selections are better than ever, but you don’t have to book a table at a cutting-edge restaurant to enjoy a pour of unique or renowned vino. Belly up to these local wine bars to give your glass a swirl and your palate a whirl.

33 Wine Shop & Bar
1913 Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.231.9463, 33wine.com

Tucked away in Lafayette Square, the inconspicuous 33 boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in the city. With more than 600 bottles priced from the tens to the hundreds, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a fresh or favorite pick. Charcuterie and cheese loom largest on the food menu, but owner James Smallwood brings in a local chef once a month for the highly popular Dorm Room Dinner, a five-course menu prepared in 33’s stripped-down kitchen.

Drink this: 2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard Clos de Gilroy 

1634 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.1088, oliostl.com

Olio’s metamorphosis from a run-down oil change station to a wine bar mecca made it a trendsetter from the day the doors opened. Some of the city’s most distinctive selections are found on this wine list, curated by certified advanced sommelier Andrey Ivanov. Looking to step out of your comfort zone? Try the monthly wine flight, which arrays three wines by geography or grape for $15.

Drink this: 2012 Copain Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir

1772 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield, 636.449.6700, balabanswine.com

Open more than 40 years, Balaban’s is one of those social landmarks everyone has a story about. Half wine bar and restaurant, half bottle shop, aromas of classic French bistro fare beg you to stay for dinner while you peruse the wine racks. The restaurant even allows you to pick any bottle from the shelves to enjoy in-house – particularly ideal for those seeking rare library wines.

Drink this: 2010 Ruffino Tenuta Santedame Chianti Classico

4659 Maryland Ave., St. Louis, 314.361.9444, cometobrennans.net
Brennan’s may be one of the most inimitable wine bars in St. Louis, from the main floor Bottle Shop & Bar for sipping and purchasing to the entertainment stage in the basement. Upstairs, you’ll find a speakeasy-like space, perfect for private events, and a members-only cigar lounge that spins vinyl records. The building’s historic feel and relaxed vibe is perfect for beginning an evening – or finishing with a nightcap.

Drink this: Mouton Noir Horseshoes & Handgrenades

The Dark Room Wine Bar and Photo Gallery
615 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.531.3416, thedarkroomstl.com

The Dark Room is a new kid on the block where each experience is different, thanks to the ever-changing wine list and rotating artwork on the wall. On Wednesday nights, a jazz trio is added to the mix and wine flight specials flow aplenty. A small plates menu will tickle your fancy, too, as you taste your way through a veritable photo album’s worth of wine.

Drink this: 2013 Hamacher Pinot Noir Rose


Cork Wine Bar
423 S. Florissant Road, Ferguson, 314.521.9463, corkwinebarstl.com

When many wine bars are going for the dim-lit look, it’s refreshing to walk into a vibrant atmosphere to enjoy a few sips with friends. With an extensive yet approachable roster of wines, Cork beckons you in and keeps you there. Wine flights are creative and agreeably priced. Combine that with live music every Friday and Saturday and cozy, intimate environs – what more could you ask for?

Drink this: 2012 Steele Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel

Remy’s Kitchen and Wine Bar
222 S. Bemiston Ave., Clayton, 314.726.5757, remyskitchen.com

It’s no secret that Remy’s, whose owner Lisa Slay has accrued nearly 40 years in the business, is a major player in the local wine scene. Not content with a mere happy hour, Remy’s hosts Ecstatic Hour Monday to Friday, when foods and wines are priced less than $5. And don’t miss the monthly Tuesday Tasting, a themed three-course food and wine pairing that will set you back just two 20-spots.

Drink this: 2013 Bodegas Naia Verdejo

Robust Downtown at the MX
635 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.287.6300, robustwinebar.com

Sleeker and more modern than its sister restaurants in Webster Groves and Edwardsville, Robust’s Mercantile Exchange location has sex appeal, from the rainlike iridescent light fixtures above the bar to the stunning plates of Continental and American cuisine that pass by. Wines are categorized by their Robust Factor (with such descriptors as Bubbles, Crisp, Mellow and Luscious), making it easy to find a glass that suits your style.

Drink this: Gruet Brut

Sasha’s on Shaw
4069 Shaw Ave., St. Louis, 314.771.7274, sashaswinebar.com

Sasha’s on Shaw is a magnet for neighborhood residents, industry colleagues and wine lovers citywide. Along with the eclectic but modern interior, Sasha’s has a dog-friendly patio complete with fire pits. An always-rotating glass list and beer menu emphasizing local suds makes imbibing here with friends, or even solo, a pastime of many.

Drink this: 2012 The Four Graces Pinot Gris