Uncorking the Mystery:
Where to Savor Wines in Atlanta?
By Katie Kelly Bell
Many diners tend to view ordering wine in a restaurant to be as stressful as taking an SAT test. Pressure to order the “right” wine (and also to pronounce it correctly) can take the fun out of drinking it. But wine has the potential to be an exciting learning experience, as well as a delicious one.
In keeping with Atlanta’s adventuresome nature, several area wine bars and restaurants have designed wine lists that encourage guests to try before they buy. These wine-friendly establishments are staffed with well-informed sommeliers (wine stewards) eager to help you navigate the list. Just keep an open mind and be willing to taste anything.
At Portofino (404-231-1136 or www.portofinobistro.com), 3199 Paces Ferry Pl., owner George Tice makes experimenting with wine a relaxed experience.
Best of all, his wine list has several flights (a series of wines served in tasting-size portions). Flights of wine are a superior way to experience several examples of a single varietal.
Tice also encourages his servers to bring other tastes to the table to assist the guest in making an informed choice. Several other area restaurants follow a similar tasting model. Portofino's patio is shown at left.*
While ENO (404-685-3193 or www.eno-atlanta.com), 800 Peachtree Rd., is primarily known as a wine bar and restaurant, it also has a spectacular wine shop. Prices tend to be a trifle steep. Still, it's worth the trouble in order to have access to ENO's lengthy list of boutique, highly allocated wines unavailable most anywhere else.
Around the World
For a South African twist, visit SAGA (404-872-0999 or www.sagamidtown.com), 1100 Crescent Ave. Quality South African wines are hard to come by, but the list at this midtown venue dives deep for access to some of the regions best wines, such as the Bradgate Syrah from Stellenbosch.
The attentive staff at SoHo, (770-801-0069 or www.sohoatlanta.com), 4300 Paces Ferry Rd., Ste. 107, will gladly guide you through their list of more than 80 wines-by-the-glass, with an emphasis on New World selections.
Pours are offered in 3 oz. or 6 oz. portions. The list is arranged from light-bodied to full-bodied wines for easier interpretation. Best of all, the menu features food pairing suggestions.
Sotto Sotto (404-523-6678 or www.sottosottorestaurant.com), 313 N. Highland Ave., is a stylish Italian restaurant. It presents a wine list with thorough coverage of every Italian region, especially Campania, Puglia, Tuscany and Piemonte.
More innovative than most, Two: Urban Licks (404-522-4622 or www.twourbanlicks.com), 820 Ralph McGill Blvd., actually receives wine shipped in barrels, not bottles.
Wines pour from the barrels through an old-fashioned spout. They're served in a half glass, glass, mini thief (10 oz.), half thief (20 oz.) and full thief (42 oz.). The majority of the wine is domestic with the exception of sparkling wines. No bottle is priced more than $50.
Situated in a charming old house in midtown, the wine bar Vinocity (404-870-8886 or www.vinocitywinebar.com), 936 13th St., offers a funky, rather artsy wine experience.
Settle into one of the plush lounge chairs and cozy up with a glass of Napa Valley Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s available by the glass, as are about 70 other wines.
Vinocity's comfortable dining area is shown at left.*
Don't Overlook Chains
Chain restaurants may not seem like obvious places to sample interesting wines, but Season’s 52 (404-846-1552 or www.seasons52.com), 3040 Peachtree Rd., and Flemings Steakhouse (770-698-8112 or www.flemingssteakhouse.com), 4520 Olde Perimeter Way, do a superior job of promoting unique wines-by-the-glass.
With serious buying power behind them, chains such as these can get their hands on some exciting brands and vintages.
Flemings carries more than 100 wines-by-the-glass. Try Murrieta’s Well, a robust blend of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional. You’ll find one of South Africa’s premium reds, Radford Dale “Gravity,” a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, at Season’s 52.
In addition to quality wines-by-the-glass, Piebar offers savory cuisine, including, not surprisingly home-made pizza pies!*
Piebar (404-815-1605 or www.piebar.com), 2160 Monroe Dr., keeps things simple. They charge only two prices: $5 per glass or $7 per glass, depending on the overall price per bottle.
The broad range of Mediterranean choices makes this a great place to experiment with Italian and Spanish wines. Try Burgans Albarino from Spain or a glass of Lucente, a super Tuscan from Italy.
The wine cellar at Vine’s (404-892-2393 or www.vinerestaurant.com), 1190 N. Highland Ave., showcases wines from around the world that are of exceptional quality and value. A selection of wines are shown at right.*
With more than 450 varieties, 30 available by the glass, and the largest half bottle selection in all of Atlanta, Vine has a wine to satisfy every palate.
Their 16-page wine list includes heavy-hitters such as Opus One, Duckhorn and Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon. Even the pickiest client will be impressed.
Of course, with deals such as endless wines-by-the-glass on Thursdays and half off any bottle on Mondays, Vine might be labeled a great place to impress as well as spare your budget.
Regardless of where you decide to experiment, Atlanta’s wine opportunities are waiting. Just remember to take along a designated driver if you plan to imbibe.
Katie Kelly Bell is a professional freelance writer covering wine, dining and travel. She writes for a variety of local, regional and national publications including the Atlantan, Where Atlanta, Private Air, Flavors and others.
*Photos on this page are owned, copyrighted and used as a courtesy to the various venues involved in this story. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.