The 6 Best Wine Bars
This upscale small-plate spot thrills with its craft cocktail program, but the massive wine library at the entrance is truly the most enchanting part. Stop by during summer and check out the industrial outdoor patio, complete with Ping-Pong tables situated between the brick walls. Just be careful—the exterior is so unassuming that you may wind up in one of the warehouses next door.
Find it: 1664 N. Ada St., 773-697-7069, adastreetchicago.com
Last November, the quintessential wine and cheese shop debuted the quintessential wine and cheese bar, with Top Chef’s Chrissy Camba in the kitchen and carefully selected wines from both near and far. Predictably, the place hit the ground running.
Find it: 2947 N. Broadway, 773-472-4781, barpastoral.com
It’s true that the ambitious craft beer menu eclipses the wine list in both size and scope at this cozy wood-paneled resto-bar. But in this case, sharp editing is a good thing. So are staffers who listen nonjudgmentally while you stammer through nondescript wine adjectives, then deliver palate-pushing choices.
Find it: 1749 N. Damen Ave., 773-486-2473, bluebirdchicago.com
RM Champagne Salon
The team behind Nellcôte brings the bubbles—more than 280 labels, ranging from $35 to $1,500—at this hidden Parisian gem. (Hint: Head down the alley just south of Randolph Street.) The charming courtyard full of strung-up lights is just a bonus. Cocktail attire and a healthy paycheck are both useful.
Find it: 116 N. Green St., 312-243-1199, rmchampagnesalon.com
Jeremy Quinn, picked by Food & Wine as one of its eight top sommeliers of 2012, approaches wine selection the way a curator would: He takes seasonal scouting trips to Europe to meet producers on their turf and shares his observations and notes on flavor and terroir on Telegraph’s blog. Suddenly the act of choosing what you’re going to drink seems way less mysterious—and considerably more fun.
Find it: 2601 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-292-9463, telegraphchicago.com
The Spain-obsessed wine bar boasts 15 sherries in addition to its eclectic 100-bottle-deep wine list, which is quartered into “Old School Spain,” “New School Spain,” “Neighbors,” and “Americas.” Warning: After trying the zesty Sicilian Etna Rosso, you may never go back to house pinot noir.
Find it: 1023 W. Lake St., 312-243-9770, verachicago.com
Photography: Anna Knott