Spago, Rivera among L.A.’s best in wine

A.O.C. started as a wine bar and still has a stellar wine list available.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times

Here are six restaurants that I think have exceptionally interesting wine programs.

Spago: One of the few restaurants in the country that can boast a full complement of great Austrian wines, especially Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners from the Wachau. Master Sommelier Christopher Miller is approachable and particularly astute at matching wines with the dishes at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant. His list is impressive and deep yet has plenty of cutting-edge wines too.

176 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880,


Rivera: Mark Mendoza, who once curated the million-dollar cellar at Sona, now guides the list at Rivera, which focuses on wines from Latin countries. Look for an exciting lineup of Spanish whites, including sherry and white Rioja. And while older Rioja and Ribera del Duero reds, including a great selection of Vega Sicilia, dominate the list, Mendoza makes room for top wines from Portugal and Latin America too, and for after dinner, Port and Madeira.

1050 S. Flower St., No. 102, Los Angeles, (213) 749-1460,

AOC: Caroline Styne has a wonderfully idiosyncratic palate and a nose for ferreting out overlooked appellations and terrific little beauties where you’d least expect them. You can also order something interesting by the glass at the West 3rd Street wine bar, newly moved into the old Orso space. Forget Chardonnay, it’s Bourgogne Aligoté, or vinho verde, and wines are marked as sustainably farmed or organic.

8700 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (310) 859-9859,

Sotto: Wine director Jeremy Parzen seems to be in Italy every other week and loads up the wine list at Steve Samson and Zach Pollack’s southern Italian restaurant with lots of great bottles from the south of Italy — Greco di Tufo, Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, even Primitivo. After dinner, take a digestivo as the Italians do, choosing something from the bar’s collection of amari or bitters.

9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 277-0210,

Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA: Paul Sanguinetti teases out little gems from all over the place — a Chardonnay from Morocco, dry Furmint from Hungary, mixed in with white Rhone blends from the Central Coast. You can drink hyper-local or wander through Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Burgundy all on the same list.

5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 857-6180,

Valentino: For decades, Piero Selvaggio has been a strong advocate for Italian wines. His gigantic list at Valentino is deep in older vintages of Barolo and super Tuscans but also roams up and down the Italian peninsula, stopping in at historic estates and up-and-coming young producers. He always has a few bottles not on the list yet. Ask him.

3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 829-4313,