January 19, 2018

Cheers: Where To Drink Wine In Philly

From State Stores To Local Pours

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A thoughtfully curated selection of wines and a menu of tasty small plates makes for a winning combo at Root Restaurant and Wine Bar. Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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A wine shop with a Philadelphia bent, Pinot Boutique supplements its stock of wine, tools and classes with lessons in pairing vino with local fare. Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Philly Wine Week takes place each March, and offers dozens of wine-centric tastings and events citywide. Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Philadelphia has long enjoyed a stellar reputation as a beer town. Today, the ever-adventurous, ever-culinary city also enjoys a serious—yet seriously fun—wine scene. Philly’s vino revolution began with restaurants such as Fork, Tria and Panorama that expanded their wine lists from offering conventional bottles to featuring fascinating new regions and varietals. It continued with the introduction of Philly Wine Week, which will celebrate its fifth year March 22-29, 2018, with dozens of wine-centric tastings and events citywide.

More recently, Pennsylvania, once the nation’s largest alcoholic beverage control (or ABC) state, has upped its game with new, improved Fine Wine & Good Spirits or “state” stores (finewinesandgoodspirits.com). The commonwealth has also begun to permit the sale of wine and beer outside of these stores. Now, visitors to the region can shop both independent bottle boutiques such as Old City’s Pennsylvania-maker-only Pinot Boutique (pinotboutique.com), East Passyunk Avenue’s funky little Bottle Shop (bottleshopbeer.com) and West Philly’s craft-focused Local 44 (local44beerbar.com) as well as major supermarkets (select Whole Foods, Acme Markets) before dining at one of the region’s hundreds of bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) restaurants. Here are standout spots where wine aficionados, oenophiles and casual tipplers can score great glasses and bottles:

Wine Bars:

  • Bar Amis – Chef Marc Vetri’s casual Navy Yard digs are the ideal destination to get casually acquainted with everything from new-school California producers to esoteric Italian imports. 4503 S. Broad Street, (215) 282-3184, amistrattoria.com
  • Barcelona – Guests at this handsome new Passyunk Avenue destination start with a glass of bubbly vino espumoso and work their way through the tapas bar’s well-appointed list of Spanish and South American pours. Those in the market for a deep dive into Spanish wine country can go for the Garnachista flight for a side-by-side tasting, best enjoyed along the wide, marble-top bar. 1709 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 515-7900, barcelonawinebar.com
  • Fishtown Social – This spare, woman-owned and -operated, grown-ups-only wine cafe pours small-maker pinot noirs, chenin blancs, rosés, sparklings and more, along with international tapas, sandwiches, a rotating selection of meats and cheeses and locally spirited cocktails. 1525 Frankford Avenue, fishtownsocial.com
  • Good King Tavern – The French fare at this Bella Vista bistro is complimented by an engaging wine program that encourages exploration. House wines are available by the glass or pichet and rated “good, better or best.” 614 S. 7th Street, (215) 625-3700, thegoodkingtavern.com
  • ITV – Top Chef alum Nick Elmi’s casual, East Pasyunk wine bar has a Euro-centric list that favors bottles from the old world, with a smattering of venerable picks from other lauded and lesser-known regions. Special occasions here call for caviar service and a bottle of something bubbly. 1615 E. Passyunk Avenue, (267) 858-0669, itvphilly.com
  • Osteria – This critically acclaimed, convivial Italian culinary destination offers a wide selection of wines by the bottle and glass, chosen by the restaurant’s team of certified sommeliers. Their award-winning wine list is extensive, focusing on the lauded wine regions of Italy and France. 640 N. Broad Street, (215) 763-0920, osteriaphilly.com
  • Panorama – This veteran Old City trattoria has a Guinness Book of World Records-setting wine tap—or cuvinet—system that is reason enough to sidle up to its cozy wine bar. Sommelier Bill Eccleston assures his sophisticated list is always filled with an international array of bottles, available by the glass or in fun flight form. 14 N. Front Street, (215) 922-7800, pennsviewhotel.com/panorama
  • Tria – All things fermentable have been the passion of this Philly classic since the first Tria Cafe opened in 2004. The locations’ menus change daily—and are never short on niche varietals served by a staff who is always happy to delve deep into all things oenophilic. A fourth location is in the works at 31 S. 18th Street—featuring the city’s first wine garden and opening later this year.1137 Spruce Street, (215) 629-9200; 123 S. 18th Street, (215) 972-8742; 2005 Walnut Street, triaphilly.com
  • Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro – This handsome, brick-walled, unpretentious bar feels a bit like an underground Parisian addition to the buzzing 13th Street corridor. What to order here: flights and cheese plates. 129 S. 13th Street, (215) 922-3095, vintage-philadelphia.com

Restaurants With Strong Wine Programs:

  • Abe Fisher – Small plates inspired by the Jewish-American experience are well paired with a lineup of reds and whites, beginning at $50 and $60 dollars a bottle, respectively. The restaurant also offers more than 20 different amaros at any given time, and on “Somm Sundays,” the staff pours off-menu picks for casual, affordable tastings. 1623 Sansom Street, (215) 867-0088, abefisherphilly.com
  • a.kitchen – This elegant Rittenhouse corner spot was an early adopter of the natural wine movement and has amassed a cellar full of fascinating bottles along the way. On the first Wednesday of every month, they discount their entire bottle list by 50%, making it the perfect time to sample some of the more luxe vintages. On select Thursdays, a.kitchen regularly features guest winemakers during their #ThuWineCru. 135 S. 18th Street, (215) 825-7030, akitchenandbar.com
  • Fork – Ambition and elegance are two themes that carry through the dinner menu and wine list at this Old City mainstay. Instead of overwhelming with a phone book-sized list, the selections here are arranged intuitively on a one-pager that opens with sparkling and transitions its way from lighter whites to bold reds. 306 Market Street, (215) 625-9425, forkrestaurant.com
  • Friday Saturday Sunday – Drinkers who dig into the list at this revamped Rittenhouse go-to discover all sorts of unexpected finds. Tucked neatly in between bottles of pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are exotic imports from Lebanon and Greece. 261 S. 21st Street, (215) 546-4232, fridaysaturdaysunday.com
  • Gran Caffe L’Aquila – This bi-level, all-day cafe, gelateria and restaurant is home to an encyclopedic list of Italian bottles. An extensive by the glass lists gives guests the privilege of tasting everything from fizzy Franciacorta to high-ticket Amarones. 1716 Chestnut Street, (215) 568-5600, grancaffelaquila.com
  • Kensington Quarters – The wine menu at this Fishtown favorite focuses on small-scale producers who work organically and biodynamically, making minimally manipulated wines.1310 Frankford Avenue, (267) 314-5086, kensingtonquarters.com
  • The Love – At Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy’s most recent addition to the Rittenhouse dining scene, an inventive wine program highlights small, sustainable producers. The rotation features local pours, cult status bottles and seasonal selections. 130 S. 18th Street, (215) 433-1555, theloverestaurant.com
  • Oloroso – A menu of traditional and reimagined tapas pair perfectly with a line up of wines from all of the heavy hitting regions of Spain ranging from robust Riojas to effervescent Txakolinas. – 1121 Walnut Street, (267) 324-3014, olorosophilly.com
  • Root – A Euro-centric wine list evolves with the seasons, showcasing warm weather sippers like cool kerner and gamay in summer and reserving the heavier cabs when the weather turns cool. Weekend wine enthusiasts can now sign up for “Planet of the Grapes,” an informal series of Saturday afternoon classes. 1206 Frankford Avenue, (215) 515-3452, rootrestaurant.com
  • Royal Boucherie – “Top Chef” Nick Elmi’s Old City debut marries its raw bar and charcuterie offerings with an adventurous list of natural leaning bottles that span Europe. 52 S. 2nd Street, (267) 606-6313, royalboucherie.com
  • Vedge – An esteemed vegan menu throws all traditional wine pairing tenets out the window. Instead of red with meat and white with fish, servers help diners match Riesling with radishes and pole beans with Prosecco. 1221 Locust Street, (215) 320-7500, vedgerestaurant.com
  • Walnut Street Cafe – Angling for the title of Philly’s most intriguing wine list, this newcomer on the edge of University City proudly pours a rotating selection of more than 50 wines by the glass, including plenty of natural selections. All of the bottles on the list are also available by the half bottle. 2929 Walnut Street, (215) 867-8067, walnutstreetcafe.com

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