In wine, there is truth — and camaraderie, benevolence, comfort, and no small share of esprit de corps. And in Austin, wine is an essential facet of dining, whether it’s while munching a salami and cheese snack on a neighborhood restaurant patio, devouring a top-notch meal at a fine-dining establishment, or specifically opting for fare that pairs perfectly with a chosen vino.
While there’s no shortage of Austin restaurants pouring forth vins de table, these six are the pick of the bunch when it comes to the city’s superlative wine programs. And part of what defines them is not elitism or wine snobbery; rather, they offer approachable wine lists and knowledgeable staff who aim to help diners cultivate their own mastery of oenology — or merely fill your glass with a Bacchanalian delight for an extraordinary wine-and-dine affair.
We’ll raise a glass to these outstanding local wine programs at our upcoming CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, where we'll celebrate the best of Austin’s food and beverage scene.
Read about this year’s Tastemaker nominees for Wine Program of the Year below, then join us to toast these Austin establishments at our signature tasting event and awards program on Thursday, April 28 at Fair Market. Tickets are selling fast — get yours today.
Aviary Wine & Kitchen
This South Lamar darling of a wine bar and eatery was originally uncorked by owners, world explorers, and wine aficionados Marco Fiorilo and Shanna Eldridge in 2006, when Aviary began life as a décor shop. It transitioned into its destiny as a wine-forward full-service restaurant in 2017. While Aviary’s quirky wine menu features by-the-glass offerings, the real charm comes in its appropriately designated lists inspired by cultural icons: David Bowie bubbles, Jayne Mansfield rosés, Twiggy light whites, Notorious B.I.G. heavier whites, Frank Zappa funky whites, Robin Williams lively reds, Etta James sultry reds, and Steve McQueen bold reds. Make a meal of your visit with some excellent pairing-focused bites from executive chef Andre Molina.
This new East Austin cafe and natural wine bar has had locals buzzing since it opened in the summer of 2021, thanks in part to its impressive wine list, which includes a blend of classics and new producers with an emphasis on “mindful farming and minimal intervention in the cellar.” Designed to evolve with chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel’s European-inspired food menu, the wine list runs the gamut from sparkling wines and Champagnes to an array of whites, oranges (wines without grape skins removed during production), rosés, and tons of luscious reds, all of which are classified with superb descriptors like “lusty,” “tenacious,” “refined,” “cheeky,” “ hedonistic,” and even “pounder,” so a quick glimpse at the list gives you a marvelous understanding of what will end up in your glass. This family-run neighborhood spot also serves up an abundance of off-list wine gems featuring hard-to-find bottles, so be sure to engage the enlightened staff about the many available choices.
June’s All Day
This bright and airy South Congress eatery and wine bar oozes understated sophistication and has captivated wine lovers since its opening in summer 2016 with its exceptional breakfast, brunch, and dinner fare; sunny, adorable patio; and stellar wine menu. June’s also features a variety of cocktails and zero-proof cocktails, as well as beer and cider offerings, but this sweet little cafe was intentionally established as a wine destination, with Master Sommelier and namesake June Rodil employing her deft talents to curate a versatile wine program. Though Rodil left the restaurant and Austin in the spring of 2019, her legacy remains, with June’s continuing to dazzle local wine devotees and gourmands with spectacular sips and bites — you guessed it — all day.
Since its opening in early 2012 — an eternity in Austin’s continually changing restaurant scene — Lenoir has been a trailblazing innovator in the city’s casual fine-dining and wine realm, with owners Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher creating the template for what a friendly community eatery should be. This Bouldin Creek restaurant’s small but palate-astonishing food menu is eclipsed only by the its formidable drinks menu, which includes cocktails, vermouth and amaro offerings, beer, Champagnes and sparkling wines, whites, orange wines, rosés, reds, and an ample selection of dessert wines. With by-the-glass options and bottles ranging in price point from those ideal for wine novices to remarkable oenophile-centric selections, Lenoir (named after a French grape that grows mightily in the Texas Hill Country, by the way) is a local wine lover’s dream come true.
Salt & Time
Sure, this east side butcher shop and restaurant (and its more recently opened sister cafe at Republic Square downtown) may most readily bring to mind dry-aged steaks, burgers, and artisan charcuterie boards, but don’t discount Salt & Time’s drinks program, which is equally as substantial and exacting. Since its opening in 2013, purveyors Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler have strived to ensure every element of the evolving brand — from its restaurant, grocery, butcher shop, and yes, its boozy offerings — is all sizzle. Cocktails, beer and cider, and wine cocktails (including a wonderful sangria) coexist alongside the menu’s small but mighty by-the-glass list, including several featured pours that are ideal for diners unsure of where to start, as well as bubbly selections for special and everyday occasions. And perhaps best yet, sipping vino at Salt & Time might feel lavish, but it won’t cost you a king’s ransom, as most glasses are moderately priced below the $20 mark.
Wanderlust Wine Co.
Dubbed “the world’s largest self-pour wine-on-tap winery,” Wanderlust Wine Co., which recently opened a second location on the east side to augment its downtown Austin hot spot, aims to change the world through wine one glass at a time. And owner Sammy Lam, aka “the wine cowboy,” is well on his way to achieving that goal. Indeed, with Wanderlust boasting as many as 56 wines on tap, if you can’t find something you enjoy here, you may need to rethink your relationship with wine. Varieties range from well-known producers from around the world to more mysterious offerings and even some local wines that may leave wine enthusiasts astonished with their enticing drinkability. At Wanderlust Wine Co., it’s all about making wine more fun, easy, and accessible, so you don’t have to be a cork dork to enjoy the best this local vino-slinging biz has to offer.