Top 10 wine bars in the Twin Cities

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Spending an evening at a great wine bar is one of life's most elegant, refined, and enjoyable dining experiences. Whether you're rediscovering a favorite wine; exploring little traveled regions, wineries, or varietals; seeking a perfect match of food and beverage; or just relaxing in good company, Twin Cities wine bars offer a world of taste adventures, and with so many opening in recent years, it's easy to find one nearby. Here are 10 of our favorite spots to pour a glass. They can be a destination in themselves or the perfect beginning or ending to a night on the town.

See also:

Top 10 craft cocktail bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 late-night restaurants in the Twin Cities
Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities

10. Café Latte

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Mark Kartarik
Soup, sandwiches, salads, and sweets. That's the Café Latte a generation of St. Paul kids grew up with, and now that they're all grown up, thank heavens for the wine bar. A bit of a Summit Hill neighborhood secret, the bar is around the corner from the front room, but some things remain the same. The wine bar cafeteria line is as jumbled as the one out front, slabs of diet-killing cake whisper their evil promises, and the walls are covered with a regularly rotating and occasionally provocative art exhibit, often reflecting the owners' interest in southeastern America art. Come evening, things smarten up with full service and a something-for-every-palate wine list that may be the best-priced in town. With the best pizza on Grand Avenue, the wine bar fills with groups of shoppers, couples who meet after work to collapse-and-catch-up, families who appreciate a menu that offers everybody a choice and mom and dad a civilizing glass of wine. Later, the crowds come in two-by-two and the vibe softens, the lights dim, the conversation ripples, the nerves defrazzle. Just what a wine bar should do. (850 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651.224.5687)


9. Toast Wine Bar

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Hard to believe that Toast has been open six years come December. It has felt seasoned since day 1 and yet feels fresh and new today. A tightly focused approach to the kind of wine served is one of the legs of that sturdy stool: "small family producers with an emphasis on sustainable, organic, or bio-dynamic farming techniques . . . who are working to preserve the indigenous grape varietals in each AVA or wine growing region" says the website of this highly personal wine bar. Europe dominates provenance; a recent list included 17 Italian, 10 French, and six Spanish wines, with only five from California and two each from Oregon and Washington (plus one from Minnesota, the creamy Alexis Bailly Seyval Blanc). And then there's the wine from Tasmania and Macedonia. Starting to think precious? Nope. Here are the other two legs of the stool: price and friendliness. Toast's wines are invariably well priced, with 90 percent of the 60-plus bottles under $40. The food is uncomplicated, fresh, and simple, with a serious emphasis on cheeses. Occasional winemaker appearances and a willingness to custom-design flights and tastings keep Toast a favorite slice of the North Loop. (Heritage Landing Building, 415 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612.333.4305)


8. Acqua

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Ed Neaton
Created by alums of the D'Amico restaurant training organization, Acqua has proven popular since opening at water's edge in 2009. Nicole Whetzel, who runs the wine program, gets a fair share of the credit with a list that combines the classic wines of the world with some that are a bit wacky (a recent list included a Sion Creek white from the Golan Heights in Galilee, Israel). Not in the mood to experiment? Then settle back at the stylish wine bar with a torrontés from Mendoza, Argentina, or a chardonnay from Napa. With 18 glass pours and over 50 bottles, Acqua has the broad selection that brings wine enthusiasts together to share and compare. Oh, and Nicole? She usually can be found pouring the wine, so guests can trust her to find the best of the list. (4453 Lake Avenue S., White Bear Lake; 651.407.7317)


7. Bev's Wine Bar

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Tony Nelson
Life needs a Bev's Wine Bar. Calm. Soothing. Adult. Romantic. Having brought the wine bar idea to the Twin Cities in 1995, Bev's has honed the perfect trifecta of product, service, and brand. The wine list goes from the pleasant gold standards -- A to Z Chardonnay from Oregon and Leaping Lizard Cabernet from Napa -- to the fresh idea, such as Lilly Pilly's late-harvest viognier. The menu changes seasonally, but keep your fingers crossed that their Amarone Classico, the perfect wine to drink late into a dark winter's night with someone you love, is around in February. For food pairings, it's just "Bites," but the very ones that work with a glass of wine: a few almonds, a bit of cheddar, maybe a small pizza. The chocolate torte could go steady with the zinfandel. Just off of Washington Avenue, Bev's is on the way to Target Field. During baseball season, maybe it should be a stopping point. (250 Third Ave. N., # 100, Minneapolis, 612.337-0102)


6 Bin Wine Bar

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Bin impresario Rebecca Illingworth had every intention of creating a hangout for her Lowertown neighborhood when she opened in 2010. She succeeded in that plan -- Bin rocks -- and has watched it evolve into a destination for wine drinkers across the Twin Cities. One lure is the extensive "Taste" menu that lets customers try out a two-ounce pour for just $2 or $3. With 35-plus wines by the glass, one could pass a pleasant afternoon or evening trying out wines without having to ante up a huge grubstake. The "Bubbles" portion of the menu enchants with oh-so-reasonable price points but also with the opportunity to taste across a variety of styles, from Champagne to Napa. Underscoring the point of a hangout is the rich list of ports, all means to linger at the table. A limited but full menu works with the wine, especially the nine cheese plates described in loving and precise detail. And for those who think that not every food pairs with wine, check out the "Street Tacos" which, yes, turn out to be perfect with wine ... a little spice, a bit of crunch, some sparkle -- just like Bin. (400 Sibley St. St. Paul; 651.224-9463)


Location Info

Lucia's Restaurant and Wine Bar

1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Ursula's Wine Bar & Cafe - CLOSED

2125 4th St., White Bear Lake, MN

Category: Music

Beaujo's Wine Bar & Bistro

4950 France Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

Kings Wine Bar

4555 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

Scusi

1806 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant

Bin Wine Bar

400 Sibley St., St. Paul, MN

Category: Music

Acqua Restaurant and Wine Bar

4453 Lake Ave. S., White Bear Lake, MN

Category: Restaurant

Bev's Wine Bar

250 3rd Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

Toast Wine Bar & Cafe

415 N. First St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

Cafe Latte

850 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN

Category: Restaurant


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3 comments
Cathy Ballman
Cathy Ballman

The research about did me in, as you can imagine.

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