Where to Drink Wine in Austin
June Rodil of Austin’s Qui is one of Food & Wine’s amazing 2014 Sommeliers of the Year. Here, her favorite wine spots in her city.
1. The Austin Wine Merchant
I love to tell the story of when I first started getting a feel for the wine life, I wanted to work part-time at this long-lived Austin retail establishment and totally got shot down! I remind the owner of this—a lot. I love this shop. The Burgundy selection lines the wall in order from north to south and there are gems from grower Champagnes to Bandol blancs to killer Piedmont bottlings. And the sale cart always has selections that blow my mind. I went in during Christmas to buy bourbon as gifts for my staff, and walked out with magnums of Dönnhoff Riesling for my own cellar. Dangerous, but so damn good. 512 W. Sixth St.; 512-499-0512; theaustinwinemerchant.com.
2. Trio, at the Four Seasons Hotel
Quite possibly the best happy hour spot for wine lovers in the city. It’s from 5 to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday...yes, Saturday, people! My good friend Mark Sayre is the wine director and has great taste, and how can you lose with 50 percent off glasses during happy hour? Especially when they’re things like Sigalas Assyrtiko from Greece or Vietti Perbacco Nebbiolo. 98 San Jacinto Blvd.; 512-685-8300; triorestaurantaustin.com.
3. Second Bar + Kitchen/Bar Congress/Congress
Pick from a range of sustainable, well-crafted wines on tap, served in glass milk jugs at the casual Second Bar + Kitchen or have a 1998 Krug Clos du Mesnil in the more high-end Congress dining room. There is something delicious for every palate here. 200 Congress Ave.; 512-827-2750; congressaustin.com.
4. East End Wines
I love this charming old house on a hill that was converted into a well-curated neighborhood (my East Side neighborhood!) wine shop. The owner—Sam—has excellent taste, great prices, and comfortingly urges his customers to try something new and exciting. This retailer truly understands maximizing quality with an everyday budget without selling any boring juice. There’s also a great little food truck, Three Little Pigs, that sits in the parking lot, in case you want to pop something open right away and enjoy a bite. 1209 Rosewood Ave.; 512-904-9056; eastendwinesatx.com.
5. Whole Foods
I think it’s great that I can go grocery shopping with a glass of wine in my hand. Bar Lamar, in the Whole Food’s flagship store, is always my first stop. With a glass of good juice in my hand, I can work through the crowded aisles, filled with organic-sustainable-yoga-panted customers, with ease and peace of mind. It’s also refreshing and awesome to see things from cool little producers like Teutonic, Donkey and Goat, and José Dhondt Champagne on your grocery store shelf. 525 N. Lamar Blvd.; 512-542-2200; wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/lamar.
All French wine, all the time. End your evening with a splash of a sweet vin de paille or Trimbach Framboise from the guéridon, a tableside cocktail cart. 601 W. 6th St.; 512-992-2776; arroaustin.com.
This is also in my very own East Side neighborhood, and is within walking distance from both my work and my house. They make delicious pizza Napoletana and have bottles that will pull on any natural wine lover’s heart. That lively, electrical, I’m-still-fermenting-in-your-bottle-in-a-good-way quality in natural Italian wines is perfect with the simple Margherita pizza (extra cheese, of course). 1519 E. Cesar Chavez, #200; 512-524-2523; bufalinapizza.com.
8. Whip In
If I can’t decide between beer and wine, or I’m trying to pick a restaurant for more than one person, Whip In is great. It has an extensive wine and beer selection, and their curry is pretty bomb, too. 1950 IH35 S.; 512-442-5337; whipin.com.
I always feel fancy, but not over the top, sitting on the velvet cushioned banquette at the bar here. It’s lovely to sit by the fire and flip through the leather–bound wine list—even the texture of the paper has an elegance about it. It’s a great place to enjoy a bottle of Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo and let it open up throughout the evening. You can also find really cool steals like the Montbourgeau l’Etoile Chardonnay from France’s Jura or Heidi Schröck’s Furmint from Austria. 1204 W. Lynn St.; 512-477-5584; jeffreysofaustin.com.
10. Hotel San José Lounge
Here, there’s always a decent cava by the glass and you drink it out of a glass cup. Sip it while sitting on the patio or sticking your feet in the pool. Feel lucky that you’re in downtown Austin and that it’s beautiful outside. Order another glass. 1316 S. Congress Ave.; 512-444-7322; sanjosehotel.com.