No doubt this will always be a great beer town, but wine is definitely becoming a Philly thing. Philly Wine Week is back for a second year and wine-enthusiast bar owners and sommeliers are fleshing out their lists with naturally produced vintages and independent vintners from all over the world. There’s never been a more interesting time to sip wine in Philly. Here are the 15 best places to do it.
Proprietor Jason Evenchik relies on the excellent wine sensibilities of director of operations Kate Moroney to stock the racks at his sultry Midtown Village boîte, where a whole section of the list is entitled “Unusual & Exciting.”
Insider Tip: Look on the chalkboard for the “staff pick” of the night to try something new at a bargain price.
129 S. 13th St.; 215-922-3095
When Jon Myerow and Michael McCaulley first opened in 2004, wine hadn’t quite been let loose from its “serious and important” characterization in the U.S. Their Rittenhouse cafe spurred the movement along, and the success of its extensive list offered in a casual setting led to the launch of a sister spot three years later.
Insider Tip: Turn the phrase “Sunday School” into something you love by taking advantage of the weekly special that offers one cheese, beer and wine at half-price.
There’s a solid selection of Spanish wines at Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s 13th Street tapas house, but the real choice here is sherry — the fortified wine is offered in more varieties and styles than just about anywhere else in Philly.
Insider Tip: Vermouth is also a house specialty, and instead of being relegated to a cocktail ingredient, it’s served solo on the rocks.
105 S. 13th St.; 215-922-6061
Vetri beverage director Steve Wildy was just named one of Food & Wine’s 2015 Sommeliers of the Year, and his prowess is on display at this outpost on North Broad. A list of around 250 bottles pulls from almost every region of Italy and features many lesser-known and hard-to-find labels.
Insider Tip: You might not see it happen, but your wine here likely tastes twice as good because it’s served in a “seasoned” glass — one that’s been primed with a pre-pour swirl of your selection.
640 N. Broad St.; 215-763-0920
GM and sommelier Lauren Harris is as invested in the wine offerings at this East Passyunk bistro as Townsend Wentz is in his food. Her concise list follows the menu’s tactic of changing with the seasons, so there’s always something new to try.
Insider Tip: Ask about the two rotating wines on draft for interesting vintages at value prices.
1623 E. Passyunk Ave.; 267-639-3203
Before Tim Kweeder joined the brothers Petruce at this Wash West ode to wood-fired cooking, he was wine director at a.kitchen. The selection at his new spot benefits from all the connections and experience he previously gained combined with the freedom to experiment that comes from running your own place.
Insider Tip: Nearly all glass wines are offered in smaller, 3-oz. pours, in case you can’t decide or just want to try a variety of styles.
1121 Walnut St.; 267-225-8232
After Kweeder left a.kitchen, young gun Mariel Wega stepped up to direct the wine program at this Rittenhouse bistro. Building on knowledge gleaned running Tria’s Fermentation School, she leapt into the position and has continued to elevate the selection, which includes more than 300 labels.
Insider Tip: Even though sister lounge a.bar next door is more known for its cocktails, the wines are also on point, especially when paired with $1.50 oysters (from 4-6 PM daily).
135 S. 18th St.; 215-825-7030
Unlike Bibou, Pierre Calmels’ Rittenhouse dining room has a liquor license, which means the chef’s partner and wife Charlotte gets to apply her extensive wine knowledge to the bar’s offerings. Her choices are not only well considered, they’re also reasonably priced.
Insider Tip: As soon as the weather warms up, don’t miss the chance to sip wine in the charming garden hidden behind the historic mansion where the restaurant makes its home.
251 S. 18th St.; 215-546-7700
Proprietor Jill Weber is also an archaeologist who travels around the world, and she stocks the cabinets at her hip South Street West boîte with finds from all corners of the globe. Expect to try a grape you’ve never heard of from a region you didn’t expect, including some right in Philly’s own backyard.
Insider Tip: Every third Tuesday, the bar hosts a tasting session focused on a specific region or theme, where $25 tickets include wine, snacks and 15% off your bar tab after the class.
1525 South St.; 215-735-1116
Kate Jacoby not only handles the dessert menu at the Wash West all-vegetable destination she runs with husband Rich Landau, she’s also in charge of the wine. Her list is a compendium of exotic and intriguing styles from around the world, with a focus on natural wines that have an expressive soul.
Insider Tip: For wine with a burst of fruit flavor, go for the seasonally changing sangria, available for $6 during weekday 5-7 PM happy hour.
1221 Locust St.; 215-320-7500
Of course, since it’s booked well in advance and is tasting menu only, Vetri’s gem of an original isn’t somewhere you can just swing through for a glass. Wine is a huge part of the experience, however, with custom pairings built from a cellar more than 2,500 bottles deep.
Insider Tip: Don’t worry about arriving hungry in preparation for your feast; you’ll be treated to a glass of sparkling wine and a quick preview snack as soon as you take your seat.
1312 Spruce St.; 215-732-3478
Sommelier Gordana Kostovski has garnered multiple accolades from Wine Spectator for her expertise in all things vinous. Relaxing into a luxe stool or cushioned chair in the lounge half of the dual Jose Garces venture is an easy way to sample the impressive array of offerings she’s lined up for the Kimmel Center spot.
Insider Tip: When you are ready to spend time on a full meal at the show kitchen next door, opt to add Kostovski’s pairings to really elevate the experience.
300 S. Broad St.; 215-670-2302
At Michael Solomonov’s Israeli restaurant in Society Hill, the wine list is as unexpectedly fantastic as the Middle Eastern food. In addition to a strong selection from around the world, sommelier Brian Kane stocks more than a dozen bottles from Israel itself, plus a dozen more from nearby Lebanon and Turkey.
Insider Tip: Get your wine with a little extra kick by ordering the New Year’s Jerusalem cocktail, which mixes bubbly with cider and black-walnut bitters.
237 St. James Pl. ; 215-625-8800
Proprietor Giuseppe Sena collects wine like he collects fine art, and considers some of the labels in his 13,000-plus wine cellar to be priceless — he simply won’t sell them, no matter the price. There are plenty that he will, however, so be ready to browse the phone-book-size list at his Old City Italian to find your perfect bottle.
Insider Tip: The extensive cellar is kept at proper humidity with the help of old water-filled wells that date back hundreds of years.
8 S. Front St.; 215-922-2803
The large bar at the front of Ellen Yin and Eli Kulp’s elegant Old City dining room is the perfect setting to explore a broad range of styles from small, lesser-known producers around the world. Yin is very selective, and only around one of every 10 wines she samples makes it onto her list.
Insider Tip: Rely on your server or bartender for suggestions — each wine added to the selection is extensively reviewed with the entire staff.
306 Market St.; 215-625-9425