Orange County has much to offer in the way of wine bars and, as a wine lover and writer of taste adventures, I’ve tried my best to visit as many of them as possible in order to compile this resource of the Best Wine Bars in Orange County.
The OC is a large territory so to be fair I’ve spread the love to include a wine bar in the north, south, and coastal areas and two for central or “inland” Orange County.
Since I live in the central coastal area, let’s start here in Huntington Beach with Main Street Wine Company in downtown HB. Crowded with locals – especially on Tuesday’s Surf City Nights – one could easily become the Norm and Cliff of this friendly neighborhood wine bar.
Main Street Wine Co. believes variety is the spice of life and, in keeping with that mantra, offers two distinct wine flights every week that change every Tuesday. They stock a wide assortment of varietals and world wines including such names as Chateau Montelana, Silver Oak, Frank Family, Flowers, and Duckhorn for the California wine connoisseurs among their clientele.
From kite festivals and car shows to marathons and surfing competitions, there’s always something fun to do in downtown Huntington Beach. Enjoy the SoCal lifestyle with a glass (or two) of wine and, suddenly, the world is a better place.
301 Main Street, Huntington Beach
You could drive forever in central or “inland” Orange County searching for a good wine bar so, depending on where you are, head straight for the Wine Lab in The Camp, hipster central in Costa Mesa, Calivino in Anaheim near Honda Center and Angel Stadium, or Colony Wine Merchant in DTSA (downtown Santa Ana).
The Camp has a wonderful laid back vibe and lots of delicious places to eat and drink including the Wine Lab. Meander down the shady path past Bikram Yoga and discover the Wine Lab in it’s peaceful setting where a hammock beckons passersby for a nap or cuddle in the dappled sunlight.
Since bringing multi-talented Chef Bev Lazo Gonzalez on board, the Wine Lab has expanded their tapas menu and offers enticing daily specials like Baked Brie & Cherry Crostini. Cheese boards feature OC Baking bread, seasonal fruit, and colorful, creative combinations a là Chef Bev who appeared on Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, Season 12, is host and producer of The Coolinary Trends Show on Rant Radio, and chef/caterer at Border Grill Los Angeles.
I adore how the Wine Lab serves their tasting flights in test tubes and the retro modern design of their “lab”. A lab is where people learn and discover, and owner/sommelier Roger Richards wants guests to do just that by offering 70 wines by the glass, tasting flights that change every week, winery events, and a Happy Hour that goes from noon-6 Tues.-Fri., noon-4 on Sat. & Sun. and 4-6 Mon.
2937 Bristol St. Suite A101B, Costa Mesa
Anaheim, home to Disneyland, the Anaheim Angels and Anaheim Ducks, boasts a fervent craft beer scene but also a fabulous wine bar in Calivino that can satisfy wine and beer lovers alike. They also make an amazing burger with onion jam, fried onions, and Havarti that’s been praised by Register food critic, Brad Johnson, as well as delicious lighter fare.
The Seared Ahi salad dressed with a soy-citrus vinaigrette and orange segments was excellent and the Spinach Wontons with a creamy mustard aioli are a must-have.
Super friendly staff, freshly prepared food in generous portions, and a cozy atmosphere with lots of seating options – the bar, high tables, dining tables, and comfy couches put Calivino in the Top 5.
2410 East Katella Avenue, Anaheim
Downtown Anaheim’s historical community “The Colony” is home to Colony Wine Merchant, the first wine bar and independent fine wine retailer in Downtown Anaheim. Owners Sonya and Mike Kelson have created a comfortable, homey atmosphere, complete with relaxing acoustic sets with Mike on guitar many evenings.
Colony Wine Merchant celebrates community and Anaheim’s past history of wine growing which can be traced back to the 1800. They specialize in hand selected exceptional wines from small producers using sustainable farming practices, local craft beers, artisan cheeses and other small bites.
Part-shop, part-wine bar, this spot focuses on small-batch wines. Order a flight, a full glass, or a bottle with a cheese plate at the U-shaped bar or relax in the cool blue cushioned chairs at the communal table or sink into an overstuffed chair at one of the candlelit low tables.
280 S. Lemon St., Anaheim
Also inland but more south, we have Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. I first heard about Bacchus from the instructor of the Wines of the World Class at UCI that I took a few years back to continue my wine education. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that I actually visited – and it was easy to see why Bacchus is so popular.
Bacchus Bar and Bistro is a neighborhood spot that Irvine residents have enjoyed for seven years and is just a minute off the 405 freeway for the rest of us. Lunch, dinner, or date night, it’s the kind of place where you stop in for a glass of wine, and then realize they have much more to offer. Like sunset views, great food, and live music…
6735 Quail Hill Pkwy, Irvine
To round out my list of the best wine bars in Orange County, we travel down the 5 Freeway to South County to OC Wine Mart & Tasting Bar, notable for their Enomatic wine system with 40 wines on tap which offers guests the opportunity to taste many of the wines for sale in the store. Unlike most wine bars, OC Wine Mart is open from 6:00 a.m. (7:00 on Sundays) to serve croissants, bagels and their awesome “BTS” breakfast burrito, Boar’s Head deli sandwiches and a wine bar menu, plus, live entertainment featuring popular local musicians such as rumba-flamenco guitarist Ruben Gonzalez on Thursday through Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
23411 Aliso Viejo Parkway, Aliso Viejo
Back in 2012, Gayot included OC Wine Mart’s first location in Irvine on its list of Top 10 Wine Bars. That store is no longer, as entrepreneur Julie Lim expanded to larger locations in Yorba Linda and Aliso Viejo.
There you have it – a double trifecta of the best places to relax and savor a glass of fine wine and savory bites with your favorite peeps.