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Wine Guide 2014: Wine Bars 

Wine bars and restaurant lounges with vintage appeal.

click to enlarge Patrons enjoy glasses of wine at the bar at Mondo.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Patrons enjoy glasses of wine at the bar at Mondo.

Whether one wants to enjoy wines solo or explore them with food, New Orleans has plenty of options. Below are some wine bars and restaurants that have bar space and food to complement the wine offerings.

Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave., 504-948-9111; www.bacchanalwine.com)
A permanent kitchen and an air-conditioned cocktail lounge upstairs haven't lessened this wine shop's irreverent, funky feel. Browse Old World bottles, put together a meat and cheese plate, order from chef Joaquin Rodas' Mediterranean-inspired menu (the kitchen is cash only), and take it to the torch-lit, open-air courtyard. Saturday wine tastings (3 p.m.) are free, and there is live music.

Bellocq (936 St. Charles Ave., 504-962-0911; www.thehotelmodern.com/bellocq)
Inspired by decadent European cafes, Bellocq is a stylish lounge and will revamp its food offerings later this summer, says co-owner Kirk Estinopal. Think luxe cheeses, cured meats, local preserves and pickles, available as takeout picnics or pintxos to accompany Bellocq's wines (a deep focus on fortified styles, including limited releases like Montenegrin vermouth and fortified barolo). Bottles are flat-priced at $40 each.

Bouligny Tavern (3641 Magazine St., 504-891-1810; www.boulignytavern.com)
Sommelier Cary Palmer has an eye for obscure spirits (he helped lead the Batavia arrack revival) and wines. His latest find is country wine from the Jura region in eastern France (off-menu, so ask for it). "It's a lesser-known, funky appellation and an alternative to Burgundys," says Palmer, the wine director at Bouligny Tavern and neighboring Lilette. The former's list is "more free-form" to go with small plates and includes sakes and sparkling wines by the glass.

Cava (789 Harrison Ave., 504-304-9034)
Co-owner/general manager Danny Millan has spent decades in the restaurant business, so he knows what customers like. "It used to be French ­— Bordeaux, Burgundys," he says. "Now it's Spain, Argentina, Chile and 60 percent of my wine list is from California." If you're unsure, Millan himself can help find a new favorite; enjoy it before dinner on the upper balcony.

The Franklin (2600 Dauphine St., 504-267-0640)
In step with Jim Bremer's local produce-focused kitchen, beverage director Franklin Buist looks for natural wines — unfiltered, native-yeasted and grown on polyculture farms. "Besides treating Mother Earth properly, it gives the wine a rusticity and timelessness," Buist says. Look for natural wines with "integrity and lots of value" from regions including Croatia, Lebanon, Israel and the Greek island of Santorini as well as wines to pair with Bremer's daily specials.

Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar (715 St. Charles Ave., 504-581-6333; www.marcelloscafe.com)
Racked bottles in the dining room mean this wine list is "interactive" — and that diners drink at retail prices, manager Chris Curtis says. Daily happy hours (2:30 p.m.-6 p.m.) take discounts a step further, with half-priced cocktails, beer and wines by the glass. The strong selection of Italian wines is complemented by the kitchen's Sicilian plates; pair them with a panino or fried calamari.

Mondo (900 Harrison Ave., 504-224-2633; www.mondoneworleans.com)
Louisiana and international street food meet their match in a global wine list curated by general manager Jenni Lynch (who wrote the lively descriptions). Many bottles hit what she calls the "sweet spot" price range of $35-$45. Patrons can try by-the-glass breakouts, hailing from Slovenia to Argentina, Chile to California, and locals know to ask for Mondo's signature sangria: Chardonnay-based, fruity and spiked with a mix of spirits.

SoBou (310 Chartres St., 504-552-4095; www.sobounola.com)
At this chic saloon, "the food comes in rounds, not courses," says wine director Dan Davis. He organized the list of more than 200 bottles by style, with options to sample half-glasses. Sommelier Patrick DiFilippo manages the program, including wine machines that dispense 1-ounce, half- and full-glass pours. Next in that rotation are vintages from New Zealand and Australia. During daily happy hour (3 p.m.-6 p.m.), select wines are $4 a glass.

Square Root (1800 Magazine St., 504-309-7800; www.squarerootnola.com)
Sommelier Liz Dowty sources food-friendly, adventurous wines to match chef Phillip Lopez's ambitious tasting menu (courses are matched with virgin drinks, cocktails or wines). Any wine from the pairing menu can be had by the glass, she says (even high-end, cult-favorite bottlings), thanks to Coravin tools that pour without pulling the cork. In the second-floor lounge, wines serve as the base for several of Max Messier's smart cocktails.

The Tasting Room (1906 Magazine St., 504-581-3880; www.ttrneworleans.com)
Toby DeVore grew up on land leased to a grape farmer, so it's no surprise his wine bar (co-owned with wife Lisa) is all about sampling. To that end, he offers 50 wines by the glass, $20 wine flights (staff picks or build your own) and tastings of five wines for $15 (Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m.-6 p.m.). DeVore favors small-production, offbeat wines, which jibe with the pop-up restaurant Arabella Casa di Pasta serving food in Tasting Room's courtyard.

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