Love unique spots? The sunken bar at The Compound is perfect. It was designed by noted designer Alexander Girard, the man responsible for that mid-century innovation, the conversation pit. The bartender at the 12-seat bar is at eye-level making conversation easy. The ambiance at the bar is convivial with guests interacting with each other. Want to nibble? The Compound puts out olives and crackers to enjoy with the wine. You can also order from the lunch or dinner menu. The philosophy here: "The selection and pairing of wine and food is the foundation of the dining experience. Each is meant to complement and inspire the other." The list has over 200 bottles; there are 14 wines offered by the glass priced from $13 to $25. Like a bottle on the list? Take it home. There's a 20% discount from the wine list price.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: It's worth going here just for the unique bar. The good wine list makes it that much better.
Billie's expert tip: If you want a sophisticated lunch paired with fine wines and even a martini or two, the bar at The Compound or one of their white linen tables brings back a time when lunch at the right spot was two hours and an occasion.
Want to sip fine wines in an intimate bar accompanied by a carefully-crafted lounge menu? Head for Geronimo. Quinn Stephenson, one of the owners and a certified sommelier, has a carefully selected the over 200 wines on their list. According to owner Chris Harvey, it's "anchored in California but it has nods to Burgundy and white wines from Germany, with Argentinean Malbecs as well." Oenophiles can order by the glass; the 14 wines offered run from $9 to $18 or spring for a bottle which range from $36 for a Pinot Grigio to $3,500 for the legendary 2000 vintage of Chateau Lafite Rothchild. As you sip, feast on such tidbits as Maine lobster tempura, their signature Hawaiian ahi tuna sashimi and tartare or mesquite grilled prawns. Want to get beyond bar food? The entire dinner menu is available in the bar.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Geronimo offers a quiet setting with fine wines and an interesting lounge menu for enjoyable evenings.
Billie's expert tip: Keep your eyes peeled here. You might see a famous face or two at this upscale eatery; Geronimo seems to attract more glitterati than any other restaurant in town. And even if you don't get a celebrity spotting, it's worth going for the food and wine.
Sit at the bar in Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretto and sample wines from their list which has over 200 choices by the bottle and 25 by the glass. While the list is broad in scope it favors wines from California, France and Italy and is slightly weighted towards reds. From Sundays through Wednesdays there are "heavily discounted bottled wine specials" in the restaurant. While you sip vintage wines, order one of Executive Chef Marc Quinones' creative appetizers or share and entrée. You might even be tempted to stay for dinner. Wine Down Wednesdays in the Living Room, the hotel's lounge, features $12 tasting flights with a tableside "Wine 101" session hosted by a professional sommelier. Join the hotel's Legacy Club and get 20 percent off food and wine as well as other hotel offerings.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Luminaria offers oenophiles a carefully selected wine list paired with their Progressive Santa Fe cuisine.
Billie's expert tip: The lobby bar also hosts a daily Happy Hour from 5 to 6:30pm and there's a "Reverse Happy Hour" every night from 9 to10pm. There are $5 wines by the glass, $5 house cocktails, and $4 draught beer and $5 food specials are available as well.
TerraCotta Wine Bistro offers a vast array of wines from many countries at reasonable prices. Their aim: to encourage guests to sample new and interesting varietals. Their goal is to promote wines that they feel have been overlooked such as rosé. Co-owner Glenda Griswold says, "We are actually on a mission to get people to drink rosé all year long." They offer 12 by the glass. In addition, they offer over 70 other wines by the glass, more than any other restaurant in town. Wine and food pair well. Menu choices run from nibbles to a three-course prix-fixe meal. Their Le Verre De Vin wine-vac system preserves the wine, preventing oxidation. It also keeps the bubbles in sparkling wines. The mostly small-plate menu is great for pairing wine flights or glasses with the right dish. The knowledgeable staff will suggest the perfect pairings; just ask.
What do you drink with tapas? The answer is simple: wine. La Boca focuses on traditional Spanish small plates infused with Chef/owner James Campbell Caruso's contemporary twists. Byron Rudolph, a certified sommelier and the man who selects the restaurant's wines, says, "I try to keep La Boca's selections Spanish-centric rounded out with world representation of carefully selected exciting, iconic, classic, wines with stories." He counts on the passion of the staff to introduce people to wines on the list he terms "interesting, dynamic, well paired with the menu." Servers are all knowledgeable about the wines offered and can recommend the best ones to pair with your tapas. Including an extensive Sherry list, there are about 40 wines by the glass including the "fun exciting limited offerings on the chalkboard." Bottles are priced from $36 to $650 and glasses run from $10 to $18.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: La Boca pairing Chef/owner James Campbell Caruso's creative Spanish tapas along with carefully selected wines make it worthy of a place on this list.
Billie's expert tip: La Boca's daily Happy Hour from 3 to 5pm offers great food and wine deals. There is a selection of half-priced tapas as well as wine specials. Join their Wine Club; members receive a 5 percent discount Sundays through Tuesdays.
Despite its contemporary, chic feel, Taberna La Boca calls itself a "Spanish-style Tavern". Originally conceived as an off-shoot of La Boca, its sister restaurant just around the corner, the menu, while still mostly tapas, had evolved and now reflects the cuisine of the Basque region of Spain and France. The primary focus of the wine program is by-the-glass with a concentrated offering of over 50 wines and Sherries. Diners can order a wide range of tasty tapas pairing each with a unique wine priced from $8 to $18. With the extensive wine choices you won't run out of tempting options. Love the classic Spanish dish Paella? Try the Tuesday special, a three-course prix-fixe Paella menu paired with wine specials.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Basque-influenced tapas combined with over 50 wines by the glass as well as Happy Hour specials make this a great spot for wine and food lovers.
Billie's expert tip: Daily Happy Hour from 5 to 6pm features half-price wines as well as selected half-priced tapas. The weekly Wine Club: Taberna Uncorked on Thursdays offers a special menu with pairings.
Il Piatto calls itself an "Italian Farmhouse Kitchen." They could easily add wine bar to their name. The custom glass and iron wine cave, a stand-alone bar and an intimate alcove furnished with wine barrel tables are signs that they take wine seriously. The cozy eatery, with over 1,000 bottles on hand, has been a destination for wine lovers since 1996. Don't want a whole bottle? There are from 15 to 20 selections available by the glass each day. To keep regulars and the staff passionate about the list, it's what manager Jamie Taylor calls "very fluid." Il Piatto has two certified sommeliers and a well-trained staff. There's one an "intense" wine class each week plus pre-shift tastings to keep servers up to speed. If you want to experience new wines, ask your server for recommendations. Chef Matt Yohalem's Northern Italian-inspired dishes use locally grown produce whenever possible.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Wine lovers appreciate Il Piatto's commitment to fine wines and well-prepared Northern Italian-inspired food. Go for Happy Hours; there are great deals to be had.
Billie's expert tip: The daily Happy Hours from 4:30-6pm and 9-10:30pm offer great deals. You can dine and drink for half the cost from a selected menu. On Viva Vino Wednesdays, there are selected bottles available at half-price.
What do you do when you have an 800-bottle wine shop and extra space? If you're the folks at Arroyo Vino, you open a wine bar. The sleek, modern 60-seat eatery focuses on fine wines and foods that complement them. Most people come to this destination eatery about 15 minutes northwest of Santa Fe for dinner. But, if you just want to sip fine wines and nibble, it's also a good choice. Pull up one of the half-dozen seats at the bar or the community table. The creative and well-prepared menu which leans towards small plates uses locally grown and produced foods when possible and is perfect for wine and food pairings. Order a range of small plates and match each with a different wine; there are always at least 10 offered by the glass each evening plus six dessert wines.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Arroyo Vino offers a wide selection of carefully selected wines paired with creative cuisine. The small plates are perfect for wine pairings.
Billie's expert tip: The bottles here are great deals. Pick from the over 800 in the Arroyo Vino Wine Shop for the retail price plus $20. Based on traditional restaurant wine prices, the savings can be significant. The more expensive your bottle, the more you save.
315 Restaurant and Wine Bar opened as a French bistro in 1995. While diners will still find classic dishes including onion soup and steak and frites, over the years the menu has evolved; these days "fusion" is a more apt description. The cozy, dark bar is a great place to hang out and sip wine. Or opt for dinner in one of the cozy dining rooms. The restaurant stocks over 250 bottles with 16 selections offered by the glass. Bottles start at a reasonable $20. While the list has selections from around the world, most are from either France or the USA. The list reflects chef/owner Louis Moskow's "passion for wines that span the globe." He says that "wines of different regions should express a unique terroir that transports the individual to that place in that time." Not a fan of the grape? There's also a full bar.
Recommended for Wine Bars because: Chef/owner Louis Moskow's commitment to fine wine is apparent and he loves creating menus with tempting food to pair with it.
Billie's expert tip: Pair a bit of food from the bar menu with your wine. Everything on this diverse menu is $8; buy five items for $35. It's a great opportunity to share food and wine with friends and enjoy a casual, reasonably-priced meal.