Rare & Vintage Wines in the Valley

If a restaurant has an interesting wine list they’ve instantly made a long time patron of me. The list doesn’t have to be vast or expensive, just filled with interesting wines that make me excited for new tastes. The only thing I enjoy more than drinking wine, is finding new wines to drink. Last night I found a new wine list love at Augustine Wine Bar in Sherman Oaks.

This casual wine bar offers a variety of wines by the glass or bottle along with a delicious collection of small plates which are definitely big enough to share. It has a laid back atmosphere with cozy corners and rustic tables. There is no real waiter service, instead you place your food and drink orders at the bar. The staff is both attentive and knowledgeable.

I started my evening with a unique Chenin Blanc.  (Loïc Mahé Chenin Blanc “Les Fougeraies” Savennières, France 2009) It was amber in color with a fruity nose and a taste reminiscent of a sour ale. I savored every sip. Now for some nibbles. The root vegetable caesar salad with fried capers was one of my favorites. The vegetables were sliced so thin I almost mistook it for the pasta dish I ordered. The home made pasta arrived next with an almond pesto and beet puree. Yum! What I love about Augustine Wine Bar is you can order a glass of wine and a couple small plates, then decide if you’re still hungry for more. If so, just saunter up to the bar and order a few more tasty treats.

I’m notoriously fickle when it comes to ordering off a menu. I usually change my mind multiple times before the waiter arrives to take my order. Small plates are perfect for me because I can be indecisive. I can try an assortment of dishes in one meal. I love when each person in the group orders a dish. This way we each get to try our favorites while sampling what someone else finds intriguing without feeling tied into finishing an entire entree.

Next up we ordered my favorite olives, Castelvetrano. If you’ve never tried them, they taste to me like Olive Oil in solid form. Buttery and dense without the typical overpowering vinegar brine. The mix and match cheese and charcueterie plate is a must. My highlights had to be the duck salami which I swear I could eat every day and the semi-soft goat’s milk cheese with black ash rind.

Time for another glass of wine! What makes Augustine Wine Bar so special is their rotating list of rare and vintage wines by the glass or bottle. There are some names (and prices) on this list that will blow you (and maybe your wallet) away. But each is unique and most likely worth it.

My choice was the 2008 Aubert Chardonnay. Which to me is heaven in a glass. I’m not always the biggest Chardonnay fan because many are too buttery. This one has the perfect balance of butter, oak and fruit. The last time I had an Aubert Chardonnay was 3 years ago. I am so happy to have had the experience of tasting this unique wine once again.

Whenever I try a new restaurant, I always ask the staff what is their favorite dish. They spend more time with the menu then anyone else. They know what people order the most and what keeps them coming back. I was very surprised by the staff’s answer last night. He recommended the beef cheek crostini and tater tots. Saying, “it’s like the most upscale cafeteria food.” While I appreciate his humor, I’ve never visited a cafeteria with food this good! The beef cheek was braised in red wine giving it a luscious pot roast feel. The tater tots were light and without any hint of greasiness. The spicy aioli sauce was a perfect accompaniment.

Augustine Wine Bar is the type of place I will continually mention when friends or family ask, where should we go for dinner tonight? Next time I will have to try the braised octopus with chickpeas and chorizo and the seared duck breast ravioli. Plus I’m sure their chalkboard of dreamy wines will present something new for my palette to obsess over.

Many Los Angelenos complain that there are not enough good restaurants in the valley. One visit to Augustine Wine Bar and you will change your mind. Check out their full MENU and WINE LIST.


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