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The Best Wine Bars in Philadelphia

by Ben Lemoine on May 13, 2016 in Roundups

Photo of Tria Cafe by Steve Legato

Philadelphia’s wine culture is expanding in so many ways, creating opportunities for new wine bars to thrive and for established places to maintain an engaged clientele. In fact, the wine scene is growing so dynamically that we couldn’t possibly fit every excellent wine list into one article. Below is our roundup of wine list-focused, exciting by-the-glass programs in Philly right now.

In a city once desperate for serious wine bars, Tria Cafe rang the clarion bell loudly, and they continue to stay relevant and exciting in the advancing Philadelphia wine scene. A focus on education has always been central to Tria’s ethic for both employees and patrons, encouraging staff to cultivate and share opinions in a casual setting with a similar attentiveness and knowledge of a seasoned sommelier. “Fermentation School” classes, “Sunday School” specials, three locations, and a perpetual calendar of events help to set this wine bar empire apart.
Tria Rittenhouse Square (123 S 18th St; 215-972-7075)
Tria Washington Square West (1137 Spruce St; 215-629-9200)
Tria Fitler Square (2227 Pine St; 215-309-2245)
*Photo by Steve Legato

 


Tucked away on an Old City side street, Panorama’s unassuming locale belies its status as the Guinness Record holder for the largest wine preservation and dispensing system in the world. 150 wines are available by the glass, perfectly maintained by a state-of-the-art oxygen replacement system, the breadth and diversity of which is globally unparalleled. Dozens of wine flights help to orient any reasonably overwhelmed guest, and cozy Italian fare will keep you fueled for the marathon of drinking in store. (14 N Front St; 215-922-7800)
*Photo via Panorama

 


Wine’s internationality is the focus of this South Street West bar, the passion project of Anthropology PhD Jill Weber, who moonlights as a podcaster called “The Wining Archaeologist.” She pays special attention to underexplored Southeastern European and Near Eastern wine regions, her academic specialty, at glass pour prices well below the city standard. Monthly “Wine and History” tastings feature all of the stimulating content of a Penn Museum lecture, but with a much higher “tolerance.” (1525 South St; 215-735-1116)
*Photo via Jet Wine Bar

 


Close your eyes and picture a wine bar — Vintage is what comes to mind. Framed by exposed brick, wine crates, and local art, the dining room is dramatically lit by a vintage bottle rack chandelier. This backdrop (along with a menu of French-American bistro fare) makes for a Parisian noir vibe that is palpable and enticing. In the heart of Midtown Village with over 60 wines by the glass, this is a touchstone for wine appreciation in the heart of the city. (129 S 13th St; 215-922-3095)
*Photo via Vintage

 


Tredici opened with a bold agenda: to sell super premium wines by the glass in Philadelphia. With finesse, they’ve succeeded at making glasses of cult Cali Cabs and luxury Champagne surprisingly affordable by offering fractional pours and pricing at margins more generous than we’re used to in Center City. Bright marble, tall ceilings and polished service give this spot a grandeur in keeping with the wine list it impressively maintains. (114 South 13th St; 267-928-2092)
*Photo via Tredici

 


Fishtown has had a flurry of restaurant activity recently, and Root offers a refreshing Mid-century modern counterbalance to the farmhouse-industrial scene. Repping the classics, the wine list is approachable, affordable, and balanced, so transitioning from the surrounding beer bars doesn’t have to be an uppity proposition. This wine dominant program is a welcome addition to the bustling corner of Frankford and Girard. (1206 Frankford Ave; 215-515-3452)
*Photo by Drink Philly

 


Stalwart Philly Bartender Jonny Medlinsky may be known around town by his passion for avant-garde beer, but at his new venture, Martha, he’s putting substantial emphasis on local and natural wines. The sixteen glass pours are dominantly from Pennsylvania and New Jersey wineries, which effectively makes this the largest by-the-glass local wine program in the city.  A carefully curated menu of bar bites and Joe Beddia-approved hoagie creations gives Martha a cozy but sophisticated appeal. When the weather is nice, they offer bocce out back! (2113 E York St; 215-867-8881)
*Photo via Martha

 


Located at the northern reaches of Fishtown on the Frankford corridor, Fishtown Social is a new addition to blossoming cultural scene of greater Kensington. The menu doesn’t have many beer or cocktail offerings but does feature sections like “Rotating Rosés and Rieslings,” which are perfect for warmer months. Casual neighborhood vibes help ease this corner spot into the expanding frontier of Philly wine culture. (1525 Frankford Ave)

 


The wine program at a.Kitchen and its walk-up sidecar a.Bar has garnered national praise for its avant garde focus and depth. Dipping your toe in the cellar is easy and always exciting at a.Bar, where the list isn’t huge, but is in constant rotation, with a mind toward seasonality and progressive trends. “Magnum Monday” is a weekly feature you won’t want to miss, as it pours obscure labels in large formats. (1737 Walnut St; 215-825-7035)
*Photo via a.bar

 


Library Bar and Bar210 at The Rittenhouse
Lacroix may be the main event at The Rittenhouse but, in keeping with the restaurant’s attention to fine wine, the hotel’s two auxiliary bars are more than enough reason to visit. A jewel box selection of wines from the Rittenhouse’s cellar offers a taste of the great list available at Lacroix and plays to the classic appeal of taking refreshment at the sophisticated hotel bar. Come see what “New York’s Best Sommelier” is doing at one of Philly’s top wine destinations. (210 W Rittenhouse Sq; 215-790-2533)
*Photo by Drink Philly

 


Deep blacks and reds evoke the intensity of the bullfighting arena at this tapas bar from Mayors of Midtown village Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, which features an impressive 30 or so sherries available by the glass. Enjoy your glass of wine with a portion of Serrano or Iberico ham shaved on the titular jamonera ham clamp unitasker. (105 S 13th St; 215-922-6061)
*Photo via Jamonera

 


Beloved gelato purveyors Capogiro have succeeded in making the transition to a full-fledged restaurant with this elegant Old City trattoria.  An Italian exclusive list focuses on country wines from Central and Southern regions, the natural culinary companions to rustic Neapolitan pizza in which they specialize. Reasonable bottle prices and an expansive menu of sharable dishes make this an inviting locale to explore obscure Italian varietals with friends. Don’t forget the gelati! (233 Chestnut St; 215-897-9999)
*Photo by Drink Philly

 


Zavino nails the balance of casual and considered with a variety of pizza options elevated by excellent ingredients and successful execution. To wash it down, order from their approachable, Italian focused wine list which offers generously portioned half and full-sized pours. Plus, both locations offer great vantages for weekend people watching.
Midtown Village (112 S 13th St; 215-732-2400)
University City (3200 Chestnut St; 215-823-6897)
*Photo via Zavino
 
Photo via Steve Legato

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