11 Foolproof Wine Lists

Ordering wine can be a gamble. It’s easy to drop $100 dollars on a teeth-staining disappointment, but that doesn’t mean you should opt for the cheapest pinot every time you go out. We talked to Reeds American Table beverage director and Food & Wine’s 2016 Sommelier of the Year Andrey Ivanov about the St. Louis restaurants with reliable lists and helpful sommeliers. Just close your eyes and point at the wine list in these 11 oenophile hotspots.

Lucas Park Grille
Next time you’re at this downtown hotspot, skip the vodka tonic and ask for the wine list, which boasts an affordable selection of reliable bottles. “Sommelier Rich Ross has a great palate and ‘wine brain,’” Ivanov said. “He has an affinity for rare wines that are not readily available elsewhere.” 1234 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.7770, lucasparkgrille.com

Eleven Eleven Mississippi
This Lafayette Square restaurant has built a decade-long relationship with the wineries on its list, which includes some of the coolest Italian whites in town. Ivanov suggested the crisp Vinchio Vaglio Serra Arneis white and Bonotto Delle Tezze Roboso red. 1111 Mississippi Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.9999, 1111-m.com

The list is 88 pages long, but that’s where wine director Aleksandar Jovanovic comes in. “He’s good at describing wines and helping you choose the right one,” Ivanov said. Opt for a bottle from Slovenia, Croatia or Macedonia. “Aleks knows more about wines from the Balkans than anyone else in town.” 9202 Clayton Road, Ladue, 314.567.9100, todayattruffles.com

Blood & Sand
Membership has its privileges, including access to niche bottles with surprisingly reasonable price tags. Domestic varieties and small-production wines from Oregon are the highlight here. 1500 St. Charles St., St. Louis, 314.241.7263, bloodandsandstl.com

Bar Italia Ristorante
There are only nine wines on the regular menu. Ask for the reserved menu where you’ll find varieties that have cellared at the restaurant for a lifetime. “It’s a hidden trove of Italian wines,” said Ivanov. “Some bottles have been cellaring since the 1980s and 1990s.” 13 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis, 314.361.7010, baritaliastl.com

The Chesterfield restaurant and wine bar has more than 650 selections that it’s been building for 44 years, plus a retail shop and frequent wine dinners. Add to that Wine Spectator awards spanning decades, and you know you’re in safe hands. 1772 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield, 636.449.6700, balabanswine.com

lucas park grille wine director, sommelier rich ross // photo by dave moore

Louie’s Wine Dive
Clayton’s new wine bar is part of a small chain, so its bottle list adheres to company regulations, but the list of by-the-glass pours on the chalkboard takes liberties, especially with its sparkling wine. “It’s one of the few places where the by-the-glass menu is progressive and interesting,” said Ivanov. “There’s nothing on there I wouldn’t want.” 16 S. Bemiston Ave., Clayton, 314.875.9373, louieswinedive.com

The wine list here focuses on playing well with food, so Ivanov suggested springing for the wine pairing. “The wines are specifically brought in for each dish,” he said. “They do pairings better than anyone else.” If you’d rather sip on a glass or two, look for unique offerings like small-production Champagne and rustic orange wine. 1634 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.1088, elaiastl.com

French, Italian and American wines shine at Parigi in Clayton. “Look for something classic from France and America,” said Ivanov. “The Italian wines are more interesting and off the beaten path.” 8025 Bonhomme Ave., Clayton, 314.899.9767, parigistl.com

Annie Gunn’s
An area landmark since 1937, Annie Gunn’s has been a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Outstanding Wine Service in 2011 and for Outstanding Wine Program in 2015. Its 900-bottle list features a wide variety of regions and styles. Seek guidance from wine director Glenn Bardgett, who’s been growing the wine program for 16 years. 16806 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield, 636.532.7684, anniegunns.com

Reeds American Table
Named one of the 100 best wine restaurants in America by Wine Enthusiast this year, the wine list at Reeds includes many trendy and unusual regions. With Ivanov at the helm, this is the place to go outside your comfort zone and try something new. 7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.899.9821, reedsamericantable.com