The Natural-Wine Bar is Where You’ll Find the Cool-Kids Table

What’s the biggest difference between a tourist and a traveler? The willingness to form new friendships on the road. Finding your people in a strange town can happen quickly. You just have to know where to start. After a day full of meetings or museums, bars have typically been the simplest places in which to connect with like-minded locals. What kind? You could always try the hotel bar. But it’s rare that the person next to you is going to invite you to their artist friend’s house party. Pubs? Sorry, they’re not the same social scene in the U. S. as they are in the UK. Clubs? Like where you dance? I wish I could. Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to heading straight to a city’s high-end cocktail bar to get a read on the cultural landscape and gather tips on every worthy restaurant, shop, and music venue in a ten-mile radius.

But recently I’ve had to adjust my strategy—if a city has a natural-wine bar, that serves as stop number one for me. I know it’s going to be the de facto hangout for the local creative set.

birdie’s bar in austin, texas

Outside of Birdie’s in Austin.


How did this happen? My theory is that it’s primarily about what’s in the glass: natural wine. It’s a polarizing term. More of a movement and an idea than an official designation, natural wine is vino that’s less industrial and more respectful of the agrarian art that is winemaking. It’s nerdy but inclusive. Sublime yet accessible. Most important, it’s less pinkies out and more come as you are. The category includes everything from old-school wines from France like Morgon to stuff from Georgia that’s aged in giant ancient clay pots, plus newer, younger bottlings with Instagram-friendly labels. The movement feels like a rebellion against exclusiveness, which is its own kind of cool-kids table at the cafeteria.

For a long time, natty wine was primarily a Euro phenomenon. It was the preferred fuel at some of Europe’s most convivial spots, like Copenhagen’s Ved Stranden 10, Paris’s Aux Deux Amis, and Barcelona’s Bar Brutal—places where you couldn’t believe you were right here, right now, talking to all of the people worth knowing in those cosmopolitan cities. Today, it’s on the hippest wine lists across the U. S.

Let the team at Dear Annie in Cambridge choose guide you on your natural wine adventure.


The trend began in New York, where bars like Ten Bells helped kick things off more than a decade ago. In Las Vegas, a city that crowns Red Bull and vodka as king, I was happy to find its artsier side downtown at Garagiste and Patio Wine Garden, where it seems like every somm who works on the Strip spends their Sunday night. I felt cool at Dear Annie in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a spot with communal seating and a hodgepodge of nooks, which make it easy to ask anyone next to you what orange wine they’re drinking. I will forever remember Fadensonnen as the bar that made me think I could actually find my tribe in Baltimore, where I had gone to college and connected with almost no one. In cities with no shortage of great bars, there are the natural-wine hangouts that offer a more chill setting, such as Birdie’s in Austin, Voodoo Vin in Los Angeles, and Paradis Books & Bread in North Miami. The scene in all three feels more like an adult house party than a decadent rager, and sometimes that’s what you really want when you know you have more work or sightseeing to do the next day. Other places across the country where I’ve had a very chill good time when I needed it: Oakland’s Snail Bar, which is buzzing even at 4PM; Noble Riot in Denver where you can eat fried chicken and champagne in an alley; and Sonoma’s Valley Bar and Bottle–if you always thought Northern California wine country could be too slick or stiff, this place will change your perception. There are too many to name in NYC, but Ruffian and Four Horsemen are in my regular bar rotation.

Does hanging at a natural wine bar guarantee a transformative trip? Hardly, just as not every bottle you taste will suit you. Wine, like travel, is about putting yourself in the right mindset to make some discoveries. You won’t know until you go, sip, and soak it all in.

Kevin Sintumuang is Esquire’s Lifestyle and Culture Director. 

Source : Esquire