Michael Holloway
Urban Guide

38 Milwaukee Wine Bars

The city is bursting with great places to sip and learn about wine and wine culture.

By - Apr 5th, 2018 03:47 pm
Harbor House. Photo by Joey Grihalva.

Harbor House. Photo by Joey Grihalva.

Milwaukee’s craft beer scene has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reasons, what with all the new craft brewers popping up and so many bars serving these new beers. But often overlooked is the growth in wine bars in Milwaukee. And sometimes its fun to trade in that pint glass for an elegant wine glass.

While the term “wine bar” might seem self-explanatory, it’s more than just an establishment with wine on the menu. A wine bar is a great place to learn more about the various types of wines and regions they come from, offering an insight into the flavors of countries that you may have never  visited. There is an overwhelming number of wines out there, and the wine bar experience usually mitigates this with tasting events and a knowledgeable staff eager to help pick out the right wine for you. Some offer the option of taking home a bottle of your favorite.

Since finding the right wine bar for you can be almost as intimidating as finding the right wine, we’ve created our guide to Milwaukee’s finest wine bars, all of which are sure to have a wine that’ll please even the most distinguished of palates. There are 38 in all, with just three outside the city limits.

Bacchus: If the name borrowed from the Roman god of wine wasn’t an obvious enough sign this Bartolotta family restaurant takes wine seriously, then a quick glance at their extensive wine menu will drive the point home. The wine list at Bacchus is the largest and most comprehensive in Milwaukee, and is noted as one of the America’s top wine restaurants. Bacchus offers a “wine by the glass” menu that changes daily, as well as a “Sommelier’s favorites” wine list to assist you with making that difficult decision. Keep an eye out for their five-course wine-pairing dinners. Located at 925 E. Wells St.

Balzac: A winner of multiple “Best Wine Bar” awards as well as being a perfect spot to take that first date, Balzac’s nightly specials will have you drinking wine on any day of the week. Stop in on “Wino Wednesday” for half-off glass pour bottles or on a “Raid the Cellar Sunday” for half-off pour bottles and deep discounts on select cellar bottles. Balzac also carries wine on tap, a somewhat controversial, but great way to ensure that every glass is as fresh as possible. Located at 1716 N. Arlington Pl.

Black Sheep: A turn-of-the-century building transformed into a modern, eclectic wine bar, Black Sheep specializes in boutique, small production wines. With an emphasis on wine taps, 16 rotating bottles of red, white, and rose on deck at all times with a choice between three different sized pours allows for a great opportunity to try some hidden gems. Black Sheep welcomes all people, as is emphasized by their gender-neutral bathrooms. Located at 216 S. Second St.

Blu: Located on the 23rd floor of Pfister Hotel, Blu is the place to be if you want to take in a panoramic view of Downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan while enjoying a glass of wine. Blu’s wine menu is small but diverse, featuring variations of sparking, reds, whites, and ports. Blu also offers a sweet and savory charcuterie menu with suggested wine pairings for each dish, such as a Wisconsin cheddar flight or parmesan truffle chips. Stop by on a Friday or a Saturday night to catch a live performance by a rotating cast of artists. Located at 424 E. Wisconsin on the 23rd floor.

The Capital Grille: Behind every impressive wine list is a knowledgeable sommelier. Known on social media as The Wine Expert, Capital Grille’s Advanced Sommelier Brian Phillips has garnered over 13,000 online followers in his quest to find the best wine and food pairings, so it’s safe to say that the upscale steakhouse’s wine menu is in good hands. Boasting over 350 different wines from all over the world, The Capital Grille offers not only an opportunity to try lesser known wines but also an opportunity to learn more about them. Located at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Clear: Located inside of the Intercontinental hotel, Clear is a hot-spot for theatergoers after a show to enjoy a glass of wine. Clear offers half bottles as well as wine by the glass, and a ramen menu that is available from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stop in during Happy Hour on Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Located at 139 E. Kilbourne Ave, inside the Intercontinental Hotel.

Corvina Wine Company: Fronting as both a wine bar and a wine retailer, Corvina Wine Company is a great spot to expand your palette and take home a bottle of your favorite for later. Corvina frequently holds in-store tastings, often set up so patrons can stop in at their leisure, making it easy even for someone with a busy schedule to find an opportunity to learn more about and try new vintages or traditional favorites. Corvina’s owners believe that wine is essential to a gathering of family or friends, and it’s clear they’re willing to let everyone in on tradition. Located at 6038 W. Lincoln Ave., West Allis.

Crazy Water: With a food menu that offers contemporary takes on traditional American cuisine based in a building that previously served as a nineteenth century feed store, Crazy Water offers the atmosphere of familiar yet bygone times. Crazy Water strives to keep menu items seasonal and local, so the wine and food menu is constantly changing. Stop in on any Tuesday or Thursday to take advantage of their “Thirsty Tuesday and Thursday” specials and get $10 off any bottle of wine. Located at 839 S. 2nd St.

Divino Wine & Dine: The strip of businesses located on the intersection of North Ave. and Murray Ave. has undergone some major changes, but Divino Wine & Dine, located in the middle of it all, has stood its ground. Featuring Italian fare and hand-tossed stone-baked pizzas, Divino is a great spot to pair Italian cuisine with a glass or bottle of an Italian red or white. Stop in on a Tuesday to get any bottle of wine for half-off. Located at 2315 N. Murray Ave.

Dream Dance Steak: Sure, you can take your chances and spend some money at Potawatomi trying to double your earnings, or you could choose to not leave your happiness up to chance and stop into the casino’s steakhouse for a hearty meal paired with a choice of over 600 wines. The winner of Wine Enthusiast’s Award of Ultimate Distinction in 2008 and 2009, as well as several local publications’ Best Wine List awards, the odds of you leaving with your taste for wine satisfied are far greater than your odds at the Blackjack table. Dream Dance Steak claims to have the largest, most comprehensive, and most progressive wine list in the state of Wisconsin, so be sure to have an idea of what you’re craving before getting lost in a wine list so large that it has a table of contents. Located at 1721 W. Canal St. inside of Potawatomi Casino.

East End Wine Bar: Added to the Milwaukee Art Museum as part of the $34 million dollar expansion that transformed the museum in 2015, East End Wine Bar offers a space in which to enjoy a glass of wine while taking in a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. The wine bar offers a rotating cast of eight wines, all of which are in some way connected with the world of art. Stop in on a Friday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to indulge in $5 wine specials, as well as 25 percent off of European small plates or $3 beer selections. Admission tickets to the art museum are not required to visit East End Wine Bar. Located at 700 N. Art Museum Dr. at the East End of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Goodkind: A quaint little restaurant tucked away in Bay View, Goodkind has the perfect atmosphere for enjoying a glass of wine and conversing with friends over some small plates. With a kitchen that stays open until 1 A.M., Goodkind makes for a great late night destination for those who are hungry as well as thirsty. Stop in on a Tuesday to enjoy the Goodkind Burger, which made our list of “Must Try Burgers”, or on a Monday for half priced bottles of wine, another great excuse to drag a friend with you. Located at 2457 S. Wentworth Ave.

Harbor House: The Bartolotta family’s rendition of a New England-style sea food restaurant would make the East Coast proud, landing a spot on Carol Deptola’s Top 30 Restaurants list four years in a row, as well as winning OnMilwaukee’s Milwaukee’s Best Seafood award seven years in a row. Their extensive wine list offers a plethora of white wines that pair well with the seafood menu, as well as some reds that compliment the heartier dishes. Harbor House’s wine list is starting to get some recognition, bringing home Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence this year. Stop in Monday through Friday between 4 p.m. and 6 P.M. for happy hour, where you can indulge in 89 cent oysters and clams and $5 glasses of house wine while enjoying a breathtaking view of the Milwaukee Art Museum as well as the Lake Michigan shoreline. Located at 550 N. Harbor Dr.

Indulge: An urban wine room brought to Milwaukee by restauranteur Marc Bianchini (of Kil@wat and Cubanitas fame), Indulge offers over 300 varieties of wines, 60 of which are available daily by the glass. Indulge’s menu playfully categorizes wines with personality traits such as “bubbly”, “frisky”, and “flirty”, allowing for a refreshing and lighthearted way to pick a wine that suits your tastes. Wine flights are also available, with apt and clever names like “A’meritage, f**k yeah!”, giving the atmosphere at Indulge a lighter tone without sacrificing any of the elegance of its pours. Located at 708 N. Milwaukee St.

La Merenda: A casual tapas bar and restaurant that focuses on regional and international cuisine, La Merenda offers a perfect space for friends to gather and share plates and bottles of wines. The name, “La Merenda”, translates to “early snack”, an Italian tradition of an evening social gathering of friends and family, during which drinks and food are shared. Wine is sold by the glass and by the bottle, including house wines all listed at $5 a glass. Gather a party and stop in at La Merenda to enjoy an “early snack”.  Located at 125 E. National Ave.

Lake Park Bistro: Home to Milwaukee’s only all-French wine list, Lake Park Bistro is yet another Bartolotta family restaurant that has graced Carol Deptolla’s Top 30 Restaurant list numerous times, as well as winning the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 1998. For the full experience, a full  four-course dinner complete with wine pairings is available during dinner service for $71, the best way to efficiently experience James Beard award winning chef Adam Siegel’s versatile French cooking as well as taking in Lake Park’s extensive French wine list. Located at 3133 E. Newberry Blvd.

Merriment Social: While the Walker’s Point restaurant is better known for its frequent and outlandish burger specials, Merriment Social also excels in its beverage selection. With a unique variety of around 25 wine-by-the-glass options, as well as around another 25 wine-by-the-bottle options, the Merriment Social is doing right by its motto of “eat, drink, be merriment”. The restaurant encourages large groups, so bring some friends along for the ride. Located at 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave.

Movida: Bringing the flavors of Spain to Walker’s Point, the wine list at Movida has been created in a way that effectively represents the various regions of the country. Wines hailing from Bierzo, D.O. Madrid, and La Mancha are present, and provide a great insight into the Denominacion de Origen (the Designation of Origin) classification system of Spanish wines. If that sounds too overwhelming, Movida also claims to have the “best happy hour in Walker’s Point”, and stopping by at any time on Monday or between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday will give you the option of $5 glasses of red or white Sangria. Located at 524 S. 2nd St.

Monarch Lounge: Located in the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, the Monarch Lounge’s 1920 aesthetics and spacious seating areas offer a welcoming and relaxing space to catch up with a friend or get some work done next to the stone and metal fire place. The wine list represents areas from all over the world, offering wine by the glass and by the bottle. It’s worth visiting just to check out the 82 foot-long bar reminiscent of an old-school cocktail lounge. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and offers half-off all drinks and appetizers. Located at 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. inside the Hilton Milwaukee City Center.

Nessun Dorma: Although it is the sole representor of the Riverwest Neighborhood on this list, the neighborhood’s reputation is in good hands. Nessun Dorma boasts an extensive wine list that offers wines from all over the globe by the bottle and the glass. A simple but appetizing food menu consisting of Paninis, bruschetta, and antipasti makes a visit to Nessun Dorma at any time of the evening a good choice. Stop in during happy hour which runs Mondays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and all day on Sundays, when you can order $5 select glasses of wines. Located at 2778 N. Weil St.

Odd Duck: Known for its ever changing menu of small plates representing cuisines from varying regions of the world and a launch point for many well-known Milwaukee chefs, this Bay View restaurant also takes its wine very seriously. The wine list is just as diverse as the food menu and offers an impressively large wine-by-the-bottle list. With menus so fresh that they are printed and modified daily, there’s always something new to try at Odd Duck. Located at 2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Onesto: Serving up a modern twist on Italian cuisine, Onesto offers fresh, house made pastas as well as an assortment of mouthwatering appetizers and entrees. Pair one of these options with a selection from Onesto’s approachable wine list, with options of 5 oz pours, 8 oz pours, or whole bottles. Stop in during happy hour from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday to get 8 oz pours for the price of 5 oz pours, as well as a condensed food menu. “Onesto” translates to “honest” in Italian, and this restaurant is honestly worth your attention. Located at 221 N. Broadway.

The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar: A notable romantic spot for a date as well as a winner of multiple “Best Italian Restaurant” accolades, The Pasta Tree remains an East Side staple for fresh Italian food and an excellent selection of wine. With options such as a homemade meat lasagna and an assortment of house-made pasta dishes, as well as a long list of whites, reds, and a few oddities, there’s no reason to leave The Pasta Tree feeling anything but content. Stop in during happy hour between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays for $5 glasses of house wines. Located at 1503 N. Farwell Ave.

Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar: Located inside of the historic, Art Deco inspired Hotel Metro in the downtown area, Pastiche Bistro offers French bistro dishes that pair well with its great selection of wine by the glass and the bottle. Pastiche offers a loyalty program that can be accessed through their Pastiche phone app, giving access to Pastiche’s Wine Club as well as special offers on food and drink. Stop in during happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $5 select wine pours or on Tuesday for half price bottles of wine. Located at 411 E. Mason St. on the ground floor of Hotel Metro.

Pizza Man: After rising from the ashes of its 2010 establishment that burned down in a tragic fire, Pizza Man has since retained one of the best selections of wines in Wisconsin, largely due to husband-and-wife team Zak and Sarah Baker’s love of hospitality and fine dining. Pizza Man offers over 30 unique wine-by-the-glass options, 16 tap lines, and over 250 domestic bottles, most of which can be opened at any time at the price of a two glass minimum. Stop in on a Monday for half-off of all bottles of wine under $100 and a chance to show off your trivia knowledge, or on a Wednesday for half-off of all white wines under $100. Located at 2597 N. Downer Ave.

Ruby Tap: Self-proclaimed as “Milwaukee’s neighborhood wine bar,” Ruby Tap lives up to the title in more ways than one. Most notably, Ruby Tap skips the middle man: the wine bar features self-serve wine machines. Other options include wine on tap as well as an everyday happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. offering 25 percent off wine machines. Stop in on a Monday and get a free order of truffle popcorn with a full bottle of sparkling wine, or on a Friday for $5 off on wine carafes. Ruby Tap also offers a Wine Club program, with three different monthly plans that range from $15 a month to $40 a month. Signing up will give you access to unique bottles of wine each month, as well as discounts and invites to wine tasting events. Located at 1341 N. Wauwatosa Ave., Wauwatosa.

Screaming Tuna: There might not be a better spot to enjoy a glass of wine on the river — the view is spectacular — than at Screaming Tuna, a casual Asian-fusion bistro with a food menu that ranges from sushi to steak. Screaming Tuna features wines from all over the world by the glass and the bottle, and offers a “wine Wednesday” special that offers $2 off all wine pours and $8 off all bottles on Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Located at 106 W. Seeboth St.

Story Hill BKC: The folks at Story Hill BKC are humble; they’re more interested in hearing about what you like to drink, rather than telling you what you should drink. The casual, urban space offers seasonal American fare and weekend brunch, with foods that are inspired by the Upper Midwest but given a global twist. It also has a great wine menu and bottle shop in which you can taste a wine with your meal and then take a bottle home for later. Story Hill BKC was awarded the Wine Spectator award of excellence in 2016, and features a Wine Club program for members to receive information on new wines and get exclusive discounts. Stop in during Happy Hour on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $5 glasses of select wines. Located at 5100 W. Bluemound Rd.

Strange Town: Located in the space that was previously occupied by East Side dining spot Allium, Strange Town is a restaurant featuring an entirely plant-based menu as well as an excellent wine menu. Owner Andy Noble, former owner of Lotus Land Records, offers his personal collection of vinyl to set the mood, creating a very distinctive space in which to enjoy a vegan meal with a glass of wine. Located at 2101 N. Prospect Ave.

Swig: In 2005, Swig became the first Milwaukee restaurant to feature small plates. Although the menu has expanded and evolved since then, the vibe at Swig is still the same: unwind and dine. And what better way to do that than with a glass of wine? Featuring a diverse cast of reds, whites, sparkling, and dessert wines, Swig is big on sampling flavors, and allows customers the chance to try something outside their comfort zone. Pair a glass of wine with one of Swig’s award winning desserts to truly treat yourself. Located at 217 N. Broadway.

Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant: An Italian restaurant that utilizes traditions and recipes that span generations of the Tenuta family, Tenuta’s aims to simply make delicious, authentic Italian food and treat their guests like family. Of course, along with the staples of Italian cuisine, comes great wine. Tenuta’s offers wine by the glass and the bottle, with a notable list of Italian reds. Stop in on any Wednesday for “Wine Wednesday”, featuring $10 off of all bottles of wine. Located at 2995 S. Clement Ave.

Thief Wine Shop & Bar: With a headquarters located inside the Milwaukee Public Market and a second location in Shorewood, each location offering over 750 unique bottles of wine, Thief Wine has your wine needs covered and then some. Both locations serve as both a retail location and a wine bar, offering between 30 and 35 bottles of wine to drink by the glass or by the flight. Stop in at the Public Market location on any weekday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for Happy Hour, which features a different special each day (Friday’s happy hour offers $4 glasses of one rotating red and one rotating white). Stop in between Tuesday and Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for an alternating Happy Hour special, such as no corkage fee on wines over $20 on Tuesdays. Located at 400 N. Water St, inside the Milwaukee Public Market and at 4512 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood.

Transfer Pizzeria Cafe: Another Milwaukee pizza joint with a great wine menu, Transfer offers an extensive pizza menu with gluten-free options as well as Paninis, pastas, and antipasti. The wine menu features a small selection of whites and reds by the glass, and another small selection of whites and reds by the bottle. Transfer offers a “Dockworker’s Special Wine Pour,” available during Happy Hour on Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The special pour costs just $2 and is selected from Transfer’s “secret stash of wine that fell off the boat”. Stop in on a Tuesday for half-price bottles of wine all day, with complimentary live music from the Transfer house band Jazz & Standards, starting at 7:30 p.m. Located at 101 W. Mitchell St.

Vino Third Ward – Wine Bar & Store: With a selection of wine organized by flavor and body rather than region and varietal, making it easier to pick out the right wine, Vino 100 offers more than 150 wines to either sample and then take home or relax and drink in-store. Vino Third Ward offers a variety of artisan cheese to pair with your wine, as well as a Wine Club program that features 2 free bottles of wine per month, free wine tastings once a month, and no corkage fees on your first bottle of wine in-house, all for only $35 a month. Located at 219 E. Eerie St.

Vino Volo: A California-based airport wine bar, Wisconsin’s first Vino Volo location came to the Mitchell airport in 2015. Vino Volo offers a comfortable environment in which to explore regions of the world through their wines while patrons wait for their flight. Wine is offered by the glass, and can also be purchased to either take home or be shipped home if there’s no room in the suitcase for that bottle of vino that you fell in love with. Located at 5300 S. Howell Ave, inside General Mitchell International Airport.

Waterford Wine Company: A quaint boutique shop on Brady St. stocked full with a variety of bottles, Waterford Wine Company prides itself on staff that are knowledgeable and eager to help you find the right wine. Wateford Wine Company frequently features in-store wine tasting classes, as well as free Friday wine tasting socials. Their online store features a wide array of bottles that you can have shipped directly to your house, as well as an abundance of information on each variety. Located at 1327 E. Brady St.

Ward’s House of Prime: Voted “best prime rib” by the Travel Channel and featuring an award-winning wine list, Ward’s is the spot in Milwaukee to indulge in some surf and turf and wine. Ward’s has been awarded the Wine Spectator Restaurant Award from 2015-2017. Stop in on Monday through Friday between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. for Happy Hour, featuring $5 glasses of house wine. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, finish one of their Wall of Fame steak cuts, ranging in weight from 40 oz to 360 oz, to get your name on the wall. Just don’t forget to order a glass of red (or maybe an entire bottle) to wash down all that red meat. Located at 540 E. Mason St.

3 thoughts on “Urban Guide: 38 Milwaukee Wine Bars”

  1. Jodi says:

    Another great wine and beer place is Three Cellars in Oak Creek and Menomonee Falls. They have great selection of beers and wine on tap. The bartenders are very friendly and often offer you tastes before you commit to ordering a beer or wine. While they do not serve food, you can bring in your own cheeses, breads, etc. Three Cellars also has a great selection of wine and beer bottles to purchase and take home. My husband and I like to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a long day at work.

  2. Ann Stokman says:

    I plan to try each one!

  3. Terry says:

    Wine is just fine! I have a friend from Northern Wisconsin who was a vinter in Napa Valley for many years. Yeah, he just sold that business and has moved into the legal, taxed and regulated cannabis market in California. He’s making millions now.

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