LOS ANGELES COUNTY
A.O.C. When the tiny bar at Lucques became too popular for its own good, chef Suzanne Goin and co-owner Caroline Styne created an elegant spin-off where Lucques's regulars could come for extraordinary small plates and 50 wines by the glass. 8022 W. Third St., Los Angeles; 323/653-6359.
Bodega Wine Bar. Deejays spin wicked tunes on Monday and Thursday nights at this sexy Euro-style wine bar. The kitchen dishes out simple pizzas and a terrific hummus, and on Wednesdays, any bottle in the house is just $20. 260 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; 626/793-4300.
Café Veneto. Locanda Veneta's casual next-door sibling has a wonderful selection of organic wines, many available in small tasting portions ― as is the food, including delicious lasagna and chocolate pizza. 8636 W. Third, Los Angeles; 310/273-3605.
Cobra Lily. Two stuffed boar heads keep watch over this matchbox-size tapas bar with a 100 percent Spanish wine list and tapas such as grilled octopus and serrano ham and salt cod fritters. Closed Sun–Mon. 8442 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; 323/651-5051.
The Den at Opaline. Opaline's bold wine list has nary a Cabernet Sauvignon on it, focusing instead on wines you might be less familiar with. The come-as-you-are front room ― the Den ― offers about 15 such wines by the glass or half-liter, along with nibbles like foie gras mousse on brioche. Closed Sun. 7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 323/857-6725.
Enoteca Drago. Dramatic cathedral ceilings and handmade Murano glass chandeliers set off a menu of small bites like miniature ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and foie gras. All 20 Italian wine regions are represented on the wine list, with 50 choices available by the taste or glass. 410 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310/786-8236. ―Brad A. Johnson
Catal Restaurant & Uva Bar. Joachim Splichal of Patina runs this outdoor wine bar right smack in the center of Downtown Disney, the shopping and entertainment complex that connects Mickey Mouse's two Anaheim theme parks. Sample more than 20 wines by the glass, plus Mediterranean-style dips, thin-crusted pizzas, and ceviches. 1580 Disneyland Dr., Downtown Disney District, Anaheim; 714/774-4442.
Vine. The bar at Vine offers 30 wines by the glass and a view of the open kitchen, where chef Justin Monson might be braising lamb shanks in Zinfandel. The restaurant holds organized wine tastings every Wednesday. Closed Sun–Mon. 211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente; 949/361-2079. ―B.A.J.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Crush. Grotto lighting in a cool blue-and-red room with mosaic tables. Nine flights are available, priced from $8.50 to $12, along with beautiful fruit and cheese plates and tapas-like snacks. 530 University Ave., San Diego; 619/291-1717.
Gaffney's Wine Bar. Knowledgeable owners hold court in the area's most convivial wine bar, especially strong in Zinfandels and Cabs. Generous two-glass flights join snacks such as a pâté sampler and caprese mozzarella and tomato salad. Closed Mon. 897 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas; 760/633-1011.
The Grape. A high-ceilinged, narrow room located deep in the Victorian-era Gaslamp Quarter, the Grape (one of San Diego's first wine bars) might have a hard-liquor atmosphere, but its 30 flights entice wine lovers. 823 Fifth Ave., San Diego; 619/238-8010.
The Wine Lover. A buzzing establishment right in the heart of the Hillcrest cinema and restaurant district. The Italian marble bar is a stunner, and so is the wine list. In particular, look for the wildly eclectic flights, including "international discoveries" ― quite a bargain at four wines for $10. Romanian Cabernet, anyone 3968 Fifth, San Diego; 619/294-9200. ―Peter Jensen