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Durham’s Best Wine Bars, Wine Lists and Bottle Shops

The best wine bars in Durham each offer a unique, one-of-a-kind experience. True wine lovers will want to plan a stop at each of these bars, restaurants and bottle shops.

Posted By Matt Lardie on Jul 02, 2024

I don’t remember exactly when I fell in love with wine, but when I did I fell hard. It was more than just the taste, it was the science, the history and the stories that wine can tell. One of the oldest beverages on earth, wine can be a connection to past, present and future. And, luckily for those of us here in the Bull City, great wine is incredibly easy to get a hold of these days.

In Durham we are lucky to have one of North Carolina’s best wine scenes. From shops to restaurants to wine bars, an oenophile (fancy term for wine geek) has plenty to choose from when searching for that next great glass. As someone who used to work in the wine industry I’ve certainly got my fair share of opinions on what constitutes an amazing wine selection, but who am I to gatekeep? Without further ado, here are some of my favorite wine bars, restaurants with great wine lists and wine shops here in Durham.

Two guests cheers wine glasses while sitting at a bar.

Enjoy the best of Durham's wine scene with friends. Photo: Eric Waters / Discover Durham

Durham Wine Bars

We’ve got our fair share of wine bars here in Durham, each offering something unique. Located right in the center of downtown, Brunello Wine Bar and owner Esteban Brunello has led the charge in introducing the region to natural wines. His wine list is easily the most eclectic in town, if not in the entire state, and don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with some of the varietals on the list – his knowledge is practically encyclopedic and he’s happy to launch into an impromptu wine class (or you could sign up for one of his popular, regularly scheduled classes). Brunello also sells wine retail, so you can take that bottle of funky orange wine home with you.

Over on East Main Street you’ll find Killer Queen Wine Bar, a chic, lush space with a wine list and small plates menu as sexy as the vibes. This is a great date night spot to sip bubbles and nibble on some charcuterie. Check out the upstairs space, Pretty Vacant, and keep an eye out for some of their special events.

A couple enjoys a glass of wine at Killer Queen Wine Bar in Durham, NC.

Enjoy the chic, intimate ambiance at Killer Queen Wine Bar. Photo: Eric Waters / Discover Durham

On Geer Street, LouElla Wine, Beer & Beverage offers an excellent wine selection paired with an expertly curated bottle shop – get a glass at the bar and then take a bottle to go! The back bar plays host to regular free tastings from wine reps across the region, and the front patio is perfect for people watching. They’re also dog-friendly, so if your four-legged children like to tag along on your wine adventures, Louella is the place for you!

Clouds roll over the sunlit storefront of LouElla in Durham, NC.

Enjoy a glass on the patio or grab a bottle to go at LouElla.

ZincHouse is a spot that defies definition, but I’m going to include here with the other wine bars. Located in Northeastern Durham, it’s part winery, part brewery, part event space, part bar and 100% one of the most unique spots to grab a drink in the entire Triangle. While they have plans to eventually produce their own wine (you’ll see the vines as your drive onto the property), for now they offer a great selection of domestic and foreign bottles that can be enjoyed in the cavernous barn space or on the expansive outdoor patios.

One of my favorite spots for a quick glass, especially if it’s technically past working time but I’ve got a few things to finish up, is Oak House located right downtown. Oak House is a coffee shop that also happens to have a really great little wine list. One of my favorite things to do is to grab a glass and perch at the front window while I finish up some writing – it’s one of the best people-watching spots downtown.

Restaurants

Sometimes you’re in the mood for classics, both in terms of wine and food, and when that mood strikes there is no better place in town to go than Vin Rouge. I mean, steak frites and a nice glass of Burgundy? What could be better than that? You can also do oysters and Muscadet (another classic combo that is a favorite of mine), or make reservations for their uber-popular brunch and split a bottle of Champagne with friends.

The olive colored storefront of Vin Rogue is tucked away on the street corner on a sunny day.

For an exquisite dining experience paired with a delicious wine, head to Vin Rouge. Photo: Discover Durham

Something else I love, aside from wine, is pizza, and one of the best places to combine the two is at Pizzeria Toro. Their wood-fired pies pair perfectly with a well-edited list of Italian wines that span the length of the country from North to South. I prefer Northern Italian whites like a Malvasia from the Veneto, but they’ve also got full-bodied reds from Southern Italy if you like something robust to stand up to your pizza.

If you’d had your fill of Italian wines just take a little swim across the Adriatic (aka stroll down Chapel Hill Street) to Mateo Bar de Tapas for a taste of some of the best wines, and sherries, Spain has to offer. Order a glass of Txakoli from the Basque region, not only is it one of my favorite wines in the world, but the bartender can help you learn how to pronounce it as well. And lest you think sherry is a grandma drink, Mateo is here to change your mind. They have one of the largest lists of Spanish sherries in the country and can definitely lead you through an impromptu sherry tasting.

A couple sit at the bar enjoying a glass of wine at Mateo Tapas in Durham, NC.

Satiate your Spanish wine desires at Mateo. Photo: Jessie Gladdek / Discover Durham

Another great spot for unique wines and bites is Ekhaya, located in the American Tobacco Campus. Chef Zweli’s Southern African-inspired menu pairs great with a fun list of South African wines, and both are perfect to enjoy on the patio during a warm summer evening. If you want to get even more specific than just a region, head over to the newly-reopened Nanas in Rockwood and check out some of their Rieslings. Don’t worry, Riesling is so much more than the sickly-sweet stuff that comes in the blue bottles. This cold-weather grape runs the gamut from sweet and semi-sweet to dry, and Nana’s has a wonderful selection.

A woman sits in front of an entree and glass of wine at Ekhaya at ATC.

For South African wines, take a seat at Ekhaya. Photo: Walk West / Remedy / Chris Facey

Lastly, one of the best spots in town for a casual (but absolutely delicious) meal and a glass or two of wine is Lakewood Social. Located in the Lakewood Shopping Plaza, they’ve got plenty of space to spread out with friends or family, and a great, accessible wine list. I dare you to find a better lunch in town than the Mortadella sandwich and crisp, cold glass of white wine. They also have a small bottle shop on site, and don’t charge corkage fees.

Wine Shops

Going out for a glass is all well and good but sometimes you just want to curl up on the couch with some Netflix and a bottle of vino. Aside from the spots I’ve already mentioned that retail wine, there are a number of other excellent locations to pick up a few bottles of wine, and many offer wine club subscriptions with discounts for those looking to build their collections or just have an expert make the choices for them.

If I told you one of the best places to buy wine in Durham was a grocery store, would you believe me? If not, I beg you to head on over to the Durham Co-op Market on Chapel Hill Street and check out their excellent wine selection. It’s so much more than your basic grocery-store wine - they’ve got wines in every style and at every price point, and it’s my number one spot to pick up a quick bottle while I’m running errands.

For more traditional wine shops, especially for when you need a bit of advice in selecting the perfect bottle or want to sign up for a wine club, you can’t go wrong with some longtime Durham mainstays like Hope Valley Wines, Wine Authorities, or The Wine Feed. All three have excellent selections and super knowledgeable staff, as well as regular educational tastings.

A couple share a glass of wine on a sunny day outside of Wine Authorities in Durham, NC.

Wine Authorities focuses on small, family-owned wineries. Photo: Jessie Gladdek / Discover Durham

Perhaps you’re visiting from out of town for a conference or wedding and staying at a downtown hotel and want to grab a bottle for the room or as a lastminute gift? Bulldega Urban Market, located directly across from 21c Museum Hotel and The Unscripted, has got you covered. For a corner bodega they’ve got quite the collection of wines, from inexpensive “drink me now” options to pricier ones perfect for gifting or a fancy dinner. Their well-stocked cooler has plenty of chilled wines if you need to pop a bottle as soon as you check into that hotel room.

Whether you're looking for a red or something already chilled, Bulldega is sure to have it. Photo: SP Murray / Discover Durham

Lastly, one of the newer additions to Durham’s wine scene is The Common Market, located in between Broad and 9th Streets near Duke’s East Campus. This Bull City outpost of a beloved Charlotte neighborhood sandwich joint boasts a really neat basement bar and bottle shop. Order a sandwich and head downstairs for a glass, or just pick up a bottle to take home with you. The selection is varied and you’ll be able to find everything from Chardonnay and Merlot to more unique varietals and styles.

This list is by no means extensive. Whether you just want a simple glass of easy-drinking wine after a long day of work or you’re looking to grow your wine knowledge by tasting your way through some unique, hard-to-find wine styles, you won’t go lacking for good grapes here in the Bull City.

About the Author

Matt Lardie - Freelance Food, Wine & Travel Writer
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On a never-ending quest for the stories behind what we eat and drink. From biscuits to bibimbap, Bordeaux to beer, Matt's thoroughly obsessed with sharing tales of edible traditions from across the globe.