Food & Drink

The Best Wine Bars in Oahu

Published On 02/23/2016 Published On 02/23/2016

When you imagine yourself drinking in Oahu, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a candy-colored tropical drink -- almost certainly garnished with a hibiscus. But if you live here, Mai Tais can get old -- sometimes you’d rather have a nice glass (or OK, let’s be honest: bottle) of wine. So we rounded up a collection of our favorite wine establishments across the island -- establishments where your glass always appears half-full. 

Amuse Wine Bar

Amuse Wine Bar

Ala Moana

Can’t decide between the tempranillo or a cabernet? Or a pinot noir or zinfandel? At this wine-bar-tucked-inside-a-design-center, you don’t have to. With over 80 labels to peruse and pour at your leisure, all you do is fill up your Amuse Wine Card (mentally setting a monetary limit before you start sampling is probably a good idea), circle the pouring dispensers like a predator stalking its prey, and sip all the 2oz tastings you damn well please. 

Formaggio Wine Bar

Kaimuki

If you call yourself an oenophile (it means wine connoisseur, you sickos), you probably come to this cozy Market City bar on a regular basis. Maybe you’re here for the classic, European-style wine cellar atmosphere, or maybe for the great happy hour wine list and food specials, but you’re definitely here to enjoy one of the most extensive selections of French, Italian and fine wines on the island. Even if you’re a casual sipper of wine and can’t smell the difference between an oaky glass or a peppery pour, the knowledgeable staff at this twelve-year old eatery are sure to help you find the right flavors to suit your palate.  

Vino

Vino

Downtown

When this Restaurant Row restaurant shuttered its doors after 15 years of business, wine enthusiasts across the island symbolically poured one out in memory of the rustic Italian tapas restaurant with the carefully curated wine list. Luckily, the mourning period didn’t last long: Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya resurrected the restaurant in 2015, maintaining the fine wine reputation they’re known for. His reasonably succinct wine list lives on, with eclectic wines from around the globe available by the glass.

Greens & Vines Raw Vegan Restaurant

Greens & Vines Gourmet

Kakaako

A raw vegan restaurant might be the last place you’d expected to find a top-notch wine list, but at Greens & Vines Gourmet,  you can pair your Living Lasagna or Kaffir Miso Pad Thai with biodynamic, organic, sustainable, and/or vegan wines. Depending on the weather, you can relax in their indoor seating area or on their outdoor patio, enjoying a cool meal and a glass of wine the next time you feel like going temporary vegetarian.

IL BUCO Wine Bar

Il Buco Wine Bar

Waikiki

To get to this self-described hole-in-the-wall wine bar (Il buco is Italian for “hole”), you’ll not only have to drive into Waikiki, but also burn your smartphone battery by GPS-ing your way to the Waikiki Sand Villa hotel -- without getting distracted by their glowing pool. Alas, your quest will not be in vain when you find the intimate, open-air wine bar and their rotating menu of Mediterranean bites and extensive 120-plus label wine list, supplying wines by the glass, carafe, and bottle. The options include grappa, which -- combined with the dark wooden ceilings and candle wax dripping down the gray brick walls -- makes it easy to pretend you’re in a dusty, old Italian wine cellar. Minus the dust, of course. 

HASR Bistro and HASR Wine Co. 

Downtown

Before there was a HASR Bistro, there was a boutique wine shop, specializing in hard-to-find wines from around the world. These days, the wine shop and bistro share the outdoor patio as well as their wine collection, with select labels available by the glass, so you don’t have to commit to a whole bottle -- although you’ll probably want to. As an added bonus, wines purchased at their wine boutique can be opened in the restaurant sans corkage fee, and as a double, extra bonus: every Tuesday and Friday, you can stop by the wine shop for complimentary tastings starting at 5pm. 

Bread + Butter

Bread + Butter

Ala Moana

Part coffee shop, part café, part grab, and go deli, part lounge, this all-in-one eatery also moonlights as a Pinot bar by night, with a single-minded dedication to all things Pinot. Why Pinot? Because it’s owner Hide Sakurai’s favorite type of wine. While they’ll sell you a glass of Prosecco, you don’t come to a place that has “PINOT BAR” spelled in wine corks mounted behind their bar. But if you’re a fan of the wine made famous in Sideways, you’ll likely find happiness with a glass of Pinot blanc, grigo, or noir. 

IL Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar

Il Lupino Trattoria and Wine Bar

Waikiki

Whether you’re in the market for a glass, a $30 bottle, or a $1,000 splurge, you can cheers to a successful day of shopping and beach-going over a massive selection of bottles at this Italian eatery, located on the bottom floor of the Royal Hawaiian Center. The wine list is so large it needs a table of contents, which you might find intimidating at first -- but it’s ultimately helpful when you’re narrowing down what part of the world you want your liquid fermented grapes to hail from, we promise. 

Vintage 1901

Vintage 1901

Waikiki

Start your night off more elegantly than usual in the Moana Surfrider’s lounge. You can sample exotic flights of wine in their-open air patio while the house pianist tinkles the ivories until 9:30pm every night. Plus: views of their iconic, 75ft tall banyan tree come gratis.

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Summer Nakaishi is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and likes manchego cheese with her wine.

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1. Amuse Wine Bar 1250 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814 (Ala Moana)

Amuse Wine Bar lets you and your friends embark on a self-serve tour of over 80 different wines ... or you can simply peruse the signature cocktails like the Moooi Drop (made with citron vodka, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup with a li hing mui powdered rim). You can also book a tap table and self-pour pints instead of waiting in the crowd at the bar. Amuse serves a variety of dishes from cheese plates and finger foods like button mushrooms and hummus crostini to larger plates like French bread pizzas, fish tacos, Korean Fried Chicken, and Ahi Poké. For dessert, the Deconstructed S’mores is sinful with dark chocolate ganache, toasted marshmallow ice cream, smoked cinnamon marshmallows, and chocolate mousse topped with graham cracker crumbles.

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2. Formaggio Wine Bar 2919 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96826 (Kaimuki)

This casual tapas-style bar is tucked in the bottom level of the Market City Shopping Center and has been on top of best-wine-bar lists since it opened. Their wines can be ordered by the glass or in 2-oz tastes. Plus, there's small bites like foie gras crostini and wild mushroom pizza on offer.

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3. Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar 500 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Downtown)

Italian-inspired wine bar in a large, warm environment. Favorites include the sweet potato ravioli and the pan seared shrimp. The waterfront setting makes for a great date spot and the extensive wine list guarantees an enjoyable experience for every palate.

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4. Greens & Vines 909 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814 (Kakaako)

This raw vegan restaurant has quite a spectacular wine selection. You'll enjoy pairing their Living Lasagna or Kaffir Miso Pad Thai dishes with ant of their biodynamic, organic, sustainable, or vegan wines. They have an outdoor patio that is open for customers in the summer months, so that you and a date can enjoy a delicious, healthy meal and wine pairing under the sunshine.

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5. Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar 2233 Kalakaua Ave Ste 110, Honolulu, HI 96815 (Waikiki)

Inside the 10-story Waikiki Sand Hotel, this intimate wine bar excels at seafood, Italian far, and of course, anything the sommelier reccomends.

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6. HASR Bistro 31 N Pauahi St, Honolulu, HI 96817 (Downtown)

A cheerful wine bar and European/American fare restaurant that offers a comfortable outdoor area. The walls are mural-ed and the air is often filled with music from live bands.

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7. Hasr Wine Co 31 N Pauahi St, Honolulu, HI 96817 (Downtown)

This wine shop shares an address with a bistro, in a perfect arrangement that allows diners to pair their meals with bottles purchased at the boutique, sans corkage fee. Even better: select labels are available by the glass, so you don’t have to commit to a whole bottle.

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8. Bread + Butter 1585 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96814 (Kakaako)

Bread + Butter in Kakaako masquerades as a little bit of everything, from a wine bar to a gourmet coffee shop to a healthy grab-and-go place. Chef Hide Sakurai created this self-service restaurant to be your go-to spot whatever time of day it is. We recommend the taro pancakes for breakfast or the fried quail egg Span musubi for lunch. While you're there, don't forget to try out the bread and butter, because why else would you name the restaurant that?

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9. Vintage 1901 2365 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Head into the Moana Surfrider lounge for an elegant start to your evening. There's an open-air patio to sample unique and exotic flights of wine with music from the house pianist as your background. There's an iconic 75ft tall banyan tree that sparkles with patio lights, setting the scene for a relaxing, breezy drink accompanied by bites from the hotel's lounge menu.

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