Poor storage conditions at "wine bars"

I’ve noticed an increasing trend of wine bars/restaurants/tapas joints taking over L.A. and the rest of the country.
Now, some of these places only have 10-20 choices of bottles, and mostly reasonably priced. Because of that, and from what I’ve gained by speaking to the owners/managers, they usually move the bottles pretty quick. So if a bottle is at room temp for a couple weeks, I can live with it considering it will be off the shelf very quickly.

On the other hand… last night I was at A.O.C. (wine bar/restaurant in West Hollywood/Beverly Hills) for a birthday. They have a wine list of +/- 150 bottles. They range from $30-800+ (they did have a 2003 Marcassin Marcassin Vineyard PN for $330). To my chagrin, they had all the bottles STANDING UPRIGHT and ROOM TEMPERATURE!!! Sure, there are bottles that are moved more quickly than others, but I definitely do not think they move $200+ bottles too quickly to leave them be in these poor storage conditions.
Has anyone seen storage like this at any upscale wine bar/restaurant? All things considered, I would not trust a bottle of anything “nice” at A.O.C. considering the horrible conditions. Their menu has also seemed to go downhill since the move to the new location (and charging $2 for bread now because as the waitress said it’s "made in house and “we don’t buy it”), but the conditions that a supposed “wine bar” stores its wines is pathetic. Thoughts???


It’s for authenticity’s sake…they do it just like the wine bars in Italy or Spain!

The bottles on the top shelf must be absolutely baked.

What concerns me more are the “100 bottles by the glass” joints. Who knows how long anything has been open? I go for craft beer most often in that situation…

If you buy a bottle at a wine bar, and the bottle shows faults, such as for instance heat damage, would the bar not take the bottle back and replace it free of charge? I would certainly expect them to

Funny you brought this up, I frequent numerous wine bars in my local area and always see the same thing. Even worse, whenever I go to Vegas, our first stop is usually at the outdoor bar at Hotel Paris on the strip. Last trip, temps in the high 80s, we sat at the outdoor bar where I looked at the bottle I was getting ready to drink from sitting on a shelf. I passed for a cold beer and mentioned to the bartender why I passed on the $30 per glass CDP. I think this is the norm; unfortunately, most if not all the wine bars I frequent are managed by wine geeks. I don’t get it! Oh well, my favorite wine bar is now at my house.

It’s not really any different in NYC either.
I think the argument could be that the price per square foot makes it too pricey for proper storage, or that it’s most likely run by restaurant people, and not wine people. Possibly a combination of the two.

That schmancy looking cabinet the wines are stored in that picture looks easy enough to hook up a cooling unit to.

I have sent by-the-glass wine back before because it was too warm. It didn’t taste cooked but just not enjoyable. I hesitate now to order a glass if I don’t think it is going to be served at the right temp. I would not hesitate to order a bottle from a restaurant that had it standing for a year or two simply because I will send it back if it is bad. The serving temp is what is going to upset me though.

I’ve seen a lot of places do this in different countries…to the point where it looks like the norm.

I’m not sure if all of their wine is like that…It seems like higher end stuff tends to be stored properly whereas most of the higher turnover stuff tends to be out as decorations…dual purpose saving space/decorating the place.

Even if there was a cooling unit (which I could not see), the cabinets have no insulation from the ambient temperature as there is open-air fencing in the doors.

It seems the least they can do is rest the bottles on their sides, but the need to show their labels makes them do otherwise. For a restaurant that bills itself as a wine bar, it’s sad that they don’t give a damn about storage conditions for their wines.

As for some other wines being in better storage areas, I doubt it as I saw their SQNs, Amiot Guy et Fils Puligny-Montrachet, and Araujo cabs out there. They have others but my memory doesn’t serve me clear.

Like I said, it’s a wine bar type of joint and to see their bottles like this clearly shows that they don’t care. Very unfortunate, because it is a very nice place to relax and have a glass of wine with some tapas. I frequented this place a lot before the move and the menu change as I enjoyed their food and wine immensely, but I think I’m done now. The person whom I spoke to regarding the wines basically gave me the “F-off” attitude and that they sell so much wine they don’t care how they store it.


It’s both indifference and lack of knowledge from what I’ve seen. Many restaurant folks don’t realize that wine’s a perishable product like milk. It adds stature to a regular bar and is an added income stream, but that’s it. Most of these places aren’t run by wine geeks, frankly. In fact, most places that call themselves “wine bars” are that in name only.

I think wine is a lot more durable a product than most people think. If the temperature is not too hot for people then wine should be fine for a few months time even standing up. On the other hand I feel that wine should be served at a slightly cooler temperature.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been served wine by the glass that had plainly been open at least the day before and left at room temperature. It’s flat and occasionally has some VA.

But it’s not just wine bars. On my one visit to the North Fork of Long Island, several wineries served us bottles that had been open for four or five days and were utterly oxidized. Amazing!

I think you are over reacting as well. AOC knows their wine and are not going to do anything stupid to jeopardize the quality of the product they serve. They do turn over a lot of wine and actually might help age it a bit by being at room temp. Their wine by the glass program is still in the refrigerated preservation servers isn’t it?
Like Dan said above, wine is a lot more resilient than most people think.
Other than that how is the new location?

The new location is great. Much roomier than the old. Food is still good, as is the wine program. I’ve been a customer of all of their restaurants for a long time and haven’t had any poor food or wine experiences.

I also think wine geeks tend to be too precious about restaurant storage. If a restaurant’s wine isn’t reasonably to your liking, you always can refuse it.

I don’t see a problem with restaurants standing up their wines. Also are nice restaurants ever at “room temperature”? It’s typically on the chillier side. Combine that with their AC being on all the time, I don’t see a problem for short to mid term storage.

Actually, I definitely like their new place over the old boring one. The outdoor area is muuuuuuch nicer than the previous outdoor area upstairs. Their food is good as usual, but the $2 they now charge for bread irks me for some reason.

We were having dinner as a group in the library the other night when I simply asked their sommelier about why their wine is standing up instead of laying down (I didn’t even mention anything about temperature), he just gave me complete f*ck you attitude, which I thought was appalling considering the simplicity of my question and I was quite polite when I asked. He said they go through a lot of bottles so they leave them standing up for decor and they’re not worried about it. Now I’ve seen lots of places with similar room temp set-ups, but at least they lay down the wine. I guess in the WeHo/BH area, it’s all about showing labels.

Yes, the wine by the glass is refrigerated if I’m not mistaken, so no problems there.

I’d go back if I’m with a group, but it seems like the wait staff have attitudes thinking they’re such an amazing restaurant (which it is not), that it’s wearing thin on me. Too bad my g/f likes their squid ink risotto which is why I get dragged along!

it’s really not a problem unless they are looking to age it for years…

We went there last night with some friends who wanted to go there. I’ll stick to the wine aspect for this reply–we bought a rose Pinot Noir off the list, and it was perfectly fine. There was nothing about it to indicate any storage problems.


Just mho but, who’s business is this? Yours or theirs?

So…first you see it not stored in a manner you like. You probably are not familiar with their day to day operations. I would then suggest you order a glass of wine, one of a vintage on the top shelf. Taste it. Then if its off send it back and ask for another. If that one is also off I think you might be justified to talk to the owner or manager.

I’ve never sent a glass back but I have seen it done.