Though you may be far from the vines, Lake Tahoe is home to eclectic joints known for their wines. From an 80-foot yacht launching from the South Shore to a cozy bar with knitting nights and board games on the North Shore, choose from thoughtful wine selections brought to you by passionate proprietors.
The Idle Hour
Come for the wine and stay for the views at The Idle Hour’s lakefront tasting room and wine shop in South Lake Tahoe. With a selection of over 200 bottles, The Idle Hour specializes in boutique wines with a healthy representation of California, that you won’t find elsewhere.
Nestle into one of the plush seating areas inside by the fireplace or on the heated deck with sweeping views of Big Blue, enjoy an 8 or 10 glass flight alongside a heaping charcuterie board.
“In wintertime, we have our hot spiced wine, which goes like crazy,” says Mark Winberg, manager of The Idle Hour. “We have to refill it a couple of times a day. It’s a secret recipe I’ve had for 30 years.”
With wine trinkets and accessories, as well as some Tahoe-themed art, The Idle Hour has a charming, relaxed atmosphere that you won’t want to leave.
While other boaters pull their vessels out for the winter, the Safari Rose floats on with its twice daily cruises to Emerald Bay complete with a complimentary glass of wine (or champagne and beer).
The 1959 yacht boasts a dining room, a salon with a fireplace and bar, a cozy enclosed fantail, and an upper-level sundeck for taking in 360-degree views.
Throughout the summer, the Safari Rose hosts California vineyards for tastings, but during the cooler months, guests can visit the full-bar to choose from an impressive selection of domestic and imported wines.
The popular evening cruise to Emerald Bay is a great way to see the stunning sunsets courtesy of winter storms as the boat swings by the famed Vikingsholm castle and Fannette Island before returning to Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe.
“Dress warmly and bring blankets so you can enjoy the views from outside,” suggests Shelly McCarty, operations manager of the Safari Rose. “It’s still a great time of year to be out on the water.”
With locations in Truckee, Squaw Valley and Tahoe City, Uncorked Tahoe strives to “take the seriousness away from the wine, even though we take it seriously,” says Chris Barkman, who owns the trio of wine bars with his wife, Kelsey. From a seat at the inviting wood bar, choose from a rotating selection of wines for a flight while admiring the artful wall display of bottles.
“We’re very, very methodical about every bottle that goes on the wall and each wine is up there because it is the very best representation of that region, that appellation, that varietal,” notes Barkman.
With an upscale-meets-mountain-casual vibe, it’s the perfect spot to hunker down with a glass, buy a bottle for later, or even partake in a wine class for schooling on 5-6 wines from around the world.
Glasses Wine Bar
Kathleen McInnis-Martens and Rob Martens want you to think of their Incline Village wine bar, Glasses, as your second living room.
“We decided we wanted to make a coffee shop for wine because neither of us drink coffee, but we wanted that ambiance,” explains Kathleen. “We have couches and books and games, and even sell reading glasses. It’s a chill atmosphere.”
With 26 bottles of wine by the glass and roughly another 75 to choose from by the bottle, Glasses offers wines at all prices points.
The wine bar also brings in live music and hosts book clubs, knitting nights and painting parties. The large chalkboard feature displays bottles as well as a “Buy a Friend a Drink” list for regulars.
“I really want to help people understand wine without the snobbishness that we hear some other places have,” adds Kathleen. “We want everyone to be really comfortable here.”
Black Bear Lodge
Located in the heart of South Lake Tahoe but with a middle-of-the-woods feel, Black Bear Lodge is a favorite spot to grab a glass or two for locals and visitors alike.
After perusing the rotating list of small scale California vineyards, sip your Syrah in an oversized armchair beside the 32-foot river rock fireplace in the enviable mountain modern lobby.
The room features floor to ceiling windows that show off the lodge’s tree-filled property and standalone cabins.
“We wanted to feature wines solely from California to give visitors and locals a taste of the area. There are vineyards as close as Apple Hill and all the way up-and-down California,” says Rachel Carson, who owns Black Bear Lodge with her husband, Greg. “There is really nothing more magical than sitting by the fire, sipping wine with friends and watching the snowfall out those great windows.”
Editor’s note: This article appeared in the 2020-21 winter edition of Tahoe Magazine.