Let's face it: airport food and beverage is overpriced and normally not that interesting (or even seemingly edible). Wine is no exception, with some wine bars and restaurants in terminals commanding a price for a glass of wine that is dangerously close to the bottle cost in a retailer.
But with winter and holiday travels hovering, and many airport jaunts forthcoming as a result, we thought we'd put our heads together and narrow down the eight best places to sit down, relax, and sip a glass of wine...good wine...in an airport. In other words, if you have to lay over somewhere, these are the eight airports to do it.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
As an offshoot of Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese Shop in the Twin Cities, Surdyk's Flights is its airport sibling. You can find it in The Mall area of the airport, just past security. While there are certainly wine flights (a total of 12: from "A Taste of Spain" to "Brilliant Bordeaux," $10-$24) you can also fill your tummy with decadent cuisine that's a departure from the fast-casual, run-of-the-mill food most vendors offer. Try pot of chicken-liver mousse with cognac or the Mineapple panini (Applegate Farms hormone- and antibiotic-free roast turkey, brie, apples, and lingonberry sauce). A wine pairing is noted for each food item on the menu.
Insider's Tip: So you're just off a long flight from Paris or Tokyo. Who cares if its breakfast time in Minnesota? Breakfast eats here include the Huevos Wrap (scrambled eggs with salsa and Widmer's Cheese Cellars' cheddar), which would pair well with a glass of Malbec wine.
Palm Springs International Airport (PSC)
Since it opened three years ago, California Vintages—just past security—has been a fresh alternative to the airport-dining scene. For one, you can grab a seat in an outdoor courtyard setting that is pretty much unheard of for an airport. Ten different wines are poured by the glass; 80 percent are California wines, with a few from other climates, including a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
Insider's Tip: Fresh, local ingredients are used to craft healthy sandwiches for a locavore twist that goes beyond the regional wines.
Bubbles Wine Bar
Terminal 3 near gate H4 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and at Calgary International Airport (YYC)
We guarantee you haven't stepped foot into an airport bar this chic. More like a chill jazz club than a spot to grab food or drink on the run, Bubbles Wine Bar—which opened earlier this year —expresses a color palette of black, white, and blue and features tunes from a baby-grand piano. Nine sparkling wines are on the menu and the rest of the selections are a mix of high-end (including Far Niente Winery Chardonnay) and value wines. While you may have to hit up a fast-food joint to constitute a meal, there are some gourmet bites on hand, like cheese and charcuterie plates, olives and Marcona almonds.
Insider's Tip: Spring for the shrimp cocktail to experience a fun sparkling-wine pairing.
Vintage Washington Wine Bar
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Located in the main terminal before security—across from concourses C and D—Vintage Washington Wine Bar pays homage to one of the country's newest wine-growing regions, which is right in the airport's back yard. (Some tasting rooms are as close as a half hour from Seattle.) Most of the wines poured in the bar are from Washington, including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Hogue Cellars, and 14 Hands Winery. Pair your pick with seafood dishes like shrimp and Dungeness crab Louie, or a seafood sampler plate.
Insider's Tip: Riesling is the hottest wine in Washington right now and it would be a crime not to sip one here; there are two on the wine list, Townshend and Waterbrook.
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT,) and Miami International Airport (MIA)
Wines at Beaudevin (loosely translated as "beautiful wine" in French) come in three pours (3, 6, and 9 ounces). There are around 30 selections, from cult winery Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley to more affordable offerings. At the Charlotte airport location, find eight wines produced in the state of North Carolina, another up-and-coming wine region, and a shiny, sleek self-serve wine-dispensing machine. You can eat and drink here, with a full food menu that includes starters (ceviche and an artisan-cheese plate) as well as bigger portions (tartine open-faced sandwiches, salads, and even a breakfast menu if you're jet-lagged or fresh off an overnight flight). All locations feature comfy seating (read: no barstools, more like armchairs).
Insider's Tip: Pay attention to the leaf motifs printed next to each wine on the menu for a little coaching in the wine's level of intensity.
One Flew South
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
Across from a food court, the fine-dining restaurant One Flew South is practically a tease. But even if you don't have time for the full experience—think "southernational" food like pork-belly sliders with bread-and-butter pickles, or a meatloaf made from local beef and a side of peach kimchi—drop by for a glass of wine. With five sparkling wines by the glass (including Gruet from New Mexico and Heidsieck & Co. "Monopole" Champagne from France) the list of 30-some offerings also features a Super Tuscan (Italy) and the cult-classic Kung Fu Girl Riesling (Washington). Traveling with a group? There's always the bottle list with rare finds like 2007 Dana Estate Helms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa, California, $350), French Chablis, and a Chilean Carménère.
Insider's Tip: In the mood for something sweeter? Six dessert wines—from Austria, Spain, and Portugal—are a nice treat.
Le Grand Comptoir
George Bush International Airport, Houston (IAH) and Newark International Airport (EWR)
Fifty wines by the glass at Le Grand Comptoir can please just about any palate, even one wrought with a traveler's anxieties. Three different size pours (3, 6, and 8 ounces) allow you to craft your own flight from a wine list of just over 100 wines, whether it's bubblies or "bigger, bolder, unparalleled red" (this is an example of how wines are categorized, not by regions or varietals). Wines include those that are widely available but of the highest quality, like Cakebread, Opus One, and Duckhorn, but also lesser-known producers like Hedges Family Estate (Washington), Van Duzer Vineyards (Oregon), and Orogeny Vineyards (California).
Insider's Tip: Instead of pairing with a cheese plate, try a menu item like blue-cheese chips or baked camembert with caramelized red-onion chutney. Full-on salads and sandwiches, including Croque Monsieur, are also available.
Vino Volo Wine Bar
15 airports including Boston Logan International Airport, Detroit International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, SeaTac, and Dulles International Airport
Then there is Vino Volo Wine Bar—in Italian, "vino volo" means "wine flight." These wine bars are a breath of fresh air in many airports, offering an upscale wine-bar experience and boutique wine shop all in one, with a food menu too. For provisions, the menu is divided into suggested matches with white wines, red wines, and dessert wines, with the food prepared in two different-sized portions. Behind the Vino Volo concept is the founder of Ravenswood Winery, so you know it's not just another food-or-beverage kiosk in the airport. Themed flights of two or three glasses each allow you to travel the world through your glass before hopping on your (other) flight.
Insider's Tip: Look for the "Sommelier Series" flight of wines, which spotlights two exceptional wines.
Photo Credits: Surdyk's Flights: Courtesy of Surdyk's Flights; Bubbles Wine Bar: Courtesy of Chicago O'Hare International Airport; Beaudevin: Courtesy of HMS Host; One Flew South: Courtesy of One Flew South; Le Grand Comptoir: Courtesy of Le Grand Comptoir; Vino Volo Wine Bar: Courtesy of Vino Volo Wine Bar