By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 07, 2009 at 11:03 AM

There's no arguing that Milwaukee is a beer town. But we're becoming more and more friendly with the grape and especially the vinified grape.

That means going to a bar no longer means choosing between pilsner or stout, and it's not even a choice of Merlot vs. Cabernet anymore, either, thanks to these innovative and adventurous wine-focused bars and restaurants.

925 E. Wells St., (414) 765-1166

More restaurant than bar, Bacchus -- in the elegant setting of Cudahy Tower -- has a lovely bar separate from the dining room and most of the time you can enjoy the restaurant's astonishing wine list in the glass-enclosed solarium, too.

1716 N. Arlington Pl., (414) 755-0099
You'd think that a vast, five-page wine list offering everything from a $6 glass of Caves de Pomerol Picpoul de Pinet (described on the list as the Muscadet of south France) to a $400 bottle of Australian Henschke "Hill of Grace" (described as arguably the rarest and best wine on Earth) would be presented on something other than three sheets of stapled paper.

But, more importantly, the wines are served in stemless Riedel crystal, an indication that someone in the joint knows how to treat wine, and the menu offers low-priced "tastes" in case you can't make up your mind between the Hungarian Oremus Tokaji Furmint and French Mas Neuf.

The Cheese Bar
1048 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 272-3544
The Wisconsin Cheese Mart opened The Cheese Bar in 2009 to help Milwaukeeans satisfy that most savory of food and drink combinations, Wisconsin cheese and fine wines. The Cheese Bar indulges in the art of pairing more than 140 local cheeses with wine and local beers in an old-world style.

177 N. Broadway, (414) 225-9800

Cuvee has a full bar, although the main menu's focus is on bubbly. The lengthy list of champagne cocktails -- essentially a fruity martini list, substituting champagne for flavored vodkas -- ranges from the classic mimosa ($6), champagne and orange juice, to rarities such as the Bouzy $10 (named for a village in Champagne), which features dry gin, triple sec and champagne. Regular wine -- what Cuvee calls "still wine" -- is available, too.

Dream Dance Steak
1712 W. Canal St., (414) 847-7883
Like Bacchus, Dream Dance -- in the Potawatomi Bingo Casino -- is an upscale restaurant, but has a separate bar area where you can enjoy anything off an amazing wine list.

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub
222 E. Erie St., (414) 727-9300

With a great lounge in back and self-brewed beer on tap, Hinterland is full of more than a few hidden gems. And those include their wine list. A daily changing wine list offers reds, whites, sparklings and ports, all with a focus great rareties and classic vineyards. But the icing on the cake is Hinterland's great red wine pour. Belly up to the bar for a hefty eight ounce pour of one of "Dave's Picks" or your favorite regional wine.

708 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 390-9463
Opened in 2008 as restaurateur Marc Bianchini's newest experience, Indulge is a sleek and stylish urban wine room, with a focus on design, fine foods, and more than 300 different wines, 60 available by the glass. It also features artisan cheeses, decadent chocolates, hand-made truffles and charcuterie such as prosciutto and pates.

330 E. Menomonee St., (414) 224-4900

Brand new to the Third Ward in 2009, Javino pairs the best of coffee with the best of wine. Completely smoke-free, stop in to chat with co-owners and wine ethusiasts Lee Barczak and Jane Schilz about their latest wine picks.

La Merenda
125 E. National Ave., (414) 389-0125
In addition to international cuisine in a small-plate / tapas format, this Walker's Point gem has an extensive wine list with reds from Australia, Italy, Argentina, France, South Africa and beyond and whites from Tasmania, Sardinia, California, New Zealand and elsewhere. Most are available by the glass.

221 W. Galena St., (414) 271-1155
Libiamo takes full advantage of the extensive wine storage behind the familiar and gorgeous bar, filling it to the brim with a list of 150 varieties that will keep both sommeliers and basic laymen wine lovers busy for months. Wine novices, don't fret -- staff here is educated on the wine list and you cannot fail with a recommendation from them.

5921 W. Vliet St., (414) 479-0620
Across the street from The Times Cinema in the space formerly occupied by Indigo, is Meritage a wine-focused restaurant and bar run by Jan Kelly, former head chef at Barossa.

Nessun Dorma
2778 N. Weil St., (414) 264-8466
Nessun Dorma stocks an impressive selection wine, as well as beer and whiskey. It offers a few dozen types of wine by the glass or bottle, including red, white, sparkling, sake and more. The list isn't the largest, but it usually has a lot of gems and is reasonably priced. Add the good food and the nice atmosphere and Nessun Dorma is unbeatable.

Pastiche Bistro and Wine Bar
3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Set to open in late January 2010, Pastiche plans to serve dinner Monday through Saturday with special happy hour deals and an extensive wine list. The entrees will range from $12 to $25 and be followed by homemade desserts.

Thief Wine Shop & Bar
400 N. Water St. (inside the Milwaukee Public Market), (414) 277-7707
"Our shop follows our passions and in addition to the classics has a lot of varietals, regions, and wineries that many people aren't familiar with but are eager to explore," says co-owner Phil Bilodeau. "Not only are they trying them once, but they're coming back after loving what we've recommended."

In the bar you can expect a frequently changing list of 30-40 wines by the glass, taste, or flight in a casual, welcoming atmosphere, and the shop has about 500 wines to choose from. In both, it's an eclectic array of distinctive, artisanally produced wines from around the world.

Vino 100
1442 Underwood Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 456-9463
With a great outdoor patio -- currently useless, of course, thanks to the weather! -- and an interesting if not exactly exhaustive selection of wine, Vino 100 has a range of wines by the glass that changes daily. It's a great way to try new things and talk wine with others at the small bar in the rear of the shop. While sipping, you can also order and nosh on goodies from Ristorante Bartolotta down the block. Also, don't forget that Whole Foods' Enomatic wine-by-the-glass machine is also a great way to sample some new tastes.