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Great Wine Lists

December 27, 1987| Compiled by Kathie Jenkins

If the wining is as important to you as the dining, here are some restaurants you may want to consider. Just remember: If you're going to drink, don't drive. AURORA RISTORANTE (1341 S. Euclid St., Fullerton (714) 738-0272). Aurora not only does the classics proud, it features an arkful of eccentricities such as buffalo, alligator and wild game birds. The hot wilted spinach salad is sublime and there is a perfectly dressed Caesar. For the main course, stick to fresh fish, pepper steak or the veal. Aurora also offers a variety of fresh pastas including linguine and angel hair. The wine list is full of bargains, particularly vintage Italian, and there is a radically priced list of rare Cognacs that are worth every penny. Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. Full bar. Parking lot. Dinner for two, food only, $50-$100.

LA COURONNE (142 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, (818) 793-3151). La Couronne is a light, quiet, pretty restaurant. The service is calm and careful and the warmth of the welcome is absolutely infectious. The menu offers a lot of choices. To begin, try the mixed green salad or the seductive oysters covered with a light blanket of Champagne sauce. Entrees include grenadine of beef or a risotto of quail with morel sauce. Be warned--you will want to eat dessert. The pastry tray is splendid. Another stellar quality: The wine list is not only thick but well chosen and reasonably priced. (It's always nice to see an expensive restaurant offer affordable wines, and this list has many wines for around $12.) Open for lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Tue.-Sat. All major credit cards accepted. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $80-$100.

MICHAEL'S (1147 3rd St., Santa Monica, (213) 451-0843). There are a lot of reasons to eat at Michael's: the beautiful garden, the great art, the good food, the high prices. . . . There is also the wonderful wine list, the creation of Philip Reich, and one of the most carefully selected, carefully tended and carefully listed (the list is totally computerized, so when you order a wine, you know they've got it). All the wine has been chosen to go with the food: If only more restaurants took such care with their lists! Open for lunch and dinner daily. All major credit cards. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $80-$100.

SCANDIA (9040 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 278-3555). Eating at Scandia is like returning to a more gracious time, a time when waiters weren't eager to tell you their names, their ambitions or their telephone numbers. They are professionals here, not aspiring actors, and they practice that effortless sort of service that is so smooth you hardly even notice it. You talk and eat your food without quite realizing that glasses are being filled, old plates are disappearing and new ones being set before you. Scandia's wine list is filled with treasures--older American wines no longer available and certainly not at these prices. If you have a hankering to taste some hard-to-get Swan Zinfandels or Stony Hill Chardonnays, this is the place to do it. Open for lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun. All major credit cards accepted. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $50-$75.

VALENTINO (3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 829-4313). This is the restaurant where people go and spend big bucks to eat incredibly sophisticated Italian food. The food is pure pleasure. Try the extraordinary salad made of plump white Tuscan beans, sweet slivers of prosciutto, a few leaves of arugula, thin slices of porcini and little green broccoli flowers. It's a perfect salad, a sort of cold cassoulet . There are garganelli (hand-rolled horns of pasta topped with bottarga , the caviar of Italy) or a fabulous risotto made of marrow and lentils sitting on a single leaf of radicchio. Other favorites include fried calamaro, osso buco and homemade ravioli. Their enormous wine list keeps getting better and better. Try the Amarone, deep red and bittersweet. Open for lunch Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. All major credit cards accepted. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $60-$120.

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