Located so close to the wine country, we San Franciscans love our vino. We buy it in bulk at Costco and BevMo; we buy it at Trader Joe’s and Safeway, and we like to drink varietals at home, in restaurants, and often, at wine bars. The city sports a wealth of wine bars old and new. These welcoming spots offer an opportunity to try and share wines from around the world while enjoying bar bites, small plates, and even full meals.
IN THE ‘HOOD
Nectar Wine Lounge (3330 Steiner St., 415-345-1377, nectarwinelounge.com) was the first of its kind in the Marina when it opened in 2004. Its old school, candle-lit ambience makes it a great place to taste wine along with salads, flatbread, and burrata. If you discover a favorite, most of Nectar’s wines are available for retail. This is a growing trend among wine bars; selling wine onsite is an easy way to offer patrons to purchase wine by the bottle.
The California Wine Merchant (2113 Chestnut St., 415-567-0646, californiawinemerchant.com) draws wine aficionados along with those who just want to enjoy the bar’s open window seats in the afternoon or its casual atmosphere in the evening. Owner Greg O’Flynn has been in the wine-selling business since 1974, and opened the wine bar the same year as Nectar. The wine list changes daily, and while the majority of the wines are from California, there is typically an ample selection of international wines as well. It offers about 45–50 wines by the glass or half glass and custom-created wine flights.
Almost five years old, the upscale yet unpretentious West Coast Wine + Cheese (2165 Union Street, 415-376-9720, westcoastsf.com), has found its neighborhood niche, focusing on wines from California, Oregon, and Washington. It also serves beers, cheese, and charcuterie, and small plates like grilled cheese, crostini, and daily specials, and hosts periodic winemaker evenings.
Chic and sleek wine bars Cultivar (2379 Chestnut St., 415-962-4200, cultivarsf.com) and Parigo (3232 Scott St., 415-580-7080, parigosf.com) opened last year. Cultivar is a unique combination of wine bar, tasting room, and retail shop, offering a small but distinctive menu of wines by the glass and bottle and excellent small and large plates. Parigo features an unconventional twist on the classic wine bar by creating dishes to pair with the wines rather than vice versa, resulting in a wine bar with a food-forward focus.
And the newest offering by chef Dominique Crenn, Bar Crenn (3131 Fillmore St., 415-440-0460, barcrenn.com), an intimate wine bar adjacent to her two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn, is set to open this month. Dedicated to enjoying the great wines of France, low-proof craft cocktails and French-inspired bites will also be available.
YOUR NEW LIVING ROOM
Just up the hill from the Marina in Pacific Heights is Scopo DiVino (2800 California St., 415-928-3728, scopodivino.com), a wonderful gem that offers a truly convivial, comfortable spot to relish great wine and food. Tim Schuyler Hayman, founder and self-proclaimed “wine therapist,” believes there is a strong emotional connection between enjoying wines paired with good food. Scopo DiVino offers wine from around the word, a full brunch and dinner menu, live music five nights a week, and a wine-club-like membership program.
MOVING ON UP
In Russian Hill is Amelie (1754 Polk St., 415-292-6916, ameliewinebar.com) and Union Larder (1945 Hyde St., 415-323-4845, unionlarder.com). Amelie, which has two other locations in New York City, is a modern wine lounge with a distinctly Parisian flair, perfect both for a romantic date or a casual happy hour. Its wine list is comprised of high-quality vintages with a heavy emphasis on France but also includes California, New Zealand, Chile, and more. The menu features French cheese and charcuterie along with salads, mains, and luscious desserts.
Union Larder is the newest kid on the block — a wine bar, restaurant, and specialty food store. Its light, airy vibe and selection of more than 50 wines by the glass, mostly from California but also France, Slovenia, and Hungary, make it an easy choice for a glass of wine after work or a place to stop and grab an unusual bottle for a dinner party. In addition to cheese and cured meats, the menu ranges from duck liver mousse to hummus to house-made meatballs and a winter root vegetable salad.
As you can see, there is no shortage of wine bars in the neighborhood whether you are a connoisseur or just want a place for wine and a light meal. So elevate your palate and sip away.