On an overcast Tuesday in January, I stumbled upon something I had not expected when I set out that day in search of old Barolo and a new scarf — a winery.
Wine has been made in San Francisco since the 19th century. Besides Crushpad, the “people’s winemaking facility” that moved to Sonoma from the Dogpatch neighborhood in 2011, San Francisco’s Italian immigrants have a long history of making red wines from rudimentary presses in basements.
The South of Market district, now littered with lofts, start-ups, trendy restaurants and nightclubs, was home to several wineries before that fateful day in 1906 when the earth did not stand still. Sadly, the area then called South of the Slot lost all its wineries until 2010.
Enter Matt Reidy, a fourth-generation San Franciscan and managing partner of Bluxome Street Winery, which opened in 2010 at 53 Bluxome St., off of Fourth Street. Reidy knows quite a bit about San Francisco’s history and the characters who built it — such as Issac Bluxome.
The winery represents “100 years of heritage and a part of history.” Reflecting this, vintage San Francisco footage is projected onto one of the walls in the tasting area. This could come across as a little gimmicky, but it doesn’t.
The facility doubles as an event space, and an expansion is planned to an adjoining building that will be dedicated to winemaking.
Although it seems like a great place to roll out the barrels and have a soirée, Bluxome Street is, first and foremost, a serious winery. What gives it real cred is not the largesse or cool factor of the facility — which is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday, from noon until 7 p.m. — but the caliber of the wines.
“The primary focus is pinot noir and sauvignon blanc,” Reidy said. Based on a tasting, these varietals are indeed its strong suit. Most of the fruit is from the Russian River, although two new Mendocino County pinots are in the works. I was pleasantly surprised. Here were the highlights:
Bluxome Street Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 (Russian River, California): This reminded me of the old Dageneau wines in that it has an equal composition of fruit and mineral with a touch of wood. Full-bodied with grapefruit, honeydew rind and piquant acidity, it is a standout in the world of California sauvignon blanc. Suggested retail: $22
Bluxome Street Gewürztraminer, 2010 (Russian River, California): One of the better examples of domestic gewürztraminer to be found, I suspect this is Bluxome Street’s sleeper. Fragrant, with rose petals, lychee nut and tea, it is expressive but not over the top. Suggested retail: $21
Bluxome Street Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2008 (Sonoma, California): Bright with animated red fruits, a hint of pepper, vanilla bean and blood orange, this is a superb pinot noir. It eclipses Bluxome’s delightful Russian River bottling and comes close to the single vineyard Thornridge that is now sadly sold out. Multilayered and well-structured, it is drinking well now and should age nicely for another five years. Suggested retail: $40
Pamela S. Busch is a 21-year veteran of the wine industry and the founder of Skrewkap, an online wine magazine.