When it comes to wine drinking, especially for newbies, it’s easy to fall back to the usual suspects. But discovering a new favorite from a popular or where-the-heck-is–that region is not only fun and enriching but it’s also easier than you may think.
“There’s a whole world of wine out there. I just had to open my mind, be curious, drink a bunch of wine from places I didn’t know about, and from grapes I’d never heard of,” said Chris Fuqua of Hotel Biron , a welcoming wine bar and gallery near Gough and Market streets with a curiosity-satiating wine list.
So go forth, swirl and savor offbeat elixirs from the following San Francisco locations that are recommended by local experts who are more than willing to guide you down wine roads less traveled:
(3565 20th St.) www.20spot.com
The retro-cool vibe of this punk record store turned wine bar in the Mission district is reason enough to drop in. But stay for the wine list, which is nearly 100 labels strong and includes the sublime Sipun Zlahtina (Zlahtina is a white-wine grape grown exclusively on the island of Krk, Croatia).
“Sometimes you taste a wine and you just know it’s right,” owner Bodhi Freedom said of the wines he selected.
(20 Yerba Buena Lane) www.pressclubsf.com
This sophisticated wine bar and lounge introduces many new players and offers wine flights that pit regions against one another ( Napa vs. Bordeaux) for taste comparison. Beverage director Mauro Cirilli likes the 2013 Jambalaia Blanc ($13 per glass and $58 bottle) from La Carine Farm in the Sierra Foothills.
With Jambalaia Blanc’s blend of Viognier, Marsanne and lesser-known grapes Petit Menseng and Fiano, Cirilli said the “wine shows what California can produce — elegant, unique wines different from the big alcohol, overly extracted wines that fill up the shelves in many wine stores.”
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
This shop and wine bar in the Ferry Building features an ever-changing menu, perfect for a peripatetic palate.
Wine buying manager Drea Dedona recently added the 2011 Bodegas Roda Sela, ($13 per glass and $35 per bottle), a blend of primarily tempranillo, the main grape of Spain’s Rioja region.
“For those who already know the producer or Rioja wines, it’s a great opportunity to taste and start to understand what Roda (an area in the heart of Rioja) is all about: clean, concentrated, silky and well-balanced wines,” she said.
Biondivino Wine Boutique
(1415 Green St.) www.biondivino.com
Though primarily focused on Italian wines, this Russian Hill boutique has a smattering of labels from other parts of the world, too. Drop in for a tasting or to buy a bottle. You can order online.
“I like to play with sparkling wines because they are fun and surprisingly food-friendly. They’re not just for celebrating,” owner Ceri Smith said.
Camillo Donati Malvasia ($20) and Croci Ermano Campedello ($21), two effervescent winners from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, are among her favorites.
Blue Danube Wine Company
Blue Danube specializes in importing quality wines from the burgeoning central and Eastern European wine regions for distribution in restaurants, shops and private tasting events around the Bay Area. They’ll also deliver to your front door.
Eric Danch, the company’s Northern California sales manager, suggests the 2013 Teliani Saperavi, Kakheti, from the Republic of Georgia, which retails for under $15.
“Saperavi is the most planted workhorse red grape in Georgia and can be found in Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Bulgaria as well,” he said.
Kimberley Lovato has been writing about travel, food, and drink for the last 20 years and, from Alabama to Tanzania, has never met a happy hour she didn’t like.; ww.kimberleylovato.com