Wine bar choices abundant for San Francisco sippers

Gil Riego Jr./Special to the S.F. ExaminerColorful refuge: Blanc et Rouge has wine selections to please both mainstream palates and more adventurous tastes.

Continuing with last week’s theme, finding good wines by the glass has changed dramatically since the days of Hayes and Vine, the wine bar I co-founded in 1994. As both a wine drinker and wine professional, I love going to other people’s establishments, where I can learn something. Like restaurants, some wine bars are better than others, but there is a Bubba Smith-size handful of them that are doing a great job. Let’s take a tour.

In the Marina, I’ve always been a big fan of Nectar Wine Lounge. Owner Chris Potter has a little something for everyone. He has not succumbed to the pressure to be totally esoteric, as others have, yet there is plenty for wine geeks to enjoy, such as Bleasdale Vineyards Uncle Dick: The Red Brut ($12 per glass), a sparkling shiraz from Australia. At any given time, there are four different flights available to go along with more than 40 wines by the 2-ounce taste size or glass.

Blanc et Rouge is my downtown spot. Like Nectar, the list balances  mainstream wines with off-the-beaten-path selections, with the 2007 Hilberg Pasquero Vareij ($12 per glass), a barbera-brachetto blend from Piedmont, Italy, being a personal favorite.  Wine buyer Andrew Fidelman and his partners, chef Laurent Manrique and Christopher Condy, are opening up a restaurant with a southwestern French focus. I’m looking forward to checking that out.

For an afternoon wine break, the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant is my watering hole. Its wine bar often highlights the more obscure picks — Fubbiano’s  2010 Vermentino ($8 per glass) from Lucca, Italy, being one — but also has old standards such as the Green & Red Zinfandel 2007 Tip Top ($10.25 per glass). Another plus is that you can order a 2-ounce taste or glass. Proprietor Debbie Zacharias and wine-buying manager Drea Dedona make the selections, and so far it’s been nothing but an afternoon delight.

Terroir in South of Market is the best place in The City to find organic and natural wines. Some might think it’s a little too out there, but wines such as the 2011 Sarazinière Macon Bussière ($11 per glass), a white Burgundy, are now as easy to spot as a Prius. A more esoteric offering at the moment is Clos Saron’s Out of the Blue ($15 per glass) from the Sierra Foothills, which is made from a 127-year-old cinsault vineyard. The by-the-glass selections are stellar, but be prepared to pay up to $20 or more for some of the offerings.  This is more a reflection of the high-caliber wines that proprietors Luc Ectoran and Dagan Ministero make available for tasting, which in itself is a treat.

While on the natural or organic wine tip, check out Punchdown in downtown Oakland. It offers an international range of wines by the glass and many are reasonably priced.

Hotel Biron, an industry favorite, has come a long way since its earlier days and I always find a bunch of stuff that I want to try. Kudos also go to Bacchus Wine Bar in Russian Hill, which is barely large enough to fit a minyan but is cozy and has a good range of selections.

Pamela Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.

FeaturesFood & DrinkFood and WineSan Franciscowine

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Diners sit outside Caffe Greco in North Beach on Monday, June 15, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF becomes first Bay Area County to move to least restrictive COVID-19 category

Change to ‘yellow’ will allow more indoor dining and fitness, reopening non-essential offices

Police release an image a cracked windshield on a Prius that Cesar Vargas allegedly tried to carjack. Vargas, who was shot by police a short time later, can be seen in videos jumping on the windshield and pushing a Muni passenger who disembarked from a bus. (Courtesy SFPD
SFPD releases videos of deadly police shooting

Cesar Vargas killed after reports of carjacking with knife

Organizers of the San Francisco International Arts Festival had planned to use parts of Fort Mason including the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery to host performances by about a dozen Bay Area arts groups. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Arts festival sues city over permit denial

Organizer says outdoor performances should be treated like demonstrations, religious gatherings

New legislation would make sure supportive housing tenants don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner))
Supportive housing tenants could get more help paying the rent

Supportive housing tenants struggling to pay rent could soon see their payments… Continue reading

An oversight body for San Francisco’s mental health programs may be restructured after questions were raised about its management and lack of effectiveness. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Behavioral health oversight body looks for new start — and staff — after mismanagement

Members of an oversight body for San Francisco’s behavioral health programs said… Continue reading

Most Read