Wine bars in San Francisco
Before there were hotspot wine bars like High Treason and Wine Down, there was Terroir—a vinyl-playing, map-decked hangout for adventurous tipplers and in-the-know restaurant industry veterans. The bar specializes in natural, organic, and hard-to-find varietals from California and European wineries. The rotating nightly selection, scrawled on the chalkboard above the bar, offers around 15 wines by the glass, carafe, or bottle. Grab a stool at one of the long tables up front, or climb to the mezzanine for a cozier setting.
This three-year-old bar is the passion project of two experienced sommeliers. John Vuong was formerly the wine director at the Michelin-starred Ame, while Michael Ireland served as somm at French Laundry, Benu, and Bar Tartine. The bar offers more than 40 wines by the class, ranging from the near (Napa, Sonoma, the Santa Cruz Mountains) to far-flung wine regions in France, Italy, Germany, Croatia, and Austria. The co-owners share a penchant for natural wines. Though the bar’s ever-changing wine picks are adventurous and rare, the atmosphere is casual, from the turntables on the bar to the trippy abstract art. Popular pairings include porcini brown butter popcorn and shoestring duck fat fries.
Amid the prevailing trend of stripped-down, minimalist wine bars, Scopo Divino feels sumptuously old-school, outfitted with wine-hued walls, maps, and pressed tin ceiling tiles. Founder Tim Schuyler Hayman, a level 1 sommelier, calls himself a “wine therapist,” meaning the service is friendly and the pours are generous. The wine list spans around a dozen reds and a dozen whites by the glass, plus a handful of sparkling and rose options. If you’re looking for a more expansive selection, peruse the 1,000-bottle wine library of red, white, sparkling, rose, yellow, and orange wines; any bottle can be opened at the bar or taken to-go. The food menu includes the usual cheese and charcuterie, as well as heavier dishes like filet and oxtail ragu. Live jazz or motown musicians play four nights a week.
This aptly-named wine bar is hidden down a FiDi alleyway. The tucked-away location gives it a real hidden gem feel, complemented by the living-room-like decor, from the wood beams and artful tapestries to the leather and velvet furniture. (Try to snag a spot in front of the fireplace.) The wine list, which is divvied up by Old World and New World picks, spans more than 180 bottles; over 50 are available by the glass. The menu changes frequently, as the bar focuses on a different wine region each month. If you’re undecided, opt for one of the comparison flights, which feature themes like “Euro Trip: Armenia vs. Serbia” and “Rose Bubbles: France vs. Argentina.” There’s also a popular bocce court in the courtyard, which can be reserved on an hourly basis.
This fun-loving SoMa wine bar doesn’t take itself too seriously. Co-founders Jaime Hiraishi and Sarah Garand quit their respective jobs at a nonprofit to open this unfussy, stylish space, where glasses of wine average $10 and regulars rack up stamps playing Blackout Bingo (a boozy game in which drinkers reap rewards). The wine list features around 16 wines, with a focus on small, indie California producers like Groundwork, Field Recordings, and Hobo Wine Co. Score $5 off carafes of wine and cheese platters during the daily happy hour from 3pm to 6pm. On Mondays, the bar turns into a raucous group viewing party for The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Bachelor in Paradise.
This Dogpatch standby has been a neighborhood favorite for nearly a decade. (Proprietor Chris Tavelli also owns Pause wine bar in Hayes Valley.) The space is inviting and relaxed, with an assortment of seating arrangements and colorful, cartoony art adorning the walls. The wine list focuses on sustainable, biodynamic, and organic wines from small, family-owned wineries, and each wine is listed alongside helpful tasting notes. (A Santa Barbara riesling might taste of lychee and jasmine, while a French malbec has notes of black licorice and wild strawberry.) Everything on the menu is available by the glass and can be paired with shareable fare like grilled flatbread pizzas.
Amelie feels like a little slice of France in the middle of Nob Hill. Owner Germain Michel switches up the wine list daily, with a focus on French imports. The vibe is swanky and rather romantic, from the red lacquer accents to the votives and wine barrel tables. The food menu is similarly well-appointed, with dishes like duck leg confit, carpaccio, steak tartare, and black truffle ravioli. Bands play live on Sundays and Mondays from 7–9:30pm. Don’t miss happy hour (weekdays from 5–7pm), when Michel offers customized tasting flights of three wines for $12.
This tiny, 16-seat wine bar offers about 20 wines by the glass, conveniently listed in order of body. The rotating wine selection is Euro-focused—Birba means “little troublemaker in Italian—with the majority of the bottles hailing from France, Italy, and Germany. It’s carefully curated by wine director and sommelier Angie Valgiusti, who previously worked at the Slanted Door and the beloved Bar Jules (RIP). The food menu goes beyond the typical cheese and charcuterie to feature dishes like boquerones with white anchovies, sardines served with radish and preserved lemon, and “drunken shrimp toast” in an English ale cream sauce. In October 2018, Birba celebrated a long-overdue expansion with the opening of a pretty, light-strung patio.
This off-the-beaten-path wine bar by Angel Davis and Nguey Lay specializes in natural wines for adventurous tipplers. The rotating selection of wines by the glass is relatively small and favors small California producers. (The bar hosts regular tastings with local vintners.) Davis and Lay’s picks are eclectic and little funky—a welcome departure from the usual oaky chards and sweet reds—as is the decor, from the hip-hop soundtrack to the bunk-bed seating. (A physical challenge after one’s third glass…) On Thursdays, Gus’ Market wine buyer Billy Duplain hosts a “Trundle Bar” pop-up, pouring crowd-pleasing bottles for $9 a glass.
Bodhi Freedom, also the owner of the petite Bacchus Wine Bar in Russian Hill, opened this Mission spin-off in 2013. Situated in a former record store, the inviting space is decked with vintage light fixtures, colorful glass vases, and mid-century modern furniture. (Fittingly, the staggered shelves are equally stocked with wine bottles and vinyl.) Freedom offers around 20 wines by the glass with a focus on California producers and Old World European picks, from Sonoma to Slovenia. The food, courtesy of chef Alex Moreno, is more ambitious than typical wine bar far, including coffee-braised brisket, octopus paella, and crudo.
Owned and operated by an all-women team, this small, cozy champagne bar has black-and-white seating and tabletops that read “Hello Beautiful” in gold writing. Head here for bumps of caviar served with champagne shots and free popcorn with seasonings.
Named after the mansion in Paris that houses the Rodin Museum and located a short walk from the SFJAZZ Center, this dark and intimate wine bar/art gallery is the ideal setting for a sultry rendezvous. The wine list features more than 60 selections, with a focus on California and France. On the zinc-green and brick walls, rotating exhibits by local artists spark conversation, while tables for two and comfy sofas invite couples to cozy up with a glass of something red and a plate of cheese or charcuterie (don’t miss rillettes from local purveyor Fatted Calf).
Located beneath the Four Seasons hotel near Union Square, Press Club is a swanky, sexy affair, with clean lines and a glowing, club-like vibe. But don't worry: there's not a lot of fist-pumping music here, just really great varietals and a friendly, attentive staff. A cavernous wine cellar offers bottles from around the world, with an artisan vinter highlighted each month. There's a small food menu as well: nibbles like olives, salmon tartare, mushroom pizzettas and a sizeable cheese selection are perfect for pairing with your glass (or three). The 9,000 square foot space is also ideal for group events, whether you're hosting a work function or throwing your friend the best party ever.
Set in the friendly, family-oriented neighborhood of West Portal, Que Syrah is a charming and completely unpretentious little spot to sample small-production wines from all over the globe. Revolving weekly flights focus on different varietals, which you can pair with an assortment of cheeses and charcuterie. The weekly happy hour (Tue 4–8pm) offers $1 off glasses and 10 percent off bottles. Couples, solo sippers and even some serious oenophiles mingle contentedly at the tiny bar or snag a small table.
One of the first wine-and-small-plates spots to jump on the scene in the second wave of the SoMa tech boom, District is housed in a converted warehouse near AT&T Park. Brick walls and exposed wood ceiling beams give the space a rustic, homey feel, and the wine list is equally approachable. Curated by wine director Caterina Mirabelli, it brings together some 40 by-the-glass European, Californian, Oregonian and South American selections under user- and food-friendly headings such as Aromatic Whites, Spices and Berries, and Uninhibited Reds. On most nights, the after-work crowds congregate around the horseshoe-shaped reclaimed-wood bar or lounge on comfy sofas and nibble on artisan cheese plates, charcuterie, or more substantial shareable fare such as arancini (warm risotto balls filled with melting fontina), Moroccan spiced meatballs, and butternut squash and duck confit pizzettas.