Though SF is spilling over with standout bars and almost spitting distance from Napa Valley, wine bars only really caught on here in the early aughts. Luckily for serious connoisseurs and casual sippers, now there’s an excellent vino spot in almost every neighborhood and most of them serve a variety of small bites alongside great local vintages. If you want something more substantial, some of the best San Francisco restaurants, such as Jardinière in Hayes Valley and SPQR in Pacific Heights, boast superb wine lists. Cheers!
For a great list of all the best wineries in San Francisco, click here.
Best wine bars in San Francisco
Cozy, candlelit and oh so French, Amelie will educate you in the ways of viognier and mourvèdre as it seduces you with tantalizingly titled flights such as Sade “Smooth Operator” and Marilyn Manson “Tainted Love.” Stylish decor (vintage theater seats, wine-bottle light fixtures, red lacquered bar) and well-priced customized flights ($10 for three pours during the 5–7pm happy hour) create a lively scene most nights. On the food side, cheeses, charcuterie and other small bites give way to more substantial offerings such as a steamed mussels, croque monsieur, duck leg confit, and Gratin de Raviole du Royans—a southern French specialty of tiny pasta pockets stuffed with herbs, comtè and cottage cheese.
Hidden is the operative word for this husband-and-wife-owned wine bar that offers over 40 wines by the glass and 120 by the bottle. Once located in the Tenderloin, this cozy bar moved to the Financial District in 2011 and has been a staple for post-work wine therapy ever since. The wine list spans the globe and offers numerous flights, allowing wine lovers to explore various varietals and regions; those looking for a snack will be happy to find cheese, crackers and charcuterie to complement their fruit of the vine. Bonus? There's a bocce court in the alley, where you will undoubtedly be at your very best after a few glasses.
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.
Whether you pop into Birba (pronounced "beer-bah," in case you were wondering) solo or with a date, you're bound to make new friends quickly. That's because the Hayes Valley wine bar is tiny, with only 16 seats to settle into when imbibing by the glass or bottle. European wines are the specialty here—sherry, vermouth, bubbles, whites and reds are all available, with tasting events popping up each month. Birba offers lunch and dinner in addition to small plates, so you can stop by mid-day for a nice roast pork tenderloin and a glass of Gamay when Tuesdays are just too hard to deal with.
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.
When this unassuming wine bar opened in Dogpatch in 2006, featuring a list of almost entirely sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines, there were skeptics aplenty. But Yield is still going strong, an anchor in a neighborhood that’s grown into a mecca for locavore restaurants, artisan food purveyors and craftspeople. Its popularity inspired the owners to open a bigger, splashier spinoff in up-and-coming mid-Market/Hayes Valley. Yield draws a more low-key crowd than its sister, Pause, many of whom come to sample unusual varietals such as Italian Malvasia and Croatian Plavac Mali, while sampling inventive vegetarian and pescetarian fare (grilled flatbreads, chèvre-stuffed dates, cod sliders). If you needed another excuse to stop in, consider happy hour: Half-bottle carafes for $12, every day from 4:30pm to 7pm.
This Inner Sunset gem pours great wines by the glass without succumbing to the usual swirling, quaffing wine bar pretension. It’s ideal for catch-up drinks or casual dates, but you won’t feel uncomfortable just unwinding with a book or your laptop. Rather than some nondescript “house” blend, the Fog offers a happy hour selection (Mon–Sat 4–6pm, Sun 3–6pm) of around a dozen wines from California, France, Argentina and beyond, all helpfully listed from softest to most powerful. (The bartenders are eager to make recommendations, if you’re waffling.) Likewise, beers like Full Sail Brewing’s Session lager and the Deschutes Inversion IPA from Oregon are just $3.50 apiece.
First Crush came on the scene in the late ’90s when you could count San Francisco’s good wine bars on one hand. Located in the heart of the Union Square shopping and entertainment district, it’s also a full-service restaurant with hours that accommodate pre- and post- theatergoers. In addition to street-level seating, First Crush has an intimate wine cellar offering more than 30 by-the-glass pours and some 200 bottles. Pair your Russian River Sauvignon Blanc with salad, charcuterie and oysters, or settle in for a big, bold Napa Cab and Maine lobster mac and cheese, cioppino (Italian seafood stew), or Angus ribeye.
Part of the vast artisanal marketplace and organic farmers’ market at the Ferry Building, this combo shop/wine-tasting bar offers a huge selection of small-production wines from Napa and Sonoma vintners, as well as from European winemakers—with 15–20 available for tasting every day. Pair your wine with cheese, antipasti, salumi, or caviar—or better yet, grab some fresh-baked bread from neighboring Acme Bakery, cheese from Point Reyes’ Cowgirl Creamery and settle in for some power people-watching.
In an old Mission District record store that’s been converted into a den fit for Don Draper (down to the hand-curated vintage vinyl soundtrack), tiny 20 Spot is perfectly positioned between restaurant and wine bar. Owner Bodhi Freedom offers a wine list that’s heavy on Pinots and Rieslings, and a menu that manages to create intricate, innovative dishes—king trumpet mushrooms and sunchokes in cheese sauce, pork belly barbecue, potted crab—all without a stove (meat is cooked sous vide). If you only want a glass and a small bite, don’t miss the Della Fattoria bread plate with house-made butter or the deviled eggs with trout roe. Food is served until 11pm—a rarity in this town.