Trestle / Photo by Meg Baggott
Home to more than 4,400 restaurants, the most per capita of any major U.S. city, San Francisco is a top global culinary destination. And, situated some 50 miles from Napa and Sonoma, it’s no surprise that the locale has a dynamic wine scene.
“The city is a melting pot of wine consumers,” says Jienna Basaldu, a sommelier at Angler restaurant and instructor at the San Francisco Wine School. “We’ll look around the restaurant and see wine on every table, and such an array—from an orange wine or something funky to a bottle of Coche. It’s pretty rad.”
Sarah Garand and Jaime Hiraishi, co-owners of Wine Down, agree. “When we first opened, many people gravitated toward common California varietals like Cabernet, Zinfandel and Chardonnay,” says Hiraishi. More recently, however, they’ve noticed more people “asking about lesser-known varietals and AVAs beyond Napa and Sonoma, a quest made easier when so many California producers are making wines like Mourtaou from Tessier Winery or Carbonic Carignan from Sans Wine Co.”
It’s that eagerness to go beyond the classics that continues to ignite wine experts across the city, including Courtney Olson, a sommelier and wine consultant. “Locals are more open to exploring some of the most up-and-coming areas of our great state, including the Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Cruz Mountains and Sierra Foothills,” says Olson. “It’s an exciting time for the entire city.”
Restaurants with Standout Wine Lists
When David Barzelay was laid off from his law firm in 2009, he turned to the kitchen. What started as an occasional dinner party for friends and family soon became a perennially sold-out pop-up series for the public. This movement paved the way for his team’s Mission-based brick and mortar, where they continue to serve communal-style New American menus today. The 1,500-bottle wine list aims to shine a light on overlooked varieties—for example, more than 150 Zinfandel offerings that range from 10–60 years in age. More than a dozen wines are available by the glass, too.
In 2016, restaurant industry veterans Paul Einbund, Konstantino Antonoglou and Gavin Schmidt joined forces to debut this 60-seat spot in Potrero Flats that specializes in New American fare and hyperseasonal ingredients. Think crab porridge with carrot and lemongrass, grilled pork with apple and delicata squash, kabocha agnolotti with black trumpets and kale, and a showstopping duck that undergoes a 10-day smoking process before it hits the table.
The 1,000-bottle wine list pays special attention to under-the-radar, organic and small production options. Madeira fans are in luck here, too, as the team offers nearly 20 kinds.
Fans of State Bird Provisions are in good company at this restaurant, where chef-owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski continue their handiwork by way of whole animal butchery and a focus on local fisheries and farms—not to mention their very own biodynamic farm, from which they source 30% of their produce. Those philosophies extend to their wine list, a selection of more than 500 bottles rooted in small-production, organic and biodynamic finds. Wine Director Adam Robins offers input on pairings with a variety of seasonal plates, which might include asparagus with smoked barhi dates, local black cod with yellowfoot mushrooms and duck with Thai basil and peanuts.