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Best Wine Bars in San Francisco

Best Wine Bars in San Francisco


Given the close proximity of Wine Country and the Bay Area’s epicurean culture, it’s no surprise that wine bars proliferate throughout San Francisco. Whether it’s wine from close by or halfway around the world, the wide variety of styles to drink is matched only by the array of places at which to drink them. As long as you are enjoying yourself, it’s hard to go wrong. Here is a sample flight of some of our favorite wine bars in San Francisco.


Amelie. 1754 Polk St. (415) 292-6916. On a recent visit to this chic spot, electronica covers of old Beatles songs on the soundtrack complemented the dollar oysters and the sparkling wine flight featured Champagne, Spanish cava, and sparkling rosé. The interior, designed with refurbished theater seats and Parisian flair, is great for your vacation or a drop-in after a meeting. 


Barrel Room. 620 Polk St. (415) 673-1916. The bar’s location near the theater district and Union Square makes it the perfect place to go before a stage show or after shopping. This quiet, cozy place features a rotating monthly regional focus that explores some of the globe’s lesser-known regions, such as Portugal, Austria, and Turkey. Hidden inside the Fitzgerald Hotel, it exudes a clubhouse ambience.


Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. 1 Ferry Building, Shop 23. (415) 391-9400. Can’t beat its location—inside the foodie paradise that is the refurbished Ferry Building. But the pours are fantastic, too, with a list that is especially full of California gems like the FPWM House pinot noir from the cool Carneros region of Wine Country and the Brewer Clifton chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills near Santa Barbara.


Hotel Biron. 45 Rose St. (415) 703-0403. You’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled across a little conspiracy at this intimate art gallery and bar about the size of a wine barrel. The serious list focuses on California and French wines, primarily award-winning reds. It’s the perfect Left Bank sort of spot for you and your connoisseur friends to plot a coup d’etat over a bottle of white and postpone it until after a bottle of red.


InnerFog. 545 Irving St. (415) 682-4116. Things always seem to change as the N-Judah line goes out toward Sunset District. The City turns into a friendlier, if foggier, version of itself. InnerFog is no exception. A great location near Golden Gate Park, with one of the nicest staffs in town and a great selection, particularly lighter and medium-bodied reds, like the Chronicle old vine zinfandel from the Russian River Valley. And they have WiFi,  so you can make it a working afternoon.


Ottimista. 1838 Union St. (415) 674-8400. A perfect combination of beautiful people and stunning location. Like the saffron arancini (fried rice balls) on their menu, this Marina spot almost seems to too well composed to be true. But it is. With a solid wine list, including many Northern Italian options, and an outdoor heated patio, it’s the perfect place to while away a Saturday afternoon.


Press Club. 20 Yerba Buena Ln. (415) 744-5000. Over the last year this upscale institution overhauled its format from one in which vintners sold their wines directly to customers, like a department store perfume counter, to a more traditional, centralized approach. Luckily for everyone, they haven’t moved away from the California focus, including several options from Santa Barbara in addition to the usual suspects. The food has been upgraded, too.


Pause/Yield. 1666 Market St. and 2490 3rd St. (415) 241-9463 and (415) 401-8984. This pair of bars, one on Market Street and one in Dogpatch, are owned and run by the same crew, and have the same focus on wine styles that many other places miss: organic and biodynamic. These styles of production, which eschew industrial additives and techniques, change the entire complexion of the wines. It would be too obvious to call them green wines, so let’s just say what they really are: Delicious.


RN 74. 301 Mission St. (415) 543-7474. The comfortable and upscale interior feels like a European train station, but instead of missing your connector to Marseille because of jet lag, you sink into the lounge after work with a glass of Burgundy. An upscale wine list with food to match. Plus, they have an informative restaurant website filled with videos and articles about the grapes and the food.


Terroir. 1116 Folsom St. (415) 558-9946. A strong contender for the most interesting and enjoyable wine list in San Francisco. They focus on natural wines that are made with traditional methods, organic farming, and local yeast. These un-manipulated wines taste differently from almost anything else. Don’t be intimidated by the lesser-known bottles or regions, like the mtsvane grape variety from the country of Georgia. In addition to the wine, they serve artisanal charcuterie and cheese.


Vin Debut. 9 West Portal Ave. (415) 420-7268. A comfortable neighborhood spot out in West Portal with a laid-back vibe and a broad selection, including many small production Californians. An ongoing remodel is refurbishing the interior, but the location has always been a neighborhood favorite.


—By Scott Lucas
Scott Lucas is a writer based in the Bay Area. He covers travel, dining, and politics for a variety of print and online publications.

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